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Latinx Stories

Empowering Latinx voices will help the gun violence prevention movement

Selina Saenz speaking at an event

As a Latinx individual, I naturally gravitate towards those who look like me, sound like me—Spanglish and all—and have similar values and cultural references as me. I think there is a general feeling in some Latinx communities that our voices are unimportant or undervalued, and as time goes on that can lead to disengagement. That is why I believe young Latinx people are so important; to be young and full of hope is a powerful force that we need in order to continue moving the movement forward.

Most of my ancestors migrated to the United States shortly before the turn of the century, so I am a third generation born and raised here in Texas. After the shooting in El Paso on August 3, 2019, I knew I had to do something more than my work to prevent gun violence against victims and survivors of domestic violence and stalking—and that’s when I joined the local Moms Demand Action group in El Paso.

Starting to work in this movement immediately after the El Paso shooting was particularly daunting, especially given the fact that our community was targeted because we are predominantly Latinx. It was difficult early on to not let my grief and anger get in the way of my advocacy work, but I learned how to use that anger and grief as motivation to keep fighting.

Selina Saenz posing for a photo with another Moms Demand Action volunteer in front of a Moms Demand Action banner

Gun violence prevention is important to me for so many reasons—especially after witnessing the damage and trauma done to my beautiful community by hate and easy access to guns.

There was no way that gun violence prevention was not going to be part of my life’s work.

I am especially proud of my work on the issue of firearm surrender. In El Paso, the 65th District Court, the County Attorney’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Office collaborated to develop and implement firearm surrender protocols in family violence, stalking, and sexual assault cases. It gives me great joy knowing I played a small part in keeping domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault victims safe from gun violence in my community.

From the look of terror on the faces of my clients as they described being threatened and abused with guns by those who were supposed to love them to the angelic faces of my daughters who are growing up in a time of active shooter drills and lockdowns, it’s a reminder that despite progress, there’s so much more work to be done.

Since joining the gun violence prevention movement, I have seen a major shift in people’s thoughts on gun violence prevention.

More and more people now understand the importance of gun violence prevention. For me, that is progress because when more people understand, more people will get involved, and together we can affect greater change.

I continue to be inspired by all of the courageous gun violence survivors that I met and worked with as an attorney for survivors of domestic violence. Knowing everything they have endured motivates me to keep fighting not only for them, but for all of us.

Selina Saenz, masked, standing by the back of a van that is filled with canned goods

As the number of Latinx people in the United States continues to grow and we continue to be disproportionately affected by gun violence, elevating Latinx voices is vital to educating our communities about how we can prevent gun violence.

Whether those efforts surround safe gun storage to prevent unintentional shootings, the importance of electing Gun Sense Candidates, or dispelling the stigma of mental health treatment to prevent suicide, we are going to need Latinx individuals in the movement who can effectively relate to and communicate with our Latinx communities.

This Latinx Heritage Month, it is a time to celebrate our culture, our ancestors, and our traditions. It is also a period of reflection where I not only look back on the accomplishments of Latinx people, but look to the future and my role in teaching my children to be proud of their Latinx heritage. Latinx communities are filled with generous, kind, passionate, and loyal individuals who fight for those they love and what they believe in.

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