CU Population Center

Institute of Behavioral Science

Laura Vargas Presents at 2024 Capitol Hill Policy Briefing Series

Laura Vargas at CHCI

The Capitol Hill Policy Briefing Series is a two-day event featuring a variety of policy briefings. Laura participated in the “U.S. Gun Violence Exported Abroad” panel, and her presentation highlighted the difficulty of talking about migration and the public health impacts of widespread violence in Latin America without talking about firearms trafficking from the U.S., which facilitates and shapes many of these policy challenges. She presented data on firearm related trauma experiences of Latinx migrant adults in my sample. For example, that 51% of her study participants have lost a family member or a friend due to violence and 48% of the sample has been threatened with a firearm (compared with 21% of all U.S. adults – in the U.S. there are more than 300 million firearms in circulation).

Laura presented preliminary data from her analysis with Dr. Weigend-Vargas of reasons for firearm threats in their sample and highlighted that those threatened with firearms were 4 times more likely to have high PTSD symptoms compared to those not threatened with a firearm. The panel highlighted that firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and youth not only in the U.S., but also in Mexico and Brazil (with preliminary data from Puerto Rico indicating the same trend).

Laura also spoke about the enormous mental health impact of firearm related traumas in her study population and about the enormous human toll of violence in the region for current socio-economic conditions and prospects for younger generations throughout the region.

Finally, the panel commented on the importance of legislation that is being worked on now such as the ARMAS Act (sponsored by Rep. Castro and others) or the Stop Arming Cartels Act put forth by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and other Senators. Laura was invited to participate by Astrid Fuentes, a CHCI fellow that has been working throughout her fellowship with Rep. Castro’s office on legislation related to U.S. firearms trafficking to Latin America (afore mentioned ARMAS Act). Astrid came across Laura’s NIMHD funded research in her policy work and put together this wonderful panel.