Column: Why the Monterey Park shooting affects all of us


Photo credit: Sydney Frank

This image depicts Lunar New Year festivities in a town, but what has been a peaceful time for celebration in the past has recently become a call to action. Jan. 21., citizens of Monterey Park were killed in a mass shooting following a popular Lunar New Year festival in the neighborhood. Graphic illustration by Sydney Frank

By Sydney Frank, Columnist

This is not okay.

Just over a week ago, at a Chinese-owned ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, California, 11 people were killed and nine injured in yet another mass shooting. I would be lying if I said I was at all surprised.  

Jan. 21 marked the eve of the Lunar New Year, and community members of the predominately Asian Los Angeles suburb congregated in celebration, attending a popular festival. Lunar New Year is a time for people to celebrate life, family, health and prosperity and remains one of the largest holidays in Asia and Asian communities around the globe.

Filled with live entertainment, carnival rides and food, the festival was meant to span over the entire weekend and kick off the new year—the Year of the Rabbit, symbolizing longevity, peace and wealth. Little did the Monterey Park community know the night following their joyous celebration would bring little peace.

The suspect, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, has since been pronounced dead after killing himself during a police standoff, but authorities are still seeking a motive for the crime.

“Regardless of what the intent was, the impact on our community has been really profound,” Connie Chung Joe said in an AP interview. Joe is the CEO of the nonprofit organization, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California.

“Having this tragedy on one of our most important holidays…it feels very personal to our community,” she said. “There is still that feeling of being targeted and being fearful, when we hear about a shooting like this.”

When hearing about the shooting earlier this weekend, my heart dropped. A mass shooting happened in a place with some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Let that sink in.

I have seen many commentators online speculating about the shooting, and there was one factor in particular that kept reappearing: the shooter was an Asian man. I have thought a lot about what this means because so often in tragedies like this, people immediately default to race as a motivator. If the shooter was white, the coverage surrounding the shooting would be completely different than it is now, and that’s no surprise.

As news of the event spread, people took to social media to voice their opinions. Twitter user “lesliejjuarez” tweeted, “You can’t tell me that mass shooting in Monterey park wasn’t a hate crime.” This tweet has garnered almost 400,000 views since it was posted in light of learning the shooter was, in fact, an Asian man.

Initially, I too was wondering if this shooting was a racially motivated hate crime, as anti-Asian hate is real and only increases as time goes on. But if we are so quick to try and shape a story into the narrative we want to believe, we will start to completely disregard the gravity of the situations happening around us. The automatic reaction the internet has of subjecting everything to race has become almost too frequent.

Eleven people were murdered. That is what we should focus on. That is what we should be angry about. At the end of the day, this should not have happened.

What if I were to tell you that there have been at least 36 mass shooting in the United States in 2023 so far? In just 23 days, more than 144 people have been killed.

Instead of arguing about why mass shootings occur, we should be pouring our efforts into stopping them at the source.

According to the New York Times, “From 1966 to 2019, 77 percent of mass shooters obtained the weapons they used in their crimes through legal purchases.”

How can we expect to prevent innocent people from losing their lives when it is easy enough for 36 different people to legally obtain and use a gun maliciously in just 23 days?

Ultimately, if we learn one thing from this tragedy in Monterey Park, it is that we cannot be complacent in ensuring that shootings like this can never happen again.