Gun Violence: More Violent for Some Than the Rest


By Praniti Gulyani

Stop Gun Violence by Bart Everson

Like every other Friday evening, 9th February 2024 sidled into the waiting arms of my Google Calendar — a colorful gateway to a fun-filled weekend that came forth as a welcome break from the grueling midterm season. Little did I know that this ordinary looking Friday was soon going to come to a jolting pause, turning into what I will always remember as a momentary nightmare. At 8:40 pm, as several gunshots rang out throughout Lower Sproul Plaza — a location integral to the UC Berkeley community — the news of an active shooter on campus spread amidst students at a speed that was faster than wildfire. A shelter in place order was issued, as I instinctively texted my family across the globe, seeking moral support — and most importantly, wanting them to know. Even though the shooter was apprehended and taken into police custody within minutes, the incident hung heavy on my mind. While my loved ones put on a calm exterior and a brave face, I inferred a sense of uncertainty and fear in their assurances. I could almost visualize their agonized expressions as they checked on me at odd times, with my maternal uncle messaging me at 4:32 am,  and my mom calling at 3 am, just to ask me ‘if I was okay’. I know what they were collectively thinking: this is not what they had sent me to America for. 

As immigrants — and students on an international visa — America comes forth as an ideal destination for us,  as most of us come here in search of something that is not accessible to us in our home countries. According to a study conducted in 2021, a whopping 42% of the people who immigrated to America came here in search of professional growth. Other reasons for immigration to the USA include school, family, diversity, and more. However, while the percentages of people who immigrated for the reasons above continue to be relatively high — the percentage of people who come to the USA for safety reasons, or consider the country to be a safe place, is shockingly low, with a 0.0% minimum and a 0.6% maximum. In fact, the combined percentage of people who come to the USA from all across the globe seeking safety ranging from countries such as India, to Mexico, Europe, Africa and ‘all others’ happens to be 1.9% which is immensely low as opposed to 42% people who immigrate for work purposes and 32.8% who immigrate for school/academic purposes. Thus, in the immigrant mind, life in the USA is most definitely not a synonym for safety and security — with constantly upscaling gun violence being a major reason behind this.

The impact of gun violence on immigrants continues to be increasing multifold owing to a variety of reasons. To begin with, immigrants and BIPOC communities continue to be a major target of gun violence incidents. For instance, in the May 2022 supermarket attack that took place outside of a supermarket in Buffalo, New York — 11 out of the 13 people shot at were black.  In Jan 2023, an immigrant farmer, Jose Romero, who arrived some two years ago to work on a Californian farm with other immigrants, was shot dead in Half Moon Bay that is located south of San Francisco. Post the attack, the cousin of the said victim commented on how “one comes to the USA and ends up with this”, making an extremely powerful statement that accurately represents how expectation and reality are most often at loggerheads in the wrestling ground of ‘immigrant reason’ —  with the latter pinning the former to the ground and delivering powerful blows with the air of a skilled wrestler. At the end of this non-conventional battle, it is ‘reality’ that triumphs, with ‘expectation’ coming forth as the unfortunate loser. 

As opposed to streets paved with golden opportunities, most immigrants find themselves haunted by the fear of being a victim of impromptu gun violence. According to a previous study conducted in California, one in four immigrant adults live in the fear of being a victim of gun violence. In an almost instant contrast, one in ten Californian citizens possess the same trepidation. In addition to depicting an increased sense of fear amidst immigrants as opposed to citizens, these statistics also subtly indicate the impact that living in fear has on the daily lives of immigrants. The most significant impact, however, happens to be that of shared identity — wherein people of the same identity as those affected by gun violence tend to feel equally threatened and unsafe. This is especially true of immigrant communities, wherein an attack on one is looked upon as an attack to all. 

In an attempt to combat, and possibly overcome the lingering fear of gun violence in their community, immigrants attempt to establish their own ‘safe havens’ that constitute their ethnic majority. This can be looked upon as an attempt to establish a ‘home away from home’ — a significant step to breed intraracial familiarity and facilitate a sense of closely knit community on foreign shores. Monterey Park in LA is one such example that made history decades ago for being the nation’s first Asian-majority city. However, the aftermath of gun violence did not spare this epitome of immigrant unity. 

On 21 January 2023, a pivotal day that marked the beginning of the Lunar New Year, at least ten people were shot at, and subsequently lost their lives while celebrating inside a popular dance hall. This incident is particularly alarming, attesting to which a resident of Monterey Park stated how “they’ve never seen a frickin gun within Monterey Park” and now “it is here”. This statement is of particular significance — particularly the sentence fragment “it is here” — because it makes the common man and the comparatively unaffected population recognize how gun violence is like the plague, or a much feared communicable disease. However, the only difference here is that while taking precautionary measures such as preventive medicine and compulsory masking might come forth as a barrier to most communicable diseases, the same cannot be said about gun violence.

Therefore, the only way to mask one’s self against gun violence is by recognizing how the prevalence of the issue attaches itself to the global reputation of the country’s safety — leaving the unwarranted legacy of doubt and fear, not only in the minds of those who traveled across the world to come here in search of a promising future, but also in the hearts of those who encouraged them.

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