"We have the highest rates of gun deaths in the world. We have more guns than people ... We have more than one gun for every man, woman and child in America. That is insanity," said Paul Cole Padilla, an educational administrator.
by Xinhua writers Tan Jingjing, Gao Shan
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Communities in Southern California honored the victims and survivors of the mass shooting that happened on the Eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, a city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles, and denounced gun violence.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Monterey Park City Hall Monday evening for a memorial for the loss of the shooting which killed 11 and wounded nine.
For locals who lived close to the dance studio where the deadly violence broke out, the shooting rattled a close-knit and peaceful community.
Emma Gallegos, a 61-year-old resident in Monterey Park, thought it was just fireworks celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year when the gunman opened fire Saturday night at a dance studio several blocks away from her home.
Later, she heard police helicopter and siren. As she turned on TV for live broadcast, she was too shocked to find out it was actually a mass shooting.
Eleven people were confirmed killed in the shooting. The other nine wounded remained in local hospitals, and some of them are in critical conditions.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the victims were "probably in their 50s, 60s and beyond."
"I could just picture them (the victims) in this community. In the morning they are usually at the park, singing and playing bingo. The seniors in this community are very active. They love to dance," Gallegos told Xinhua.
"It's very sad ... this happened to them," she said.
"We have never expected such tragedy could happen at such a peaceful community when everyone was enjoying the Chinese New Year holiday," July Wong, a Vietnamese Chinese living in Monterey Park, told Xinhua.
Balloons, candles and bouquets of flowers were laid out at the memorial to remember the victims and to mourn a community forever changed.
People condemned gun violence and urged actions for change.
"We have the highest rates of gun deaths in the world. We have more guns than people ... We have more than one gun for every man, woman and child in America. That is insanity," Paul Cole Padilla, an educational administrator, told Xinhua.
He held a poster that read "The Problem is Guns!"
"We need to do anything and everything at the local and state and federal level to get rid of guns, to bring them into control. If we are to have public safety, we need gun safety and gun control," Padilla said, adding that "we need to break our addiction to guns."
Lloyd Ige, a 63-year-old resident from the nearby city of Alhambra, voiced his concern for the increasing mental issue in the country.
Besides gun control, mental wellness should also be stressed and be taken seriously, he said.
Franco Del Nuevo, a dance instructor, drove over 40 miles from Fountain Valley to Monterey Park, to pay his respect to the victims.
"When they (the victims) were dancing, I was also dancing in a different studio. So what happened to them could have happened to me," Del Nuevo told Xinhua.
U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, who represents Monterey Park, told the hundreds of memorial attendees Monday night that some of the surviving victims are intubated. "We in the community must step forward and help the victims."
"We must support one another and work our way through this," she said.
"Our city has shown resilience in times of crisis ... We will get through this together," said Monterey Park Mayor Pro Tem Jose Sanchez.
The United States has now had more mass shootings in 2023 than at this point in any year on record, according to U.S. media reports.
Early Tuesday, three people were killed in a shooting at a convenience store in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington, following shootings on Monday at two locations in the coastal northern California city of Half Moon Bay that left seven people dead and one critically injured.
There were 641 mass shootings in the United States in 2022, the second-highest number behind the 690 in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a website that tracks shootings in the country.