Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke spoke with reporters outside of the University Medical Center in El Paso on Saturday, after visiting with people who were injured in a mass shooting at a Walmart in the city.
Twenty-two people were killed and more than two dozen were injured after a gunman opened fire at the store earlier that day.
Twenty people were reported dead on the day of the shooting and two people died later at the hospital, according to the El Paso Police Department.
O’Rourke, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, told reporters that the people he met with at the hospital "are asking us to do something about this."
"Yes, it’s the gun laws. Yes, it’s the universal background checks. Yes, we should stop selling weapons of war into our communities," said O’Rourke, who was born and raised in El Paso. "But I think we also have to confront this hatred that I have never seen in my lifetime, and we certainly have not seen in El Paso. Some years, in a city of almost 700,000, we had five murders the entire year. Our average over the last 10 years is 18 (murders per year). We exceeded that average just on one day. This is not normal, it is not acceptable. We cannot just move on from this and the folks I just met with do not want us to move on from this."
Are O’Rourke’s figures about his hometown accurate?
Taking a look at the numbers
O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans said his figures came from a January news release from the city of El Paso that looked at the annual number of murders per year in El Paso over the past 59 years — from 1960 to 2018.
During that time period, the year with the most murders was 1993, when 56 murders were recorded in the city. The next closest year was 1980, when there were 54 murders.
In 1964 and 2010, there were just five murders in the city. In 1965, there were nine murders, the only other year over this period when the total number of murders was in the single digits.
Over the entire 59-year period included, the city averaged 23 murders per year. Over the past 10 years, from 2008 to 2018, El Paso averaged 18.1 murders per year.
O’Rourke frequently touts crime figures from El Paso to say that the city is among the safest in the country.
The FBI cautions against using its uniform crime statistics to rank localities and researchers warn against ranking communities by relative safety.
Without ranking localities, FBI data shows that El Paso’s violent crime rate has been significantly lower than the average for all localities of a similar size (those with a population between 500,000 and 999,999 people) every year from 1985 until 2017, the latest available year from the FBI.
O’Rourke said some years in El Paso, "in a city of almost 700,000, we had five murders the entire year. Our average over the last 10 years is 18 (murders per year). We exceeded that average just on one day" after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in the city.
Let’s take this statement piece by piece.
El Paso’s population was approximately 682,669 in 2018, according to U.S. Census estimates. In 1964 and 2010, five murders were recorded over the year in the city.
The average number of murders per year in the city was 18.1 over the past 10 years.
On Saturday, 20 people were killed and more than two dozen were injured after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso. Two people died later at the hospital.
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