As many as 32 per cent of Asian immigrants and 23 per cent of Latino immigrants in California say they are “very worried” about becoming victims of gun violence in their adopted home - three times the level of fear reported by people born in the United States, according to data gathered by the University of California, Los Angeles, and shared with Reuters.
The massacres heightened those concerns for some people.
Antonio Perez, who now lives in Half Moon Bay after moving from Mexico in 1983, said he feels stuck between cartel violence in his homeland and gun violence in the United States.
“We never expected this kind of extreme here,” Perez said, shaking his head. “What a tragedy.”
About 380 miles (610 km) south, in Monterey Park, residents expressed fears in the aftermath of the dance hall shooting that the poison of America’s gun culture and epidemic of mass shootings was infecting Asian-American communities.
“Americans can have guns, there are guns everywhere,” said Frank Hio, 36, who is originally from China. “It’s dangerous here.”
In the thriving suburb known for its Asian stores and restaurants, some people expressed anguish that the gunman came from within the community.
“The shooters are Asian, and the victims are Asian,” said Rolando Favis, 72, who moved to the United States from the Philippines 38 years ago.
But many also said they had been more fearful of their safety for several years, following the rise in hate crimes against Asians in the wake of the pandemic and rhetoric from then-President Donald Trump blaming China.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, Asian American gun ownership increased. A third of those who owned guns said they carried weapons more frequently amid the anti-Asian incidents, and another third said they kept guns loaded or unlocked in their homes, according to a study by the University of Michigan.
At the Euro Arms Inc gun store in Alhambra, three miles (5 km) from the scene of the Monterey Park massacre, store assistant Wesley Chan said gun sales had risen since the start of the pandemic, including among Asian Americans in the area.
“Everyone was scared and wanted to protect themselves,” he said.
About 9.3 per cent of Asian immigrants keep guns in their homes in California, compared with 5.6 per cent of Latino immigrants and 12 per cent of white immigrants, said Ninez Ponce, the lead researcher on the UCLA study. Overall, about 17.6 per cent of Californians of all backgrounds keep a gun at home.
Both Tran and Zhao used semi-automatic pistols. Police have not said where or when they were acquired.