Since the February 15, 2023 shooting at the Cielo Vista Mall, El Pasoans have been asking if gun violence in El Paso is increasingly higher this year. To address this question, El Paso News analyzed the gun violence rates from 2014 through May 30th to see if gun violence is up in El Paso. According to El Paso Police Department news releases, there have been nine murders in El Paso so far this year. This equates to approximately 1.62 homicides per 100,000 residents. We made no attempt to count murders reported outside of the city limits.

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According to the FBI crime rate records, El Paso’s (county) homicide rate per 100,000 in 2014 was 3.09. In 2018, the homicide rate was 3.34. Between 2000 and 2018, the lowest homicide rate in the county was 0.80 in 2010 and the highest was at 3.58 in 2003. As of June 16, there have been nine murders reported by the El Paso Police Department this year. Should this trend continue, El Paso’s homicide rate will be about 2.65 per 100,000 residents. Between 2000 and 2018, El Paso saw a higher murder rate in nine of the last 18 years. The higher murder rates were in 2000 (3.14), 2001 (3.47), 2003 (3.58), 2007 (2.76), 2008 (2.78), 2012 (3.40), 2014 (3.09), 2017 (2.76) & 2018 (3.34).

The latest information suggests that the homicide rate in El Paso, although higher, remains well within the historical range of El Paso. However, the perception remains that violence in El Paso is on the rise, especially among El Paso’s youth with some suggesting that gang violence is on the rise.

El Paso News reviewed the El Paso Police Department news releases for 2023. Our review of non-traffic incidents found that of 37 violent incidents reported by the police department that did not involve traffic fatalities, nine were murders. However, 24, or 65% of the violent incidents involved a gun, including one incident in which a police officer discharged a round that did not hit anyone during an altercation with a subject brandishing a knife.

The public police blotter shows the following for 2023:

  • Murders reported: 9, or 24%.
  • Total incidents involving a gun: 24, or 65%
  • Homicides involving a gun: 6.
  • Gun incidents not including murder: 18, or 49% of the reported violent incidents.
  • Total incidents reported: 37

Should the homicide trend continue towards 18 for the year, it would result in a 2.65 homicide rate per 100,000 residents. (9 * 2 = 18 / 678415 * 100000 = 2.65)

Three of the incidents involved migrants. Both as victims and assailants with one murder of a migrant by another migrant, and a case involving human smuggling.

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Gun Violence

Guns continue to headline news across the nation. The Trace, an online newsroom dedicated to reporting gun violence, says that in 2022 there were 20,138 death involving firearms. The total excluded suicides. The 2022 total saw a slight decline from 2021, according to The Trace.

According to the Texas Department of Safety, there were 1,700,877 active conceal carry permit holders in Texas at the end of 2021. This is the most recent data available. There were 74,635 more permit holders in 2021 than there were in 2020, an increase of almost 5%. Texas is one of the states with the most gun owners in the country. In 2016, Texas became “one of the biggest citizenries in the country” to hold conceal carry permits, according to The New York Times. More than one million Texas residents held a license in 2016.

Gun laws have become more permissive in recent years with Texas becoming a permit less carry state in 2021. But less strict gun legislation is not a recent phenomenon in Texas.

The Ann Richards Rule

When Ann Richards vetoed a 1993 concealed carry law it led to her defeat by George W. Bush for the Texas governorship the following year. Her veto of the gun legislation became the Ann Richards Rule in Texas politics that says that you can’t keep the governorship if you veto permissive gun legislation.

The 1993 Texas Senate Bill, HB 1776 would have put a referendum on an upcoming Texas election allowing voters to choose whether concealed carry permits should be allowed in Texas. But Richards vetoed the referendum before Texas voters had an opportunity to vote on it. In 1995, Bush signed Senate Bill 60 allowing Texas residents 21 and older to get permits to carry guns after taking 10-15 hours of training. The bill signed by Bush did not have to be approved by the voters like the bill that Richards vetoed the year earlier. In 2015, Greg Abbott signed the open carry legislation allowing Texas residents to openly carry a gun either on their belt or on a shoulder holster without needing a permit.

In 2021, Texas became one of 26 states that allows the open carry of guns without requiring any permits. Texas is also one of 25 states that allows the carrying of concealed guns without a permit.

An analysis of Texas Department of Public Safety data, the agency responsible for licensing Texas concealed carry permit holders, in 2012 there were less than 2,000 El Pasoans licensed to carry concealed guns. It is estimated that there are a little over 3,000 concealed carry permit holders in El Paso today. Because licensing is no longer required it is difficult to know how many El Pasoans carry a handgun.

Gun Ownership In El Paso

Because of the nation’s loose laws on gun sales, it is difficult to know how many guns are in El Paso. The federal agency tasked with tracking guns is the Bureaus of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). To get a better understanding of gun ownership and gun sales in El Paso, El Paso News analyzed three Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) violation reports for businesses selling guns in El Paso. Two reports were from 2016 and a third was from 2017. Dyer Guns, operates near Ft. Bliss. Its website focuses on helping individuals buy and sell guns through the internet, instead of selling from its retail establishment. For $30, the shop owner offers to help a purchaser transfer a gun they purchased online. A Federal Firearms License (FFL) is required to transfer a gun from one individual to another. However, Texas generally allows the private transfers of guns from one individual to another. If the seller does not believe that the individual they are selling their gun to is prohibited under the law to own a weapon, they are free to sell or give them the gun without notifying the ATF.

However, there are states that prohibit the private transfer of guns. Additionally, online sales generally involve the interstate transfer of guns which applies federal law to the gun transfer. This is where the FFL is required to legally complete the transfer of the gun.

The ATF examined the sales records of Dyer Guns between March 7, 2016 and April 4, 2017. The ATF found five violations. According to the inspection report, “a lot of the licensee’s activities involve the transfers and special orders” of guns. The ATF found that the records kept by the owner, James Hathorn, had ten incomplete records on the guns listed in his required gun book. The gun book is where a licensee keeps records of the guns that he acquires and sells. Ten guns were missing details such as who purchased the weapon, the serial number and, or what kind of gun it was.

The owner explained to the ATF that his book of gun transfers had been stolen from his car and he had to recreate the records. The ATF cited the owner for keeping incomplete records. In addition to the missing information on the gun transfers, the ATF also found that the licensee failed to properly note the duty station of one military member who received a gun from Dyers Guns. The ATF also noted that Hathorn failed to report the multiple purchases of guns by a single individual. The other violation documented by the ATF was that Hathorn failed to document the caliber of the weapon.

Because the ATF did not identify the total transfers of guns during the inspection reporting period nor the number of guns in inventory it is impossible to know whether the violations are a significant part of the business’ gun transfers. In response to the violations documented, Hathorn told the ATF that the violations were “a mistake,” and at least in one instance, it was due “to poor eyesight.” Hathorn added that he has created “cheat sheets” to help remind him how to properly document future gun transfers.

The ATF also found violations by another El Paso-based gun dealer. The investigation which covered the period between January 2016 and June 2016 involved a Border Patrol agent that sold guns to his friends who are mostly fellow Border Patrol agents. In this case, the ATF found that the dealer did not properly document gun transfers in four instances. The dealer told the ATF that “he often gets to visiting with his co-workers and is in a hurry when he reviews the form prior to transferring the firearm.” It should be noted that the dealer asked that his operation be inspected by the ATF because he was moving and wanted to ensure his records were complaint before reapplying for an ATF license from his new location.

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El Paso News reviewed one other ATF report for the period May 205 through May 2016. Like the other two ATF reports reviewed by El Paso News, the ATF again found incomplete information in the dealer’s logbook of gun transfers.

According to The Trace, in 2022, there were 71,600 licensed gun dealers in the country. The ATF lists 132 licensed gun dealers in El Paso, as of May 30. They include Walmart, pawn shops with about 93 seemingly smaller operations owned by individuals. The largest concentration of gun dealers, according to ATF records, is the far-east part of the county in the 79938 zip code with 27 dealers. This area is followed by 79912 and 79924 with 16 each. The area in the 79926 zip code has 12 registered dealers with the ATF.

The Trace states that in 2022, there were 16.5 million guns sold in America.

Because of the open nature of gun sales in America, where not all gun transactions, even legal ones, are publicly documented, it is difficult to know how many guns are in El Paso’s households. An analysis by Boston University of “likely gun owners” reveals that the 79922 zip code, with about 3,000 likely households, has the highest concentration of guns in houses in that area of town.

Our analysis of the Boston University data revealed the 79924 zip code area follows with about 2,500 guns. However, this can be deceiving. When the data is analyzed by population density, the largest concentration of guns are likely found in the 79922 zip code.

Likely El Paso Household With Guns

  • 79902-28.3/per 1,000 out of 20,752, or 586 likely households with guns.
  • 79903-33.6/per 1,000 out of 15,442, or 519 likely households with guns.
  • 79904-26.6/per 1,000 out of 33,084, or 880 likely households with guns.
  • 79905-16.9/per 1,000 out of 22,767, or 385 likely households with guns.
  • 79906-2/per 1,000 out of 3,452, or 7 likely households with guns.
  • 79911-26.2/per 1,000 out of 5,905, or 155 likely households with guns.
  • 79912-37.2/per 1,000 out of 79,861, or 2,971 likely households with guns.
  • 79915-25.9/per 1,000 out of 36,797, or 953 likely households with guns.
  • 79916-0/per 1,000 out of 4,238, or 0 likely households with guns.
  • 79922-72.9/per 1,000 out of 7,890, or 575 likely households with guns.
  • 79924-39.9/per 1,000 out of 59,816, or 2,387 likely households with guns.
  • 79925-43.6/per 1,000 out of 39,868, or 1,738 likely households with guns.
  • 79928-16.6/per 1,000 out of 62,344, or 1,035 likely households with guns.
  • 79930-22.4/per 1,000 out of 28,091, or 629 likely households with guns.
  • 79932-32.8/per 1,000 out of 28,893, or 948 likely households with guns.
  • 79934-28/per 1,000 out of 26,360, or 738 likely households with guns.
  • 79936-34.4/per 1,000 out of 108,668, or 3,738 likely households with guns.

Gun Violence

As reported, there have been nine murders in El Paso so far in 2023. They represent 24% of the violent acts reported by the El Paso Department. The majority involved a gun. We analyzed gun violence in El Paso from 2014 through May 31, 2023. We used data compiled by The Gun Violence Archive for our data analysis.

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The data shows that 446 gun violence acts were committed in El Paso from 2014 through May 31. We also extrapolated the number of individuals involved in the gun violence and mapped these to an El Paso map. By far, the largest concentration of gun violence incidents was in the west central part of El Paso around the Cincinnati entertainment district. Although it should be observed that gun violence in El Paso appears across the city.

Credit map: Martín Paredes, June 16, 2023, data source, Boston University

Although there is exists a perception that violence is rising in El Paso, the historical data suggests that although the violence is trending up, it is not the highest in the last decade. Additionally, although gun laws have become more lenient in Texas, violence across the city remains within historical limits.

Guns continue to not be a significant factor on El Paso’s households as the data analyzed by us suggests that El Paso households do not seem to mirror the rest of the state. Open carry has been the law for almost 2 years now, and except for a few minor incidents where police have responded it remains none-issue in El Paso.

2023 Police Blotter Violent Incidents

  • January 4: arrested Steven Mathew Driscoll for pointing a gun at migrants on December 31. (gun)
  • January 5: arrested Sergio Sanchez Rodriguez for a shooting on the westside. (gun)
  • January 13: Colleak Denzel Mciver was arrested on deadly conduct charges with a gun on the west side. Mciver was one of two shooters. The other shooter has not been identified.
  • January 16: reported shooting, juveniles arrested. (gun)
  • January 28: juvenile arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
  • February 2: (murder) Jadon Jeter Robinson died from stab wounds at Las Palmas Medical Center.
  • February 7: Northeast resident, Angel Mosqueda was arrested at the entrance of the Bassett Mall after he pointed a gun at a police officer who had stopped him on a seatbelt violation. (gun)
  • February 11: Jose Hernandez arrested on DWI charges, attempted to take taser from officer.
  • February 14: Guillermo Lujan was arrested for pointing a gun at officers on a domestic disturbance call. (gun)
  • February 15: (murder) Shooting at Cielo Vista Mall. One licensed to carry individual shot the suspect responsible for the murder of Angeles Zaragoza. The murder suspect is a 16-yearo-old. Two other individuals were shot. The 16-year-old was charged with murder. (gun)
  • February 15: A gunshot victim was shot on McCombs. Two other individuals were with the victim when he was shot. (gun)
  • February 16: (murder) A 16-year-old female was shot and killed on Coyote Trail by Cesar Roa according to charges filed by police officials. (gun)
  • February 19: Eduardo Antonio Robles was arrested February 20 after a viral video showed him shooting a pistol out of his moving car. (gun)
  • February 23: A 15-year-old west side resident was arrested for firing a gun from a vehicle on Interstate 10. (gun)
  • February 25: Two teenagers were arrested at the Coconuts Bar and Grill for various robberies of businesses with a gun. (gun)
  • March 1: Bruce Wayne Murphy was shot by a homeowner after Murphy broke into their home. Murphy also shot a killed a pet in the home. (gun)
  • March 12: Anthony Yepes and Ethan Edward Alvarez were arrested at the parking lot of Buck’s Cabaret after stabbing Casey Kelley.
  • March 20: Two juveniles were arrested for robbing and threatening clerks at one Murphy USA gas station and five Circle K’s with a hand gun and stealing a car from customer at another Circle K at gunpoint. (gun)
  • March 22: Fugitive, Jeffrey Alan Battle, assaulted a police officer trying to arrest him on West Missouri.
  • March 31: (murder) Michelle Morales-Nekaza’s body was found at Red Sands. On March 31, Christopher Paul Maya was arrested on murder charges.
  • April 2: Irwin Chavira was arrested for shooting a 19-year-old in a domestic violence case. (gun)
  • April 7: Christopher Aaron Rey was arrested on sexual assault charges after forcing his way into the victim’s home.
  • April 11: John Moses Franco was arrested on aggravated assault charges for threatening officers and others with a knife. During the arrest, one officer discharged their weapon, but no one was hit. (gun)
  • April 17: Damian Arce, Tyisha Mullen and Cantrell James Miller were arrested on assault charges against a police officer.
  • April 18: Ramirez Brayan and Obedt Mendoza were arrested on aggravated robbery charges. Brayan was additionally charged with evading arrest and smuggling of persons, among other charges. The investigation concluded that a store employee was threatened with a gun. (gun)
  • April 19: Jazzmine Robinson was arrested on home invasion charges. She used a knife during the crime.
  • April 29: (murder) Daniel Antonio Mergil was found in his car shot by an unknown assailant. He died from his injuries. (gun)
  • May 12: One individual was shot during an altercation at El Profe night club. (gun)
  • May 13: Another individual was shot at El Cometa. Brandon Perez was arrested on aggravated assault charges with a deadly weapon. (gun)
  • May 13: A police officer working security at a Walmart on Dyer was injured attempting to stop a male accused of shoplifting.
  • May 20: Ivan Ignacio Frescas crashed and died from his injuries after fleeing police officers on a domestic disturbance call. It was alleged that Frescas had a gun in the car at the time of the incident, although the police release does not confirm this. (gun)
  • May 21: (murder) Carmen Unilda Navas Zuniga was found dead at the Budget Lodge Motel on North Mesa. Eddy Jose Ortega Alvarado was arrested on murder charges. Alvarado and Zuniga had both being processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents on May 20 after both crossed the border on the same day. Zuniga was from Honduras and Alvarado from Venezuela. The police investigation determined that Alvarado had stolen Zuniga’s money.
  • May 30: (murder) David McLeskey was killed after being shot by Tristan Crabtree on Sunstone. (gun)
  • June 5: (murder) A road rage incident resulted in the death of Marcos Fino, Jr. Police arrested Jose Alberto Orozco for shooting Orozco. Also, Cristian Bradley Orozco and Raul Alberto Orozco in the incident. (gun)
  • June 10: (murder) Deborah Sheeran was shot and killed by Eric Sheeran in murder-suicide incident in the northeast. (gun)
  • June 12: Jorge Antonio Santana was threatened by Edgar Efren Avila with a knife. Avila was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
  • June 16: A female has been detained for investigation into the shooting of an Uber driver on U.S. 54. The investigation is ongoing. (gun)

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...