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Criminal Justice

President Biden's Visit To Monterey Park Comes Amid Demand For Action On Mass Shootings

Mourners stand together at night, many of them Asian. The person in the center holds a lighted candle.
People gathered in front of Monterey Park City Hall for a candlelight vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio.
(Samanta Helou Hernandez
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Fonda Quan keeps replaying the night a gunman killed her aunt Mymy Nhan outside Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park before going inside to attack other dancers.

In between grieving the loss of the aunt she considered a second mother, Quan has been grasping for ways the shooting could have been prevented. Gun laws could always be stricter, she reasons. But as someone who grew up post-Sandy Hook, she’s too familiar with the national gridlock on guns.

When President Biden holds an event in Monterey Park Tuesday to call for tighter gun control, Quan plans to attend and, if she gets a chance, share with him the need for swifter action.

A photo of a smiling 65-year-old Asian woman with long brown wavy hair wearing an aqua dress.
Mymy Nhan, 65, had been dancing at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio the night a gunman killed her and 10 others.
(Photo courtesy of Nhan Family)
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Haunted by her aunt's death, Quan’s family now avoids densely-packed places.

“They're actively not eating at a restaurant as often,” said Quan, a software product manager. ”They would make an extra mile or two to get to a supermarket that isn't as crowded or has a lot more space to maneuver.”

A call for more 'eyes' at events

A shorter-term strategy that Quan wishes could be quickly adopted is convincing local businesses to post security at large gatherings — not necessarily armed guards, she said, but people designated to be on the lookout.

Quan noted that after the shooter fired on the Star Dance studio, he tried attacking a second ballroom dance studio in neighboring Alhambra but was disarmed there by Brandon Tsay, whose family owns the business. Quan wonders what would have happened if there had been someone like Tsay, who was unarmed, watching the door at Star Dance.

“I think just a physical presence of someone else could have prevented the mass shooting,” she said.

Hannah Wong, a community activist in Monterey Park who lives blocks from where the shooting took place, has also been thinking about ways to boost community safety. Rather than increase police presence or security officers at local businesses, however, she envisions community volunteers offering to be “eyes out” at events.

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A call for action beyond gun control

Wong added she hopes Biden’s visit will spotlight measures other than gun control. For many Californians, who live with the most gun laws of any state, Biden will be preaching to the choir. Wong said he should spotlight the importance of mental health resources that are culturally-specific and incorporate older Americans.

She said in the Asian community, elders may need access to in-language services and extra help overcoming the stigma of getting counseling.

Wong drew from her own experience with her family, in which older relatives don't address the trauma they’ve experienced or how the effects of that trauma are passed down to younger generations.

“Generational trauma is something that is not really talked about,” Wong, 23, said. “I think they just don't have the language, or the knowledge of what it means to have … mental health issues.“

Monterey Park will join Uvalde, Tex., as another place Biden will have visited after a mass shooting to call for gun reforms. Vice President Kamala Harris came to Monterey Park in January and met with victims’ families.

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