Three gun control bills inspired by Monterey Park massacre are closer to becoming law

MONTEREY PARK, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA-Jan. 23, 2023-At the scene where 11 people were killed in a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California at the Star Dance Studio, Inez Arakaki, right, hugs her son, Zachary Arakaki, age 9, after they place red roses at the scene in honor of the victims. Inez Arakaki, a school bus driver from Alhambra, came to drop off flowers at the dance studio with her son Zachary Arakaki, age 9. "It's heartbreaking," says Inez. "How do you explain it to your children? I had to come here. The evil that's here. It's supposed to be a joyous time. This should not be happening." (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Inez Arakaki hugs her son, Zachary, at a makeshift memorial for mass shooting victims in Monterey Park. Some gun control bills inspired by the shooting are close to being adopted in Sacramento. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A mass shooting that killed 11 people on the eve of Lunar New Year in Monterey Park has helped inspire the passage of several gun control bills in Sacramento, including legislation to restrict gun sales by state and local agencies and make it more difficult for convicted criminals to keep guns.

More than half a year after the massacre, several gun control bills appear to be headed to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature, bringing the legislation one step closer to becoming law.

Assemblymember Mike Fong (D-Alhambra), whose district includes Monterey Park, introduced AB 732, AB 733 and AB 1638 this year. The first two measures passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on Sept. 1 and now have to be finalized before leaving the Assembly and being sent to the governor for his approval or veto. AB 1638 already cleared the Legislature and was presented to Newsom on Monday. The governor has not voiced support for Fong's bills but has signed into law other gun control measures in the last few months.

"Thank you to my colleagues and members of the community for your overwhelming support of gun safety," Fong said in a statement.

Read more: L.A. County prohibits departments from selling guns

A gunman, 72-year-old Hemet resident Huu Can Tran, killed 11 people and wounded nine others at a dance studio during a Jan. 21 shooting in Monterey Park, known as the "first suburban Chinatown." Tran died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Torrance the next day.

Twelve days before Tran opened fire at Star Ballroom, he went twice to a police station in Hemet and voiced paranoid thoughts to authorities, telling them that his family tried to poison him and had defrauded him, according to documents from the San Gabriel Police Department. He had been arrested in November 1990 on suspicion of illegally possessing a firearm, police records show.

AB 732 would increase the roles of probation officers, prosecuting attorneys and the court to make sure that guns are relinquished after a conviction, meaning the court won't be able to close a case until the firearm has been taken from a convicted criminal. The bill would require a designated person to provide to the California Department of Justice updates about convicts who are prohibited from being armed and about efforts to collect their firearms.

People prohibited from owning firearms include those who were convicted of a violent or felony misdemeanor, who were placed under a domestic violence or any other restraining order or who struggle with severe mental illness.

AB 732 was amended to require the Department of Justice to keep a complete record regarding steps to ensure that a person prohibited from owning a gun no longer has firearms. The Department of Justice will also be allowed to give local law enforcement and the district attorney access to an electronic portal with information about prohibited people.

AB 733 would prohibit local and state agencies from selling firearms, firearm parts, body armor and ammunition. It was passed with amendments that address law enforcement concerns about officers' ability to purchase their service firearms.

AB 733 was also amended to delay the prohibition of sales by local and state agencies until Jan. 1, 2025, and add certain exemptions to allow government agencies to sell firearms, such as when they sell to a licensed firearm dealer who agrees to resell the items only to a law enforcement agency.

In the event of a disaster or mass shooting in an area where 5% of the population speaks a language other than English, AB 1638 would require that the local agency provide emergency information in the other language spoken by that population.

Read more: Healing a shattered community: Monterey Park shooting survivors return to dance

The Riverside Sheriff's Assn. argued against AB 733, saying that although members "understand the author's perspective about the government being in the business of selling firearms to the public, we believe there are some persons and entities to whom a law enforcement agency should be able to transfer firearms."

The National Rifle Assn. Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of the NRA, released a statement opposing the passage of AB 732 and AB 733.

"It's important that you contact your legislators and urge their opposition to the many anti-gun bills that could come up for a vote," it said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.