The Week Ahead
January 22, 2023
I had planned to share some thoughts with you about legal issues we’re likely to see crop up this week, including the ongoing disclosure of classified documents found in President Biden’s home, and whether that has any effect on a possible prosecution of former President Trump. But that changed when I learned in the middle of the night on Saturday that a shooting had taken place at the Lunar New Year festival in my hometown, Monterey Park, California.
It’s just one more senseless mass shooting in America. Ten people dead and 10 more wounded, some of them seriously, in a community I love. I wasn’t sure about writing about this at all, because the focus belongs on the people directly impacted by the shooting, who will need our support in the coming days, weeks, and months. And also because I’m very emotional about it. But maybe because of that emotion, while I’m still trying to process everything, I decided to share my thoughts with you. We’ll take up the legal issues of the week as they happen.
I outlined the story of my connection to Monterey Park on Twitter this afternoon, and I’ll repeat it here for you.
I am struck anew with this violence that it’s easy to lose track of individual events when there are shootings and deaths every day. It’s a constant barrage. Behind the numbers, the statistics, there are individuals. People who are killed, people who have to struggle with recovery, families that are impacted, entire communities that are changed forever. And it happens over and over again because we lack the national will to address it. There was a moment when it looked like we might see some progress with the weakening of the NRA and the rise in activist groups like Moms Demand Action (you can sign up here if you want to get involved in their work). But despite some positive developments, the change we needed didn’t come. David Hogg, who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida in February 2018, captured where we are when he tweeted Sunday morning:
Absent a remarkable change of course, there’s no reason for optimism that we’ll have meaningful, systemic change in the short term. It’s going to be a much longer fight to protect our communities. The data suggests that gun violence increased after the ban on semiautomatic weapons, passed in 1994, was permitted to lapse a decade later. So do the number of incidents where shooters use readily available firearms that are essentially weapons of war to kill people in our communities. Just this past term, a bill passed in the House of Representatives that would have restored some of those restrictions, before failing in the Senate, lacking the necessary Republican votes. And of course, we live in a new legal climate, with a Supreme Court that is increasingly willing to accord primacy to the Second Amendment rights of people who want to freely possess and openly carry guns that are as far removed from the muskets the Founding Fathers thought well-organized militias should be able to possess as one could imagine.
We do not benefit from having more guns, and more dangerous guns, on our streets. The mythical good guy with a gun doesn’t protect us.
We don’t yet know what motivated the shooter, who law enforcement has said was a 72-year-old Asian American man found dead in a white van in Torrance, California, 45 minutes away from Monterey Park. It does not look like a spontaneous act. He donned a hoodie and a leather jacket in the relatively mild climate of a California winter, which could have been an effort to disguise his identity, waiting to shoot until New Year’s fireworks began to go off. Investigation may reveal how and why he acquired the firearm he used, what motivated him, and why a beautiful community where Asian-Americans live in one of the greatest concentrations in America was struck so tragically at the height of the celebration of one of the most important events in the lunar calendar.
I can’t imagine how shattered the community is, but I know how strongly affected I am. I can’t tell you what it was like to have friends text, “I’m o.k.” “My parents are okay.” I’m going to try to use the evening to take it all in, at least as much as possible. There has been such an uptick of hate and racist violence targeting Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). But whatever the reason the shooter targeted this community, they deserve more than the usual thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers are wholly inadequate, even when sincerely offered. But they are literally the only thing we have to offer. That’s devastating.
Barack Obama thought change would come after what he referred to as the worst day of his presidency, the shooting of elementary school students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. But it wasn’t enough to shake America’s politicians loose. At a speech commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 26 people who were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, that day, 20 of them 6- and 7-year-olds, Obama said, “Like so many other people, I felt not just sorrow, but I felt angry, fury in a world that could allow such a thing.”
Sorrow and anger haven’t resulted in positive change any more than thoughts and prayers have. Maybe it’s because once the news cycle ends, the impact of these incidents is focused on a limited group of people, or maybe because those who advocate for gun manufacturers and sellers have outsize influence. Maybe we’re desensitized to gun violence; maybe we feel like it’s not possible to conquer this problem as New Zealand did when it banned semiautomatic and assault weapons a month after a 2019 shooting that left 51 people dead at two mosques in Christchurch. But for whatever combination of reasons, our elected officials have and continue to fail our communities.
So tonight, I’m with my hometown in sorrow and solidarity. And I truly wish I knew what the path forward looked like. But I don’t.
We’re in this together,