Two shootings that authorities say were carried out by elderly Asian men follow a spike in Asian Americans buying guns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This past Saturday night in Monterey Park, a predominantly Asian American city in California, the first Lunar New Year celebration since the pandemic began was kicking off when a gunman entered a ballroom dance hall and opened fire, killing 11 and injuring several more.
The suspect, Huu Can Tran, 72, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as police closed in on his white van the following day, authorities said.
As that community began mourning, another mass shooting left seven people dead at two landscaping nurseries in the California city of Half Moon Bay on Monday afternoon. Officers arrested a suspect, 67-year-old Chunli Zhao, after they found him in his car in the parking lot of a sheriff’s substation. The victims reportedly were Chinese and Latino farmworkers.
The back-to-back shootings have left Asian American communities reeling, with advocacy groups calling them yet another blow after years of rising anti-Asian violence around the nation.
The shootings come after gun ownership soared during the pandemic, with firearm sales to Asian Americans rising by an estimated 43 percent in the first half of 2020, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Although data on firearm use among Asian Americans is limited, they have had low gun ownership rates historically, The Guardian reported last year.
But Asian Americans who experienced increased acts of racism at the start of the pandemic were more likely to buy firearms and ammunition for self-defense, a study by researchers at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University (EMU) found last year.
Asian Americans who perceived more cultural racism, including on social media, were also more likely to purchase a gun, the study found after collecting data in December 2020 and January 2021 from a representative national sample of 916 adults who identified as Asian American.