My Monterey Park and US will be safer with better gun laws

- Rep. Judy Chu Former Monterey Park mayor Rep. Judy Chu represents California’s 28th Congressio­nal District, which includes Monterey Park, and is chair of the Congressio­nal Asian Pacific American Caucus.

I was horrified to wake up Jan. 22 to the news of another mass shooting in this country, and further shocked and saddened that it happened in Monterey Park, California – the place I’ve called home for 37 years.

I can’t begin to comprehend the pain and suffering the 11 victims’ families are going through, and this violence has torn a hole through all of our hearts here. While there is so much we do not yet know about the shooter, we do know his attack is among the worst in modern Los Angeles County history and occurred at a time that should have been very special to Asian Americans. Lunar New Year is the highlight of the year for many communitie­s, and a time of celebratio­n with our families.

In fact, only hours before – and only a block away – I joined with tens of thousands of people and many elected officials at the opening of our Lunar New Year Festival on Jan. 21.

What Monterey Park residents told me even before the shooting

Once again in America, however, celebratio­n turned into horror. Until the shooter was surrounded, my constituen­ts were on edge.

After three years of increasing antiAsian hate crimes looming in the minds of so many Asian Americans across the country, many San Gabriel Valley residents were already afraid they’d be a target that weekend. They told me how fearful they were to go to Lunar New Year celebratio­ns, and they explained to me how scared they were to continue long-held traditions, such as visiting the local temples to pray for good fortune and health.

These fears were heart-wrenching. This is the city where I got my start in public service. I served on the city council and was mayor three terms. I am now honored to represent this vibrant, welcoming and tight-knit community in the U.S. House of Representa­tives.

Monterey Park is a special place. It is two-thirds Asian American, and a shining example of a multicultu­ral community that embraces immigrants and is stronger for it. That – along with the timing of the attack – is why the mass shooting on Lunar New Year’s Eve has shaken Asian American communitie­s across this country.

At candleligh­t vigils, grief, fear and anger

My neighbors who’ve attended vigils with me in the aftermath expressed a range of emotions – grief at our community’s loss, fear that was compounded by another mass shooting less than 48 hours later in Northern California that killed seven people, and anger that we joined the ever-growing list of cities that have experience­d a mass shooting.

But there was also love, unity and bravery. At these vigils, we reflected on the amazing lives of the friends and family we lost. We shared the stories of heroes such as Brandon Tsay, who saved so many on the eve of Lunar New

Year by jumping into action to disarm the same shooter at a nearby dance studio. We thanked our first responders for their quick action in helping victims and finding the perpetrato­r.

And we came together to lift up our community.

I know Monterey Park is resilient and will heal from this tragedy together. That has been my message at vigils: to press forward together, to continue to be resilient, to attend Lunar New Year celebratio­ns, and to live out our lives with some semblance of normalcy. We are safe from the Lunar New Year shooter.

Yet, I can’t help but also be angry and frustrated at our country’s failure to prevent mass shootings.

Elected officials in Washington and across the country must be willing to do everything in our power through our words and actions to prevent future bloodshed.

Hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

The impact of the attack in Monterey Park cannot be understood without also understand­ing the harmful impacts of racist rhetoric against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Since March 2020, nearly 11,500 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate.

And when our community members feel unsafe, gun lobbyists can capitalize on this racism and xenophobia by marketing gun sales to the communitie­s of color who fear violent racist attacks. This dangerous cycle means that, rather than finding ways to ensure illegal firearms are removed from our streets, we are seeing an increase in gun sales and gun ownership in our communitie­s.

Thankfully, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communitie­s Act last summer, the first gun legislatio­n in three decades. I was proud to support this legislatio­n to provide funds to states to establish red flag laws, which allow courts to remove firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others, close the “boyfriend loophole” by ensuring that those convicted of domestic violence will be prevented from purchasing a gun, and require those ages 18-21 to undergo enhanced background checks.

But this was just a first step and the bare minimum of what’s needed.

The gunman in the Monterey Park massacre used a semi-automatic pistol that had an extended large-capacity magazine, designed to inflict maximum damage in a short period of time. While this type of weapon is illegal in California, our gun laws are only as good as our neighbors’ gun laws.

That is why I have been working so hard to pass federal gun legislatio­n that will apply to every state in the country, including universal background checks and an assault weapon ban that also covers ammunition­feeding devices such as high-capacity magazines capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

Last Congress, House Democrats passed legislatio­n that would do so, but nearly every Republican refused to join us.

In light of this continued violence, I urge my Republican colleagues to finally listen to their constituen­ts and law enforcemen­t officials and pass laws like these to protect lives.

All Americans deserve to feel safe and protected from hate and violence. But if more guns made us safer, we would already be the safest country in the world.

As California’s recent mass shootings made devastatin­gly clear, that is not the case.

I have been working so hard to pass federal gun legislatio­n that will apply to every state in the country, including universal background checks and an assault weapon ban.

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