Thu, 02 Feb 2023

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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Dozens of politicians from California pointed their fingers at the gun industry on Monday, calling for nationwide reform to contain gun violence after a fatal mass shooting on Saturday left 11 dead and nine others injured in Southern California.

"Every country struggles with mental illness. But the USA has a gun homicide rate 26 TIMES HIGHER than our peers. The difference is how the @GOP have bowed down to the gun industry. The difference is how easy it is to access to guns and high capacity magazines in our country," California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted Monday after touring the city of Monterey Park, 16 km east of Los Angeles downtown.

A gunman opened fire at a crowded dance hall in the small city, which has a majority Asian American population, at 10:22 p.m. local time on Saturday (0422 GMT Sunday) when it was hosting an event to celebrate the countdown to the Chinese Lunar New Year.

The suspect, later identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, fled the scene and traveled to nearby Alhambra, where he allegedly entered a second dance hall before being disarmed there that same night.

Tran was found dead on Sunday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a van in Torrance, about 50 km southwest of Monterey Park.

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"Spent time in Monterey Park today meeting with leaders and those impacted by this terrible tragedy. The strength of this community is incredible," Newsom tweeted Sunday. "No other country in the world is terrorized by this constant stream of gun violence. We need real gun reform at a national level."

Alex Padilla, a junior U.S. Senator from California since 2021, echoed Newsom's remarks. He noted that the Saturday tragedy should remind people of "the epidemic of gun violence in America."

"We do take it as a reminder of the urgency with which we need to strengthen our gun safety laws across the country," said the Senator, who served more than seven years on the Los Angeles City Council earlier, when he visited the Langley Senior Center in Monterey Park, which is being used as a crisis response and resource center for the victims and their families.

There were 641 mass shootings in the United States in 2022, the second-highest number behind the 690 that happened in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a website that tracks shootings nationwide.

The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot or killed, not including the shooter.

Padilla said California's district gun control laws could not prevent fatal shooting incidents since other states in the country have much looser measures against gun violence.

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It is still unclear two days after the fatal incident how the shooter could access a "magazine-fed semi-automatic assault pistol," which is illegal in California and was found at the scene, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna.

"California has some district laws and protections of any state in the nation ... But when there's a patchwork of laws and protections to various across states, there are vulnerabilities that can impact any community in the country," he said, urging a long-term solution instead of "just an immediate aftermath of a tragedy."

With its restrictive state laws, California has among the lowest firearms mortality rates in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The most populous state in the country ranked seventh lowest nationwide, with 8.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020 - well below the nationwide average of 13.7.

The CDC's data showed that in 2020 Texas posted a rate of 14.2, Georgia a rate of 17.7, while the highest rate was in Mississippi, at 28.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Judy Chu, U.S. representative for California's 28th congressional district, where Monterey Park is located, made an emotional interview with local media on Monday morning when she visited the Langley Senior Center, saying she "was just stunned and shocked and can't even know what to begin to think about this tragedy" in a city where she has lived for 37 years.

Chu was elected to the city council of Monterey Park in 1988. In 1989, she became mayor of the city and served until 1994.

She recalled the challenges facing immigrants to the city, including the so-called "English Only Movement" in the 1980s, when "many immigrants moved in, and the old-time residents didn't like it and resented it."

"That's why I ran for city council to bring the people together to bring about an appreciation of diversity. And I am proud of how far we've come since then... That's why we had such an incredible Lunar New Year celebration, which is the largest in the Southland," she said, noting the hard-working people in the city deserved a room to gather in peace.

She said the gun industry and its lobby groups should be blamed for the mass shooting.

"We have a total proliferation of guns in this society, and it's unlike anything you see in any other country. That's because the NRA has such a strong lobby, and the NRA represents the gun manufacturers, not the regular people," she noted.

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The NRA, or the National Rifle Association of America, is a very influential gun rights advocacy group. It is also among the most influential advocacy groups in U.S. politics.

Chu said that gun control bills introduced by lawmakers always required universal background checks for gun buyers; however, the bills were always overturned by the NRA because "this big, gigantic lobby with all this money, the NRA is able to control things. And it gives lots of donations to certain elected officials who vote down any kind of gun bill."

She hoped the mass shooting could result in a greater focus on gun violence and push Congress to pass more gun control bills in the coming years.

Besides the governor, the Senator and the Congresswoman, dozens of prominent Californian politicians, from state lawmakers in Sacramento to elected officials in Southern California, are calling for stricter gun control in the wake of the mass shooting.

The California Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus held a vigil on the steps of the Capitol on Monday night in honor of the victims.

The caucus chair said people should expect more action to address gun violence, such as more district background checks.

"The fact of the matter is that this issue is about the senseless attacks on communities with respect to firearms," caucus chair and State Assemblyman Evan Lowe told ABC 10 news channel.

Only two days after the dance hall shooting, a man opened fire on people at two separate locations in Half Moon Bay, Northern California, on Monday afternoon, killing seven and injuring one, according to local police.

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