MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We are continuing to follow developments in the shooting that took place near a Walmart and shopping center in El Paso, Texas, earlier today. Twenty people were killed, and more than two dozen were wounded, that according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. He spoke at a press briefing just a few moments ago.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
GREG ABBOTT: We as a state unite in support of these victims and their family members. We want to do all we can to help them to assist them. We pray that God can be with those who've been harmed in any way and bind up their wounds.
MARTIN: The mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, also spoke, emphasizing El Paso's resilience.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
DEE MARGO: Our community will not be defined by this senseless, evil act of violence. We will be defined by the unity and compassion we showed in the wake of this tragedy.
MARTIN: We're joined now by State Representative Cesar Blanco. He represents El Paso in the Texas House of Representatives Representative, welcome. Thank you so much for speaking with us us on this very difficult day.
CESAR BLANCO: Very difficult day for our community. Thank you.
MARTIN: And will you please allow me to express my condolences to you and to your constituents?
BLANCO: I appreciate it.
MARTIN: You tweeted that you were at a family reunification center that's been set up for people to find loved ones, which is actually in the elementary school you attended as a child. That has to be very jarring.
BLANCO: It's surreal to be at my elementary school, where I went to school, and it being set up as a reunification center for families to find out whether or not they have a loved one who was killed by this gunman. It's tragic, and it's tragic that this continues to happen throughout our country.
MARTIN: Can you tell me any more about the area where this took place?
BLANCO: Well, this is the neighborhood that I grew up in. I actually was a kid who worked in the mall where this happened. It's a safe community. And El Paso is one of the safest communities, according to the FBI, in the country. It's next to a neighborhood, a middle-class neighborhood where we have good schools. Any typical city, you know, in the country where people go about their daily business. This area was full of families that were shopping for back to school, getting backpacks and school supplies when this gunman unleashed this tragic horror on our community. And it's something that we're not going to get over for quite some time.
MARTIN: Representative, before we let you go, there's always this debate at a time like this. Some people say, you know, it's not the right time to talk about what happens next. Other people say there is no better time than to talk about what's next, and if this were any other kind of tragedy, of course lawmakers would be talking about what should happen. What do you say about that?
BLANCO: I mean, you know, as a lawmaker and as someone who served in the military to protect the Constitution, when is the right time to make changes to make sure that our communities are safe? Nowhere in the world do these type of shootings happen, at least not in the industrialized world. We've got to do better. And we need the courage to stand up to make sure that we're doing everything that we can in our capacity as elected officials to do the right thing and to keep our families safe in our communities. There's too many people that have died as a result of this.
MARTIN: That's Cesar Blanco. He represents El Paso in the Texas House of Representatives.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.