Too close to home. Those words were at the center of frantic texts as news broke that 11 people were killed in Monterey Park on Jan. 22. What hit hardest was how the victims of this shooting and the ones in Half Moon Bay the next day looked like our grandparents. Through the heartbreak, some things became clear: the critical need for stronger gun reform, mental health services, and multilingual outreach.
In 2023, 54 people have already died from mass shootings in America, according to Gun Violence Archive. Findings from the British journal BMJ show that for every ten percent increase in gun ownership, there is a 35 percent higher rate of mass shootings. With Americans owning 46 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, according to the Small Arms Survey, the need to address America’s gun epidemic is urgent.
National action must be taken. Although California has background checks, waiting periods, and a ban on assault weapons, what is illegal in California is legal in every single state that surrounds us. Little can be done to stop assault weapons from crossing our border when they are allowed everywhere but in nine states.
At the same time, we must address social isolation and mental health, especially for men. Men compose 98 percent of mass shooters, according to The Violence Project, and many shooters struggle with anger or substance abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly one in ten men experience anxiety or depression, but stigmas and societal pressures keep half of them from getting treatment.
In addition, the American Psychological Association found that Asian Americans seek mental health resources three times less than white Americans, for fear of being seen as weak, shameful, or crazy, and because of language and cultural barriers. Preventing violence and future shootings means moving past toxic masculinity and acknowledging mental health issues.
Finally, we must address the underlying problem of Asian invisibility. The victims of the Monterey Park shooting were older, first-generation immigrants who were vulnerable because they did not speak English. Our community needs support in languages like Chinese and Vietnamese, which were neglected in the first public alerts.
Governments should work with local organizations that are already providing for Asian communities. Outreach needs to go beyond mainstream information sources like the LA Times and Instagram to WeChat, Line, Weibo, and World Journal. These services can address the community’s needs so people can feel safe utilizing them.
There are several levels of action needed to heal from and prevent future mass shootings.
At school, mental health check-ins should be normalized, as ParentSquare physical health screenings are. At home and with peers, we must have conversations that validate anxiety and depression instead of minimizing them as weak.
Most importantly, Congress needs to renew the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Assault weapons like the Monterey Park shooter’s pistol kill faster than other guns, yet are still legal in 41 states. Studies found the ban lowered mass shooting deaths by 70 percent, which is critical in a country that has had 600 mass shootings in the last 3 years, according to the BBC. As a community, we must heed Monterey Park’s wake-up call- because when it comes to saving lives, there is no excuse.