WRITTEN BY TANU HENRY | CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA
“Faith and prayer without action is meaningless,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), the longest serving -- and the highest ranking -- African American member of California’s delegation to United States House of Representatives.
“House Democrats have met the moment and passed critical gun reform in the 117th Congress,” she added in a statement her office released last week. Lee was reacting to back-to-back mass shootings in three California cities: Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay and Oakland.
The mass shootings left 19 people dead and at least 15 more people injured.
About a week before the Monterey Park shooting, six members of a family, including an infant, were shot and killed at their home in Goshen, a small town in Central California with a population of about 5,000 people.
“It is now on Republicans in both the House and Senate to stand up to the gun lobby and prevent the next tragedy,” Lee emphasized.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Californians should “stand united against all attempts to divide us.”
"The reports coming out of Monterey Park are absolutely devastating. Families deserve to celebrate the holidays in peace — mass shootings and gun violence are a plague on our communities,” she said.
The frustration expressed in Lee’s and Bass’ remarks about the unending occurrences of gun violence in the United States (there have been 44 deaths by guns across the country in January alone) is not isolated. That sentiment was echoed in statements made by civic and political leaders across California.
Last Monday, Gov. Newsom was consoling victims of the Monterey Park killing when his visit was interrupted with news about another incident of gun violence.
“Tragedy upon tragedy,” the Governor took to Twitter, expressing his disappointment.
“At the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay,” he wrote.
Responding to Newsom, some Twitter users pointed out what seems like an irony to them: the series of horrific killings that happened despite California’s forceful firearm laws, the strongest regulations of their kind in the nation.
“Funny how your strict gun laws in CA aren’t working,” Twitter user S.D. Dank replied to Newsom.
But proponents of gun restrictions point out that California has a lower gun mortality rate per capita than states with more permissive gun policies like Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. All three states are among areas with the highest recorded rates of gun deaths in the country.
“Only Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Connecticut have lower firearm mortality rates,” a statement released by the California Department of Justice reports.
While visiting Half Moon Bay the next day, the Governor’s irritation was clear.
“I’m damn sick and tired of this stuff. I’m sick and tired of this. I don’t ever want to see this again,” he told reporters.
The Saturday night before, authorities say, a 72-year-old Asian American gunman, Huu Can Tran, walked into a Monterey Park dance studio where the local Asian community was celebrating the Lunar New Year. Tran shot 42 rounds from a semiautomatic gun into the crowd of partygoers assembled there. Eleven people died.
Then on Monday, San Mateo police accused another elderly Asian American man, Chunli Zhao, 66, of shooting and killing four people at a mushroom farm in Half Moon Bay and three others at a location nearby.
A few hours later the same day in Oakland, authorities say multiple shooters fired rounds into a crowd of about 50 people shooting a music video. One person died and about seven more were injured. At press time, the shooters involved in that Bay Area shooting were still at-large.
Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) is a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) and one of the most outspoken supporters of strong gun laws serving in the State Legislature.
Last year, Newsom signed into law a bill Gipson authored, AB 1621, that tightened existing restrictions on “ghost guns,” firearms that are privately manufactured or assembled.
“Another senseless mass shooting in our community in this state, the family and friends need more than prayers, they need/we need more federal sensible gun legislation signed into law in hopes that these things will not happen again in any community in this country,” he tweeted.
Across the aisle, Gipson’s Republican colleagues in the Assembly acknowledged the seriousness of the mass shootings but insisted that more gun laws are not the solution.
"Another gun safety law won’t stop these mass shootings … we have to go deeper…policies that deter and prevent the individual behavior," Republican Leader James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) tweeted.
State officials from both parties, gun safety advocates and other concerned citizens assembled for a vigil on the Capitol steps in Sacramento last Monday During the event, attendees began to receive news about the Half Moon Bay shooting.
“There's still a lot that we are learning about these particular cases. We won't jump to conclusions," said Sen. Alex Padilla. “But we do take it as a reminder of the urgency with which we need to strengthen our gun safety laws across the country.”
CLBC Vice Chair, Sen. Steven Bradford, said the mass shootings left him “heartbroken and angry.”
“This shooting, again, points out that we must do more to protect everyone from gun violence,” he added.
Justin Zhu is the co-founder of Stand with Asian Americans, a coalition seeking justice and equity for Asian Americans that was started by businesspeople and activists in response to an increasing number of hate crimes perpetrated against people of Asian descent.
Zhou said the shootings left him feeling hopeless amid a social climate that feels chaotic to him.
“After these horrific crimes, the vast number of lives lost, and the years of heightened racism, hate and fear, Asian Americans are experiencing immense and complex pain. For thousands of years, Lunar New Year has been a celebration of not only happiness and luck, but also for coming together, and the Year of the Rabbit can symbolize healing,” he said. “To feel our communities wrenched apart at this moment, repeatedly, we are angry, blindsided and shattered.”