Asian American and Pacific Islander community advocates called on politicians to reform gun laws following two mass shootings in AAPI communities in California.
Members of the AAPI Against Gun Violence steering committee held a press conference Wednesday to urge action and education on how gun violence in the U.S. affects Asian Americans.
The committee held the conference following a Jan. 21 shooting that left 11 people dead and nine injured during Lunar New Year celebrations in Monterey Park, California and a shooting that killed seven people and left one injured in Half Moon Bay, California on Monday.
Po Murray, chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance, explained that while California has strong gun control laws, its bordering states do not. Murray highlighted the need for federal legislation to reduce gun violence.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) re-introduced a pair of bills to decrease the prevalence of assault weapons. The Assault Weapons Ban bill would ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and other high-capacity ammunition feeding devices. The Age 21 Act would raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) will also introduce a version of the first bill in the House of Representatives, according to a release from Feinstein’s office.
Murray said action from the House is crucial for preventing gun violence.
“No one policy or modest policies tackle this issue. Therefore we have been pushing for a comprehensive strategy to end this crisis,” Murray said.
Murray praised President Biden’s support for gun reform, adding that the administration meets with a coalition of gun violence prevention leaders every other week.
AAPI community advocates said that an increase in anti-Asian hate since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a history of violence targeting Asian Americans.
“The reality is that anti-Asian American rhetoric increased during the COVID 19 pandemic,” Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, said. “As Asian Americans, we of course are a uniquely diverse community, but we are united in our concern about gun violence.”
The community leaders encouraged organizations and policymakers to advocate for more education, outreach and research surrounding gun safety and anti-Asian violence.
“Every life lost to gun violence was preventable,” Refujio “Cuco” Rodriguez, chief equity and program officer for the Hope and Heal Fund in California, said.
Rodriguez urged organizations to continuously provide resources to victims’ families and communities in the aftermath of mass shootings.
He noted the importance of philanthropic support for communities affected by gun violence and that this assistance should be equitable and ongoing.
“Support for impacted communities should go well beyond the time of the incident,” Rodriguez said.