My Nhan, 65, immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in the 1980s and made her home in California’s San Gabriel Valley, in a community called Rosemead. Her niece, Fonda Quan, said she was ready “to start the year fresh” and celebrate with her friends, according to the CBC. She never got the chance.
Nhan was among the victims identified by law enforcement in the Lunar New Year massacre at a popular dance parlor in Monterey Park, Calif. There’s not a single good reason that Nhan, or the 10 other people who died there, or the seven more people who died in an eruption of violence in Half Moon Bay, Calif., just 48 hours later, had to lose their lives.
They were victims, both of the cruel murderers who cut them down too soon, and of America’s pathological obsession with guns that are all too easy to obtain, and all too easy to use as instruments of mass carnage. The solution — making guns harder to get, and keeping them out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them — has been staring us in the face for years.
But confronted with the classic definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again, while hoping for a different outcome — we have not done as both logic and compassion demand of us. People such as Nhan, who fled her war-torn country for a better life in the United States, end up casualties in a war of attrition where the death toll only mounts and nothing ever changes. And the toll is staggering.
There have been more than 600 mass shootings nationwide since Jan. 1, 2022, the Washington Post reported, citing data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive. In January alone, there have been 39 mass shootings, leaving 70 people dead and 167 people injured, NBC News reported, similarly citing Gun Violence Archive data.
The research group defines mass shootings as incidents in which four people, not including the shooter, are injured or killed. Based on those criteria, the United States has averaged more than one mass shooting a day since January 2022, and not a single week passed last year without at least four such incidents, according to the Post.
In Pennsylvania, two Democratic state lawmakers are trying to end the violence with a bill requiring mandatory licensing for someone looking to purchase a weapon. They point to data from the Johns Hopkins Center on Gun Policy and Research, showing that states with licensing laws tended to have lower rates of firearms-related deaths than those without them.
“This legislation is not intended to punish responsible gun owners,” the two lawmakers wrote, looking to short-circuit the reflexive criticism by the pro-gun faction. “In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that most American gun owners support going through law enforcement to receive a permit.”
Again, an answer so obvious — we license drivers, hunters, fisherman, boaters, barbers and so many others — that it’s ridiculous and tragic that we have not done it already. That sentiment is backed up by polling data, with an overwhelming majority of gun owners saying they favor universal background checks, support raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21, and back “red flag” laws to remove guns from potentially dangerous people, according to an NPR/Ipsos survey released last November.
But until we embrace the solutions staring us in the face, there will be more My Nhans, and thousands of others who will we mourn, whose families will set an empty place at dinner forever, and whose deaths will turn into one more number piled on a numbing mountain of statistics.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, as Adam Garber, the executive director of the Philadelphia-based, gun violence-reduction group CeaseFirePA, told the Capital-Star in an email. “It is easier to continue the work to save lives than to console another mother in grief. It is easier to fight for a safer future than to wonder if the next mass shooting will be at my child’s school,” Garber wrote.
The change is there if we are courageous enough to embrace it, tough enough to do the hard work of making it happen, and compassionate enough to vow that no family will ever have to suffer such towering loss ever again. If we are truly serious about honoring the fallen, that’s where the journey starts.
Copyright 2023 John L. Micek, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is an editor-in-chief. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.