‘When does this stop?’ For 2023, an alarmingly bloody start

A woman, left, who knew Yu Kao, one of the victims, is consoled in front of a makeshift memorial in front of the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP)

A man holds a sign during a vigil outside Monterey Park City Hall, blocks from the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, late Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Monterey Park, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

In a country with more guns than people — and one emerging from three years of isolation, stress and infighting amid the pandemic — Americans are beginning 2023 with a steady barrage of mass slaughter.

Eleven people killed as they welcomed the Lunar New Year at a dance hall popular with older Asian Americans. A teen mother and her baby shot in the head in an attack that killed five generations. A 6-year-old shooting his first-grade teacher in the classroom. The list goes on.


“We’ve been through so much in these past few years, and to continue to see case after case of mass violence in the media is just overwhelming,” said Apryl Alexander, an associate professor of public health at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “When does this stop?”

The carnage over eight days in California, where the dance hall victims Saturday night were among two dozen people killed in three recent attacks, brought painful reminders to families of last year’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. On Tuesday, several Uvalde families and parents traveled more than three hours to their state’s Capitol to renew calls for tighter gun laws, even if they have little chance of winning over the Republican-controlled Legislature.

In 2022, the United States marked its first deadly gun rampage of the year on Jan. 23 — a year ago Monday. By that same date this year, six mass killings have claimed 39 lives, according to a database of mass killings maintained by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

“People are dying every day. This shouldn’t be happening,” said Veronica Mata, whose 10-year-old daughter Tess was among the 19 children and two teachers slain in Uvalde. “If it takes us coming every week, then we are going to do it until we see something change.”

Americans have come to endure mass shootings in churches and grocery stores, at concerts and office parks, and inside the homes of friends and neighbors. The violence is blamed on hatred toward other communities, grievances within a group, secrets within families and bitterness among colleagues. But it often ends when a man with a grudge grabs a gun.

Sometimes, it’s not clear whether a grudge is even part of the equation.

“There was no apparent conflict between the parties. The male just walked in and started shooting,” Yakima Police Chief Matt Murray said after three people were shot dead at a Circle K convenience store in Washington state early Tuesday.

Gun sales in the U.S. hit historic highs as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the economy stalled and people took to the streets to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Nearly 23 million firearms were sold in 2020, according to industry analysts. The surge largely continued the following year, with sales spiking 75% the same month that a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol, before dipping to about 16 million this year.

Experts believe there are 393 million guns in private hands across the United States, which in 2022 was a country of 333 million people.

Some Americans say they don’t feel safe anywhere. A third avoid certain places as a result, according to the American Psychological Association, whose most recent study shows that the majority of Americans feel stressed.

Yet there seems little appetite to address some of the potential solutions, such as teaching conflict resolution skills in schools or re-examining our societal views of masculinity, according to Alexander.

“Socioemotional learning is just teaching kids how to identify their feelings, how to express themselves, how to navigate conflict — and why is there a ban on that, especially during this particular moment?” she asked, referring to efforts to impose state and local bans on school curricula.

“These kids are going to turn into adults,” Alexander said. “If they don’t know how to handle conflict, we’re going to see unfortunate events like this happen.”

The bloodshed began Jan. 4, when a Utah man, investigated but never charged over a 2020 child abuse complaint, shot and killed his wife, her mother and their five children before killing himself.

The database shows 2,793 people have lost their lives in mass killings — those that involve four or more victims, excluding the killer — since 2006.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.