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In Monterey Park, Biden Say Families Of Mass Shooting Victims 'Will Never Be The Same' As He Introduces Effort To Curtail Gun Violence

An Asian man in a suit and tie raises his right hand to acknowledge people clapping for him.
President Joe Biden hugs an audience member after delivering remarks at the Boys and Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley Tuesday before speaking about his new executive order the White House says is aimed at curtailing cut violence.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)
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President Joe Biden visited Monterey Park Tuesday to address gun violence in front of an audience that included families of the 11 people killed in a mass shooting in January.

Among them was Maria Liang, owner of the Star Dance Studio, the site of the mass shooting. In addition to the 11 people who died, nine others were injured, including Liang's brother.

"The people are saddened about this tragedy," Liang said. "They have a lot of beautiful memories because this is their home, their family. The tragedy will not stop their love for dancing."

More than 200 people, mostly from Monterey Park and surrounding communities, attended Biden's speech at a local boys and girls club. Despite the rain, they started lining up to enter the club as early as 10 a.m., long before the President landed at LAX and hours before his 1:45 p.m. address.

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The weather threw a wrench in plans for Biden to take a helicopter from LAX to the San Gabriel Valley — and caused traffic delays as the presidential motorcade was mixed in with already tough driving conditions.

Listen to his remarks

What Biden announced

He plans to sign an executive order that will increase background checks before firearms sales, which the White House said has the goal of "moving the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation."

The executive order also calls for more federal support for gun violence survivors and communities affected by gun violence, and will move to increase the "effective use of 'red flag' laws" that allow people to alert authorities when they believe someone who is armed could be a danger.

Monterey Park Councilmember Henry Lo, who was mayor at the time of the mass shooting, said that while the council is doing as much as it can at the local level, more serious federal action to curb violence is needed. He said that Biden's executive order was a good first step.

"We are a resilient community and this shooting does not define us," Lo said. "But there's only so much we can do at a local level."

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Monterey Park's city council has started a fund to support the community's mental health, create a buffer zone between firearms dealers, and unanimously voted to support several gun reform bills at the state level, including:

In Alhambra, home to the other dance studio targeted by the Monterey Park shooter, Councilmember Sasha Renée Pérez said she's put forth an ordinance to require any gun buyer to provide a fingerprint and have a psychological and background check.
Renée Pérez, who was Alhambra's mayor at the time of the shooting, said Biden's executive order is a good first step, but Congress needs to agree to stronger regulations, like universal background checks and a universal ban on military-style assault weapons.

"We need reform at the federal level," she said. "California has some of the strongest gun legislation in the country, but we are only as strong as the weakest state that's next to us."

But as many of the community members who spoke with LAist expressed, healing and supporting the community won't be fixed by strong gun reform.

Mia Livas Porter came from her home near Dodger Stadium as a volunteer with gun reform group Moms Demand Action. Her brother had suffered for years with schizophrenia. He ultimately killed himself using a gun. But her family swept the suicide under the rug, and Porter said she didn't speak about it or truly allow herself to grieve for nearly 20 years.

An Asian woman wears a red t-shirt with partially obscured white lettering and a light black jacket with four large buttons pinned to it
Mia Livas Porter, a volunteer with gun reform group Moms Demand Action, attended President Biden's address on gun violence in Monterey Park on Tuesday, March 14, 2023
(Erin Stone

"Coming from a Filipino Catholic family, we were told what happens when the family stays in the family," Porter said.

But after the murders of elementary schooler students by a shooter in Parkland, Florida in 2018, she looked at her two young children and decided she needed to get involved. She joined the Everytown movement and Moms Demand Action as a volunteer. Her activism helped her move through her grief, but when Monterey Park happened it was too close to home.

"This is the worst mass shooting in L.A. County, and to know it's 10 minutes from my home... my heart was bleeding, it was hurting," Porter said. "I was, again, fearful for my children, fearful to go outside. But then I realized that we have to keep using our voice to demand changes."

In her own grieving process for her brother and her activism, she became more solid in her self and proud of who she was. "The way that my parents were raised, they were told to assimilate, and I lost so much of my culture and my sense of self because I was told to blend," she said. "We need to take up space, we need to use our voices, use our voices in government, in our schools, be visible, own who we are, be proud of our culture, and demand better."

The backstory

Biden previously talked about the tragedy at Star Ballroom Dance Club in his State of the Union Address — also acknowledging Brandon Tsay — the young man who wrestled the gun away from the shooter at the second dance club, in Alhambra. The shooter later died by suicide while being pursued by police.

Before yesterday's address, club owner Maria Liang emphasized the resilience of her community, many of whom are immigrants who built a new life in Monterey Park and surrounding cities. Ballroom dance and other dance classes at the studio were a haven for many.

An Asian woman wearing a bright blue blazer over a floral top and a three-ring silver necklace poses in a room where hundreds of people are seated in folding chairs set in front of a stage with a podium and several American flags.
Maria Liang, owner of the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where 11 people were killed and nine others were wounded in a mass shooting in January.
(Erin Stone

"I hope all the Asian immigrants and communities, that you should not let this tragedy bring you down and continue to enjoy what you're doing," Liang said. "Let your dreams fly and still go to competition, do whatever you like."

Biden last came to the Los Angeles area in October — when he visited a Metro construction site and spoke at Irvine Valley College.

Biden visited San Diego on Monday to meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to discuss the Australia-United Kingdom-United States partnership, known as AUKUS, as Lunar New Year celebrations got underway.

What to know about traffic and closures

Monterey Park police are asking people to steer clear of Barnes Park on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. These streets surrounding the park and city government offices will be closed: Newmark Avenue, Ramona Avenue, Harding Avenue and McPherrin Avenue.

In addition, Monterey Park police late Monday released details about more road closures and restricted parking for the presidential visit.

About Biden's arrival and departure

The president landed at LAX from San Diego before noon. If we get more details on any closures or delays, we'll share them here.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

Updated March 14, 2023 at 7:51 AM PDT
This story was updated with information about the executive order Biden plans to sign.
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