Countless mass shootings continue to affect UM student livelihoods

Vigil outside of Monterey Park where 11 were killed on Jan., 21 2023. Photo credit: Zedembee, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

As of Feb 1., 2023, 53 mass shootings have taken place this year.

These 53 follow the estimated 648 mass shootings that took Americans’ lives in 2022. As mass shootings continue to pepper the United States — in schools, parades and an LGBTQ nightclub, more people find themselves forced to cope with the fall out of gun violence.

On Jan. 21, 2023, 12 people died and nine were injured in a shooting at a local dance hall in the thriving Asian American suburb, Monterey Park, California. Locals gathered for a night of tradition and celebration on the eve of the Lunar New Year.

“The Lunar New Year is one of the community’s largest celebrations and holds countless traditions for each family.” Zach Ng, a member of the Asian American Students Association, said. “It’s an opportunity to bring good luck and fortune into the new year and leave the bad luck behind. Since we’re such a diverse community, it’s a unifying experience.”

The gunman attempted a second attack at another nearby dance hall but was disarmed by Brandon Tsay, a dance hall employee. The search for the attacker ended the next day when law enforcement tracked down his vehicle. The gunman was found inside his van, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot.

“Growing up in the 2000s and 2010s, I hate to say it but I’m numb. I remember Sandy Hook, Parkland, Pulse, Uvalde, all of the anti-Asian hate since COVID broke out and the list goes on.” Ng said. “I feel for the victims, their families and for my community. I fear for our safety and prosperity as a community and country, but that’s what makes it feel like another day.”

The national gun violence archive defines a mass shooting as having a minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed, not including any shooter who may also have been killed or injured in the incident.

One day after the Monterey Park gunman was found, seven people were shot to death in San Mateo County, Calif. Just two days apart and 384 miles away 19 people lost their lives at the hands of gun violence. As of Jan. 25, a suspect, Zhao Chunli, 67, is in custody. With the recent shootings in the first month of 2023, Congress is once again stalemated on gun control.

“Half Moon Bay was my go to beach spot as a kid. It’s generally regarded as a safe community with family-friendly beaches and hiking trails.” Shane Stewart, a senior from San Mateo County, said. “To hear that something so tragic struck such a beloved community is definitely painful, but I feel the most for the Asian American community, which is highly prevalent in San Mateo County.”

Last year a bipartisan package of legislation was passed that hoped to reduce the threat of gun violence in our country. The law included many changes including protection for victims of domestic violence and an enhanced review process for buyers under the age of 21. The back to back shootings in California speak to the bill’s effectiveness on actually reducing gun violence.

“It’s true that a lot of Americans think there is a gun violence problem in this country. A very large majority of them favor some gun control measures.” Dr. Gregory Koger, Professor and Chair of the University of Miami’s Department of Political Science, said. “But it is very difficult, if not impossible to get congressional Republicans to approve of any measure which restricts access to firearms.”

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 63% of adults say they would like to see Congress pass another round of legislation addressing gun violence, but 78% of adults think new gun laws will do little to nothing to reduce gun violence.

House Democrats have joined President Biden’s call for new limits on access to firearms, but Republicans combat their efforts with proposals for legislation that seeks to protect those who sell, own and make firearms. Due to this gridlock, Congress is unlikely to come up with a bipartisan consensus to act on any gun reform in response to the recent incidents.

“Republicans in the Senate negotiated the best package they could in the last Congress.” Koger said. “That doesn’t mean that they will not pass legislation that from their point of view, addresses the Gun Violence Crisis, but they will not pass anything that restricts access to firearms.”

Organizations including March For Our Lives, Everytown, and Giffords, have been founded with the purpose to inform communities, fight for laws, policies and programs with hopes to save lives and bring an end to the mass shooting epidemic that currently exists in America.

Giffords is a non-profit gun violence prevention group founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords. In 2011, Giffords was shot in the head by a gunman who killed six people and injured 12 others at a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona. She then stepped down from office in 2012 to focus on her recovery. After the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook, Giffords co-founded the organization and dedicated her life to gun violence prevention.

The group has brought expertise to many legislative decisions and helped craft over 500 pieces of legislation to be presented to government officials. The organization was a part of the implementation of Florida’s “red flag” law passed after the 2018 Parkland shooting. The law provides a path for police to ask a judge to temporarily bar dangerous individuals from possessing or purchasing a firearm.

“We encourage you to be aware of how your elected officials stand in regards to gun violence prevention.” Samantha Barrios, the Florida State Director at Giffords, said.

To reduce mass shootings, experts have some ideas. Proposals include thorough background checks, wider “red flag” laws and an assault weapon ban to restrict or prohibit access to the kinds of rifles shooters often use. Because little research exists on the effect of gun policy on mass shootings, it’s difficult to predict the impact measures would have.