By Ariana Ceballos
The start of the new year shined a strong light on the violence that is plaguing this nation. On January 10, Tyre Nichols succumbed to his injuries after being viciously beaten at the hands of police, becoming one of many Black victims to be murdered by such individuals. During a Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park on January 21, 12 people were killed in a shooting massacre and less than two days later in Half Moon Bay, seven individuals were victims to the gun violence epidemic in the country.
Police brutality and gun violence are becoming synonymous with the country, as little progress is made to combat these occurrences. At the hands of these violent actions are individuals with no power to change their circumstances, while those in power repeatedly send condolences rather than take charge and help combat this violence. It has only been a month into the new year, and Shruti Rajkumar for the HuffPost quotes Mikah Rector-Brooks, press associate for March for Our Lives, stating, “The start of 2023 has brought seemingly constant gun violence, with more mass shootings than there have been days…devastating as this is, it’s far from surprising.”
In a report for the Los Angeles Times, the Monterey Park shooting that took the lives of 12 individuals is described as “… one of the worst in modern Los Angeles County history.” Huu Can Tran, age 72, is the suspect in this attack who died of a self-inflicted gunshot, leaving many of the victims and members of the communities with unanswered questions.
U.S. Representative Judy Chu for Monterey Park posed a series of questions “…what was the motive for this shooter? Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns, and was it through legal means?” All of these worries are what gun activists have been proposing legislation to address. Yet, any form of restriction for guns is met with hesitation. As Rajkumar of the HuffPost states: “In the immediate aftermath of that massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, attempts were made to get Congress to pass a bill that would expand background checks for people who seek to purchase guns, though it was met with a Republican-led filibuster.”
On a brighter note, President Biden passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which aims to provide funding for community violence intervention programs, background checks for buyers younger than 21, and investment in child and family mental health care. However, at the same time, the Supreme Court has also overturned New York’s “concealed carry law” that required people to have a “proper cause” to receive a license allowing them to hold a concealed firearm in public.
This shows how addressing the public’s safety is very politically polarizing. Certain political leaders seem to find it challenging to choose the lives of the public over their own political needs. Examples include senators like Ted Cruz and Steve Scalise, which the HuffPost piece describes as “gun lobby’s pocket,” because they prefer the money pro-gun groups over the lives of the people.
The killings in Half Moon Bay occurred on two different farms that housed many of the victims and their families. Sakshi Venkatraman for NBC News writes on the fear many laborers and families face returning to a place that is scarier than before. Co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action Cynthia Choi met with survivors of the tragic event, stating: “This mass shooting, the gun violence issue, compounds some already pretty terrible living and working conditions.”
These individuals living on the agricultural grounds were not guaranteed safety from the start, and an event like this has brought upon them a new danger. Choi continues to describe how farmworkers and migrant populations are often invisible and how they experience multiple forms of harm and violence—a sad reality. The victims in this case were POC, five Chinese and two Mexican immigrant workers who lost their lives, individuals that have little representation in political institutions or high-wage job positions. As the piece states, “In Half Moon Bay, the shooting has upended the lives of those left behind… revealing dire gaps in how the U.S. protects farmworkers.” This highlights the institutional failures to keep these individuals safe.
On February 1, Tyre Nichols’s funeral was held in Tennessee, and his mother RowVaughn Wells spoke for the need for action against police brutality. Her words were moving and well put. “We need to take some action. This should be no other child…If we don’t, the next child that dies, the blood will be on their hands.” An institution meant to protect citizens has shown that it is weak and poses a threat to some individuals, as shown by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor which led to nationwide protests calling for reform.
Notably, in the crowd of attendees was Vice President Kamala Harris, who spoke for the need to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and urged strongly against delaying it. Alexandra Hutzler for ABC News summarizes the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to include “accountability for police misconduct, a framework for addressing racial profiling, and limit use of force.” This is a good cause. Police brutality is evident victims and their families suffer from this violence. It is an issue no one can turn a blind eye to.
Individuals impacted by the latest events of violence in the country depend on leaders to listen and act. These events are additions to a string of violent acts in the country. It is time for more action to be taken, and for leaders to acknowledge the pain and suffering of many of these individuals, and place more effort toward preventing it from happening again.