Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays for the Asian-American community. For Asian immigrant families in particular, it is a day to gather with family and friends, celebrate with good food and drinks, and prepare for an auspicious year going forward. The last thing that anyone would expect on such a joyous day is a mass shooting.
The Asian-American community was rocked by the sudden shooting in Monterey Park, California this past weekend. Ten victims, five men and five women, were shot dead in Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a Chinese-owned ballroom known for being popular with older Chinese-American patrons. This occurred during a local 2-day street festival for Lunar New Year. Ten others were injured, and the gunman fled and tried to re-enact the shooting at a nearby dance club in Alhambra before being disarmed by locals. The Monterey Park shooting marks at least the 36th mass shooting in the United States in January 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and the second mass shooting this year in California alone.
The fact that the gunman targeted the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a gathering place for older patrons, shows just how vulnerable the Asian-American community remains, even in the aftereffects of COVID-19. It also sheds light on how vulnerable our elders are. During the height of COVID-19, Asian-American elders were prominent victims of Asian-American hate crimes, being targeted for physical as well as verbal violence and being scapegoated for the virus.
Unfortunately, as of right now we do not know the gunman’s motivations. The suspect, Huu Can Tran, shot himself dead after being approached by police. In such a sensitive time and with the lack of information, many Asian-Americans initially assumed this to be another racially motivated hate crime in a long string of continued attacks on our community. We may never truly find out the cause of this sudden attack, but we are saddened to know that our people are still endangered in a place that we try to call home.
We recognize that at this point, many people are already desensitized to the senseless gun violence in this country. And the Asian-American community is plagued with fatigue and burnout from the injustices that stemmed from the pandemic. However, the fact remains that despite California having one of the strictest gun laws in this country, the suspect used a high-capacity magazine pistol that is outlawed in California to take the lives of ten innocent people, and injure at least ten others. I have to wonder how many more deaths it will take for this nation to come to its senses and protect the people that live within its borders from the gun violence that takes place. If the state with one of the strictest gun laws has already had two mass shootings this week alone, what does that mean for the rest of the country?
As a final note, the gunshots were initially mistaken by locals to be firecrackers, a staple in Lunar New Year celebrations. The fact that the last thing the victims heard was mistaken to be the familiar bang of festivities that they’ve heard all their lives, is incredibly sad and disheartening. We can only hope that they rest in peace, and our sympathies go out to their families and those affected by this event.
Seung Hye (Shang) Yang is a second-year student and president of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association at BC Law. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.