Vice President Harris pushes for tougher gun laws at Monterey Park memorial: 'Congress must act'

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — Vice President Kamala Harris arrived outside of the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park Wednesday night, stopping to take a look at each of the victims' names and pictures from Saturday's deadly mass shooting before placing a bouquet in front of the memorial.

Harris told reporters the nation is mourning the loss of the 11 people killed and nine others injured, while also advocating for stricter gun control laws.

"Tragically we keep saying the same things," Harris said. "Congress must act. Should they? Yes. Can they? Yes."

Melissa Michelson of Alhambra, California, was at the vigil following Harris’ visit holding a sign that read “What about gun control?”, saying she has been disappointed with local officials not taking a strong stance on gun violence.

Vice President Kamala Harris visits the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. Harris visited the site of a shooting that claimed 11 lives to pay her respects and later met with the victims' families.
Vice President Kamala Harris visits the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. Harris visited the site of a shooting that claimed 11 lives to pay her respects and later met with the victims' families.

“My community is more upset and angry at what happened here,” Michelson said. “Everybody else has just been talking about thoughts and prayers, and that's good for a short minute, and then it's time to actually do something.”

Michelson said she did not hear any of Harris’ words Wednesday, but added it was something she’d “be willing to get behind.”

“The question is, what exactly is she willing to do and where this goes,” Michelson added. “It's always the same after a mass shooting — a little bit of talk, and no action.”

'OUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER,' THE 'LIFE OF ANY PARTY': Families remember those slain in Monterey Park mass shooting

Community unites after tragedy: 'We're strong here in Monterey Park'

Gloria Gonzales, a 71-year-old Monterey Park resident came with her 25-year-old granddaughter, Regina Gonzales, to show support for a city she has called home for over 60 years. Regina currently lives Diamond Bar, California, but still feels the shock of the shooting in the city she grew up in.

“Throughout the week, I’ve just been like, 'holy crap, like, this actually happened,'” she said. “It's almost not real.”

Regina Gonzales added Harris’ visit illustrates the severity of what the community is going through. Gloria Gonzales said she greatly appreciated and was honored by Harris visiting Monterey Park.

“I think that is going to be a big morale lifting for the people here in Monterey Park, that they took the time for our community to come out and visit and say encouraging words,” Gloria Gonzales said.

Vigils have been held each night since the shooting in the close-knit community that has united people from different backgrounds to begin healing.

“We're strong here in Monterey Park. We're strong here and we're going to go forward,” Gloria Gonzalez said. “I think it's going to make the community and all the different nationalities that are here mend together.”

'THE CALM IN PEOPLE'S CHAOS': Golden retrievers comfort Monterey Park after mass shooting

New gun legislation faces uphill battle

On Tuesday, seven people were killed in two shootings near the Northern California community of Half Moon Bay, just days after the Monterey Park rampage. President Joe Biden said he spoke to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and local leaders and pledged the federal government’s support.

The president pointed to new legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, to ban assault weapons, urging them to “send that to my desk as quickly as you can.” The bill faces a tough climb in the Senate and is not expected to pass in the Republican-led House.

The gunman, identified as Huu Can Tran, 72, used a modified semi-automatic weapon in the Monterey Park shootings. Authorities continue to search for a motive behind the shooting.

COMMUNITY REELS: Monterey Park's safe haven for Asian communities is shattered by mass shooting

Contributing: Joey Garrison and Tami Abdollah, USA TODAY 

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vice President Harris urges for tougher gun laws at Monterey Park site