Racial shootings decried by activists, officials

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Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — Two mass shootings over the weekend — one at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket and the other at an Orange County church — drew response from local activists and elected officials who blamed the shootings on easy access to guns.

In South Los Angeles, civil rights activists held a memorial vigil May 15 for the victims of the Buffalo shooting.

“The heinous murder of at least 10 persons clearly targeted because of race again points up the extreme peril of racial violence in the nation,” Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson said during the vigil outsidet the Dunbar Hotel on Central Avenue. “Our vigil for the victims and the call for California senators to press for passage on the stalled gun violence prevention bill will underscore that peril and need.

“There are a lot of minds out there that are sick minds, and they’ll see something like this and the next thing you know we’ll have another, and another. It’s almost like a game, trying to top each other,” Hutchinson added. “We’re not saying that one law is going to solve everything, but at least it does begin to give some indication the country, the elected officials and all the others are deeply concerned about this.”

A number of gun-related bills are pending in the state Legislature, including one that would allow individuals and the state attorney general to sue manufacturers and sellers of firearms for the harm caused by their product.

“There’ll be more Buffalos,” Hutchinson said, “because violence has gotten out of hand, guns have gotten out of hand, murders have gotten out of hand, and most importantly and significantly, people of color and African Americans are under attack.”

The Buffalo shooting occurred May 14, when 18-year-old Payton Gendron shot up the Tops Friendly Market, a market located in a Black community.

He allegedly was armed with an assault weapon, tactical gear and a helmet, and authorities also said he had a camera that was live streaming his actions. Thirteen people were shot and 10 died. Eleven of the 13 targets were Black.

Gendron has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

The next day, in the Orange County community of Laguna Woods, a man opened fire inside a church, killing one person and injuring five others. David Wenwei Chou, 68, of Las Vegas, had no connection to the Taiwanese congregation or anyone in it, but was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate due to political tensions between China and Taiwan, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said.

Chou was jailed on suspicion of one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón spoke out May 18 on the need for “reasonable gun control.”

“I’m holding this press conference today to remind leaders that thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Gascón said. “They have never been enough. We must demand action. We need to implement reasonable gun control.”

The district attorney said people should not have access to military-style assault rifles or so-called ghost guns — the latter of which are typically assembled from purchased or homemade components and lack serial numbers by which they can be identified.

“We’re in this position today because we have leaders in our country who are willing to disregard public safety, sell assault rifles to 18-year-olds, spread racist hate if it helps them win elections and offer a false narrative that locking out the mentally ill, the homeless … is somehow going to make us safer,” Gascón said.

“It should be of no surprise that racially motivated crimes have increased since unscrupulous and right-wing politicians and commentators began embracing hateful, racist rhetoric to appeal to their base to win elections. That has to stop.”

The district attorney added that gun violence continues to be a major problem in the United States, with that violence being “driven by many forces which our elected leaders have the power to address.”

Gascón — who is the target of a recall effort by some who consider him soft on crime — was quickly criticized by Eric Siddall, the vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which represents more than 800 deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles County.

“California’s gun laws are the strictest in the nation,” Siddall said in a statement. “Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Gascón refuses to enforce them.

“Now he has the audacity to lecture the rest of the country about the danger of gun violence. His exploitation of this tragedy to spout political platitudes is unbecoming of his office. On one thing we agree with Mr. Gascón; thoughts and prayers are not enough. Nor are press conferences.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn also condemned the shootings.

“We cannot be a nation where multiple mass shootings in a single weekend is normal, where gun violence and the hate that so often drives it is tolerated,” Hahn said. “We need Congress to do something and pass the same, common sense gun laws that every other modernized democracy has in place, and here in L.A. County, I am committed to getting as many guns off the street as I can.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, issued a statement, saying, “It is horrifying to be grieving yet another tragic shooting in just 72 hours — another weekend in America defined by senseless violence.

“I will never accept this bloodshed as unavoidable,” he added. “It can be stopped. But as we’ve seen over the past few days, months and years, unless we take immediate action on gun safety measures, history will repeat itself. Again and again. Enough is enough. We must act.”


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