It’s difficult to explain a senseless act of violence.
But after every mass shooting — in just the last two days, the total in 2023 went from 33 to 39 nationwide — we (the media, the public and policymakers) try anyway.
The motive remains unclear as law enforcement continues to investigate the massacre in Monterey Park that claimed its 11th fatality on Monday — although some reports cited recent personal disputes and emotional problems.
- Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese: “The why is a big part of this. The problem is, we may never know the why.”
The question is being asked again, after yet another mass shooting: Monday afternoon, even as California lawmakers held a vigil on the steps of the state Capitol for the Monterey Park victims, authorities responded to shooting reports in the seaside city of Half Moon Bay. Seven people, reportedly including several Chinese farmworkers, were killed in two related shootings. Chunli Zhao, 67, was arrested a little more than two hours later in his vehicle parked at a sheriff’s station, said the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. It said Zhao is “believed” to have acted alone, and the motive is “currently unknown.”
The lack of a clear motive in Monterey Park hasn’t prevented some elected officials from focusing on one theme common to many mass shootings: easy access to guns.
The suspect, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, had an arsenal at his disposal. He used a semi-automatic pistol with an illegal large-capacity magazine at the Monterey Park dance studio, where authorities found 42 shell casings.
Tran also had a 9mm semi-automatic weapon when he entered a dance studio in Alhambra, where Brandon Tsay, 26, fought and disarmed Tran and saved more lives. Tsay met Monday with Gov. Gavin Newsom, who joined others in calling him a hero.
Police found a handgun in the van where Tran killed himself in Torrance. And in a search of his Hemet home, authorities found a rifle, ammunition and evidence he was making homemade silencers, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna.
At the vigil following floor sessions with moments of silence and condolences, lawmakers acknowledged the limits of California laws, especially since many have been struck down by courts in the last three years. For some legislators, that means looking to other states for coordination.
- State Sen. Dave Min, a Democrat who represents parts of Orange County, including the largely Taiwanese church where 1 person was killed and 5 injured in a shooting last May: “We can control our southern border. But we can’t control what happens between Nevada, Oregon, let alone what happens between Nevada and other states.”
- U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, after touring a victim resource center in Monterey Park, doubled down on the need for more federal gun laws. “Many of my colleagues have pointed out…doesn’t California have some of the strictest laws and protections of any state in the nation? That is true. And they have worked. …But when there’s a patchwork of laws and protections to various degrees across states, then clearly there are vulnerabilities that can impact any community in the country.”
- Newsom, also in Monterey Park, spoke to CBS News: “Large capacity clips — just insane. There’s no justification. Period. Full stop.” California has a ban on large-capacity magazines, passed by voters in 2016, but it’s being challenged in court.
All of the victims were 50 or older; four have been identified so far: My Nhan, 65, Lilan Li, 63, Xiujan Yu, 57 and Valentino Alvero, 68. Victims’ families are eligible for support from the state’s Victim Compensation Board.