SThursday’s mass shooting at a Lunar New Year dance in Monterey Park, California, struck Rep. Judy Chu close to home.
The Democrat has lived in the city for 37 years, serving on the city council there followed by a three-term term as mayor in the early 2000s. He currently serves California’s 28th District in the US House of Representatives. USA, representing the city and much of northeast Los Angeles County.
For Chu, the city of 60,000 is diverse and welcoming. Two out of three Monterey Park residents are Asian American, and about half are of Chinese descent. When he talks about the city, he immediately mentions the food and the high quality of life that the residents enjoy.
But now, her hometown is making headlines after the devastating Lunar New Year mass shooting that killed 10 people and wounded 10 others in a dance hall.
Read more: Lunar New Year shooting in Monterey Park is the 33rd mass shooting of 2023
The incident took place just a block from the city’s famous Lunar New Year celebration, which Chu attended. Thousands of people gathered to celebrate the first community celebration since the pandemic.
Chu spoke to TIME on Sunday night, before police revealed that the gunman had died after being cornered by officers.
What does a tragedy like this mean to you and your community?
It was shocking and surprising to learn that ten people were killed and ten injured, especially when just a few hours before we had the opening ceremony of the Lunar New Year festival just a block away. There were thousands of people walking around who were so enthusiastic and energetic.
It’s a very significant period of time and it seemed to be a sign that we could get back to normal, especially after three years of being in lockdown due to COVID-19.
Should the community feel safe to continue celebrating the Lunar New Year? What does Lunar New Year mean to you and the community?
What I want to tell people is that they should continue to send their children to school, go to business, and go to Lunar New Year celebrations. I know that the local police are even more vigilant and dedicated to ensuring the safety of all. It’s really important for us to come together as a community and get on with life. I think Monterey Park is resilient. After 37 years of living here and being your mayor and council member, I believe we can get through this together.
Lunar New Year has so much meaning to me because it was the focal point for my family. My mother especially would take advantage of this time to make these special foods that would occur especially on Lunar New Year’s Eve like her Chinese tamales.
This was a time when there would be so many events in the community that everyone was looking forward to.
He has been very public about his stance against gun violence. What actions do you think should be taken to prevent tragedies like this from happening again?
I have been very active in the fight for gun safety since the early days of the horrific and unimaginable massacres we saw at Sandy Hook and at Pulse nightclub. I have been pushing for common sense legislation to stop the proliferation of guns into the wrong hands. Common sense has to do with stopping the loopholes in universal background checks. Universal background checks are very effective in making sure weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands. But there are loopholes, gigantic loopholes, where you can buy them without those background checks if you do it online, or in a personal sale, or at a gun show.
Another loophole called the Charleston loophole: the young man who was able to get a gun and shoot nine people while they were praying in church in Charleston, South Carolina. He was able to get the gun despite having mental problems because the rules are that once three days go by, if they don’t hear anything, then the buyers get it automatically. He would then extend the time for the background interview.
There are also other proposals to limit the amount of ammo you can get. And of course I think we should either ban assault weapons or at the very least raise the minimum age that a person can purchase an assault weapon.
Tell me about Monterey Park. What do you want this city to be known for?
Monterey Park is a very close-knit city, where people know each other very well. I want Monterey Park to be remembered for its incredible diversity. It is a majority Asian city and we have made sure that everyone feels welcome in the city.
We have great schools. We have businesses that are thriving, and especially our Chinese restaurants.
More TIME must-reads