News of another mass shooting in Half Moon Bay spread as mourners gathered Monday night for a candlelight vigil in Monterey Park for 11 people killed by a gunman at a dance studio.
Siu Fong, a Monterey Park retiree who volunteers at Langley Senior Center, knew two of the victims of that shooting. Less than two days later, when another outbreak of violence took place, she asked herself: What happened?
“I would say there needs to be a little bit more gun control,” she said. “Of course a lot of people say they need guns to protect themselves, but the thing is they might need stricter background checks. I don’t want people going to gun stores to buy guns.”
California has been rocked by three mass shootings in a week.
Six people were found fatally shot January 16 at a home in Goshen, California, in a case police believe could be linked to organized crime.
On Saturday night, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran entered the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park and opened fire, killing 11. He then went to a second dance club in Alhambra but was disarmed. The police jealously assume that a personal dispute could have been the motive for the attack, but emphasize that the investigation is ongoing.
Tran was wearing a 9-millimeter MAC-10 when he entered the dance hall at Monterey Park around 10:20 p.m. Saturday and began spraying bullets as terrified patrons ducked for cover. Authorities recovered at least 42 spent cartridge cases at the scene.
Then Monday afternoon, seven other people were killed in two shootings in Half Moon Bay that authorities say are linked. A 67-year-old man is suspected of opening fire on two farms about a mile apart and shooting dead some of the victims in front of children who lived nearby and who had recently been released from school.
The shooting suspect, identified as Chunli Zhao, was believed to be working at one of the farms. Police have not revealed a motive for these shootings.
“Tragedy upon tragedy,” Gov. Gavin Newsom, who visited Monterey Park on Monday, said of the two attacks.
California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and more restrictions have been talked about in the wake of the recent violence.
Data suggests the rules made a difference. As The Times reported last year, California had almost the same gun death rate as Florida or Texas in 2005, with California reporting 9.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people that year, Florida 10 and Texas 11, according to data from the National Center for health statistics. Since then, California has steadily tightened its gun laws, while Florida and Texas have moved in the opposite direction.
Still, many are looking for answers to the ongoing mass killings.
“This is tragic on several levels,” said San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa. Noting that the victims of the Half Moon Bay shootings were Chinese farm workers, he said it was “terrible that it’s a lunar new year [and] They massacred people in both Monterey Park and the Half Moon Bay area. We should celebrate, but instead, because of gun violence, we bury innocent people.”
Some are calling for stricter gun laws.
“We are disgusted by today’s tragedy in Half Moon Bay. The scourge of gun violence has saddened us,” San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine said in a statement.
“We didn’t even have time to mourn those lost in the horrific Monterey Park shooting. Gun violence must stop. The state of California has one of the toughest gun laws in the United States, which we’ve strengthened through local action here, but more needs to be done,” he said. “The status quo cannot be tolerated.”
Rep. Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) lamented the level of violence that has struck California in such a short period of time.
“Two hours ago, I joined my colleagues on the steps of the Capitol for a vigil for the victims of the Monterey Park shooting,” he said on twitter. “Before we’ve even had a chance to mourn her, there’s another mass shooting – this time in Half Moon Bay. In my district.”
Speaking to reporters Monday before the Half Moon Bay shooting made headlines, Newsom spoke about what California has achieved on gun control.
“The success is demonstrable. It is overwhelming that our gun safety laws are saving lives. And you see the leadership here in 1967, when the modern gun rights movement was started, then by Ronald Reagan, you saw it with the 1989 assault gun ban in California, which was again led by the California Senator in 1994. California will continue to carry the red flag laws, background checks, wait times across the spectrum,” he said.
But the governor noted that people who want to circumvent California’s gun laws can simply go to a less regulated state, buy guns, and bring them back.
It remains unclear how the weapons used in the last three mass shootings were obtained.
At the Monterey Park memorial, many said they came to honor the victims and to reach out to others for comfort.
“It has something to do with being with other people who are just as sad as you are,” said Enrique Hernandez, who traveled by bike. “You don’t feel so alone.”
Upon hearing about the Half Moon Bay shooting, he added, “Too much bloodshed.”