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California shootings leave students shocked yet determined

<p>In 2021, Miami students held a candlelight vigil after shootings across the country targeted Asian Americans. In 2023, these shootings haven&#x27;t stopped.</p>

In 2021, Miami students held a candlelight vigil after shootings across the country targeted Asian Americans. In 2023, these shootings haven't stopped.

On Jan. 21, the eve of the Lunar New Year, Huu Can Tran walked into a dance studio in Monterey Park, California and opened fire with a handgun. 

He killed 11 people and injured nine, a majority of whom were Asian Americans celebrating the holiday. He then left the dance hall and entered the Lai Lai ballroom in Alhambra where he was disarmed by 26-year-old Brandon Tsay. He fled and was found dead in his van the next day.

On Jan. 23, a mushroom farm employee named Chunli Zhao went on a shooting spree and killed seven people, five of whom were Chinese citizens. The incidents occurred at the mushroom farm he was currently working at and another farm in Half Moon Bay, a city near San Francisco.

On Jan. 28, a shooting in Beverly Hills killed three and injured four.

In total, 21 people were victims of mass shootings in California in the span of a week.

Thomas Ratliff, a visiting assistant professor of sociology at Miami University, said the shootings were unusually frequent, but not anything new in a society where mass shootings have become more common.

“As a phenomenon, we’ve seen exponential increases in mass shootings,” Ratliff said. “In the past decade or two they’ve become almost normal — normal not as in [mass shootings] should be normal, but normal as in it happens on a regular basis now.”

Janna Maddox is a senior at Miami majoring in human capital management & leadership and entrepreneurship as well as the president of Miami’s Asian American Association (AAA). She said she was devastated by the Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay shootings, which targeted primarily Asian Americans and happened around a time of celebration for many Asian cultures.

“Simply put, I’m really disgusted and really scared,” Maddox said. “I’m especially upset because [the Monterey Park shooting] was on the eve of Lunar New Year … It’s a very community-based event and having something like that tear a hole in that community setting and disrupt everything made me so upset.”

Maddox was in the middle of drafting a statement for the organization discussing the Monterey Park shooting when news of the Half Moon Bay shooting broke. What especially concerned her, though, was the lack of media attention and awareness of the crimes.

“I was really upset because there was so little coverage about [the shootings],” Maddox said. “I was talking to one of my friends about how I was upset and they asked me, ‘Oh, what are you upset about?’ because they hadn’t heard about the shootings at all.”

Hanah Bloom, a junior majoring in political science and philosophy and the Cultural Chair of AAA, was also outraged  by the shootings. The events were a grave wake-up call for Bloom, who returned to Oxford this spring after a semester abroad in Japan.

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“[The shootings were] a real ‘Oh, I’m back home,’” Bloom said. “In Japan I never had this fear of gun violence or discrimination for being Asian, but [the shootings] were this quick snap back into the reality of the horrifying nature of what it’s like in this country.”

Bloom said she remembered 2021, when the Atlanta Spa shootings and other anti-Asian hate crimes swept across the country and led to multiple vigils on campus.

“I was taken back to when I was a freshman, reaching out to [Maddox] because of the spa shootings,” Bloom said. “Learning about this news brought me immediately back to that headspace of fear, anxiety and stress.”

Some organizations reached out to AAA after the shootings to offer support. One organization was the Miami chapter of Students Demand Action, an organization advocating for gun control legislation and gun violence awareness.

Venus Harvey, a sophomore political science and individualized studies major, is the treasurer of Students Demand Action at Miami. They were in charge of organizing the Wear Orange campaign, an event at Miami on Feb. 6 that honored survivors and victims of gun violence. They said the shootings added an extra element of tragedy to the event, which was already planned beforehand.

“It’s been another devastating couple of days in America,” Harvey said. “[Monterey Park] was the deadliest shooting since Uvalde, and it’s really tragic timing that our Wear Orange could be interpreted as a response to these shootings.”

Harvey said the best way for students to respond to tragedies like the California shootings is to support affected communities and raise awareness of gun violence.

“An important thing to do is support the AAPI community at Miami,” Harvey said. “We have to continue to raise awareness of gun violence and how it can impact anyone, anywhere.”

Ratliff, who started a position at Virginia Tech after the infamous 2007 shooting, agreed that building a sense of community was essential to responding to mass shootings.

“The single most important factor [in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings] that I not only saw but felt is the sense of community,” Ratliff said. “I think that if we are active in our communities … we can try to foster environments where people feel like they can ask one another for help.”

In the wake of the shootings, AAA reached out to organization members and provided resource lists discussing the Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay shootings as well as the recent Tokyo Foods shooting in Evandale, Ohio.

“I’m proud we’re able to provide those resources for so many people,” Maddox said. “AAA is an umbrella organization for an entire continent and race with a host of ethnicities here at Miami, and I’m very glad we can provide those resources.”

For resources relating to the AAPI community and gun violence, use the following links: