As mourners gathered Monday night for a candlelight vigil in Monterey Park for 11 people killed by a gunman at a dance studio, news spread of another mass shooting in Half Moon Bay.
Siu Fong, a Monterey Park retiree who volunteers at the Langley Senior Center, knew two of the victims of that shooting. With another wave of violence less than two days later, she wondered: What is happening in California?
“I would say a little more gun control is needed,” she said. “Of course a lot of people say they need guns to protect themselves, but the point is they might need stronger background checks. I don’t want people going to gun stores to buy guns.”
California is reeling from three mass shootings in one week.
- Six people were found shot to death on Jan. 16 at a home in Goshen, California, in a case police say could be related to organized crime.
- On Saturday night, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran walked into the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park and opened fire, killing 11. He then went to a second dance club in Alhambra, but was disarmed. The police are anxiously considering a personal dispute that could have been the motive for the attack, but emphasize that the investigation is continuing. Tran was carrying a 9-millimeter MAC-10 when he walked into the Monterey Park dance hall around 10:20 p.m. Saturday and began firing bullets as frightened patrons ran for cover. Authorities recovered at least 42 spent shell casings at the scene.
- On Monday afternoon, seven more people were killed in two shootings in Half Moon Bay that authorities say are linked. A 67-year-old man is suspected of opening fire on two rural farms about a mile apart, shooting some victims in front of children who lived nearby and had recently been released from school. The suspect in the shooting, identified as Chunli Zhao, is said to work on one of the farms. Police have not disclosed a motive for the shootings.
“Tragedy upon tragedy,” Governor Gavin Newsom, who visited Monterey Park on Monday, said of the two attacks.
California has one of the strictest gun laws in the country, and further restrictions are on the way in the wake of the latest violence.
Data suggests the rules have made a difference. As The Times reported last year, in 2005 California had nearly the same number of gun deaths as Florida or Texas, with California reporting 9.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people that year, Florida 10 and Texas 11, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Since then, California has repeatedly tightened its gun laws, while Florida and Texas have moved in the opposite direction.
Yet many are looking for answers to the ongoing mass killings.
“This is tragic on multiple levels,” said David Canepa, San Mateo County supervisor. He noted that the victims of the Half Moon Bay shootings were Chinese farm workers and said it was “horrific that it’s a Lunar New Year.” [and] you slaughtered people both in Monterey Park and the Half Moon Bay area. We should be celebrating, but instead we find ourselves – because of gun violence – burying innocent people.
Some are calling for stricter gun laws.
“We are sickened by today’s tragedy in Half Moon Bay. Unfortunately, the scourge of gun violence has struck,” San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine said in a statement.
“We haven’t even had time to mourn the victims of the horrific Monterey Park shooting. Gun violence must stop. The state of California has one of the strictest gun laws in the United States, which we have strengthened through local action here, but more needs to be done,” he said. “The status quo cannot be tolerated.”
Councilman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) lamented the magnitude of the violence that has hit California in such a short time.
“Two hours ago, I joined my colleagues on the steps of the Capitol for a vigil for the victims of the Monterey Park shooting,” he said. on Twitter. “Before we’ve even had a chance to mourn them, there’s another mass shooting — this time in Half Moon Bay. In my neighborhood.”
Speaking to reporters Monday before the Half Moon Bay shooting made the news, Newsom spoke about California’s achievements on gun control.
“The success is demonstrable. It’s overwhelming that our gun safety laws are saving lives. And you see leadership here in 1967, when the modern gun rights movement was launched, then by Ronald Reagan, you saw it with California’s assault weapons ban in 1989, led again by the California Senator in 1994. California will continue to lead red flag laws, background checks, wait times across the spectrum,” he said.
But the governor noted that people who want to get around California’s gun laws can simply go to a less-regulated state, buy guns there and return them.
One question is what other laws California can enact.
A new law that took effect on January 1 gives residents and state visitors new powers to threaten the arms industry.
SB 1327 authorizes anyone other than state or local government officials to sue people who violate California laws against the manufacture, distribution, or sale of assault weapons, phantom weapons, and other prohibited firearms.
Lawsuits may also be brought against gun dealers who violate state law against selling or transferring guns (besides shotguns) to anyone under the age of 21.
Last year, California lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have strengthened the state’s concealed carry law, which Newsom and Democratic leaders drafted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that denied a person’s right to carry firearms outdoors. carry, expanded.
It remains unclear how the weapons used in the three latest mass shootings were obtained.
At the Monterey Park memorial, many said they came to honor the victims and turn to others for comfort.
“There’s something about being with others who feel just as sad as you do,” said Enrique Hernandez, who arrived on a bicycle. “You don’t feel so alone.”
When he heard about the Half Moon Bay shootings, he added, “Too much bloodshed.”