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Monterey Shooting revitalizes effort to prioritize gun policies and anti-hate crime legislation

The Minnesota Asian and Pacific Caucus unveiled its legislative priorities Monday.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Ushering in the year of the rabbit was supposed to bring peace.

But when a gunman opened fire in Monterey Park, it was the re-traumatization of an already traumatized community.

"We've experienced the shootings in Atlanta, we've experienced hate crimes and violence here locally, so when we hear about something like this, I think that our whole community kind of goes into a heightened state," Minnesota Rep. Samantha Sencer-Mura said. 

Sencer-Mura is a member of the Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucus. Some of the members took the day to set their legislative priorities for the year, like highlighting bills like the Anti-Hate Crime Bill. 

In California, police have identified the shooter as a 72-year-old Asian man, but Rep. Kaohly Vang Her said that fact shouldn't tint the lens through which we look at the tragedy.

"Hate crimes and crimes based in bias is its own issue, along with gun violence," Vang Her said. "And all of the other ills within our society and how those things intersect. So when people are looking to break down these issues as 'well, at least it's not this thing,' yes, there are 10 other things within these systems that intersect with each other and these complexities."

ThaoMee Xiong, executive director of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, agrees.

"Regardless of the racial or ethnic community, I think a mass shooting anywhere is really devastating," Xiong said. "This happened in a predominantly Asian American community, and so it has serious ramifications for Asian Americans and it has serious implications for community safety."

Xiong said while she took comfort in the celebratory gatherings that happened at the Mall of America on Sunday, she recognizes the privilege in the choice to live without fear.

"Individuals who do not have the freedom that I have as an able-bodied person, and as someone who hasn't experienced that kind of violent trauma, I can move much easier in the community after hearing something like this," Xiong said. "But a lot of our community members are very traumatized. We have refugees who come from war-torn countries, so seeing and hearing violence, especially gun violence, is very triggering."

Xiong emphasized the issue of violence against Asian Americans has always existed.

"It's increased and we're giving it more attention," Xiong said. "That it's really important for both our community leaders, and our elected officials like the MAP caucus to also be responding, taking lead and listening."

Xiong points to resources such as CAPI (The Centre for Asian and Pacific Islanders) and HAP (Hmong American Partnership) for community moral support, and the opportunity for togetherness in times of tragedy.

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