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'What the hell is going on?': Newsom doubles down on gun control after Half Moon Bay shooting

Marisa Kendall, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — As he stood Tuesday before a community still reeling from a mass shooting targeting immigrant farm workers, Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to continue fighting for stronger gun control laws — while blasting Republicans for their lack of action on the issue.

Fresh from Monterey Park, where another shooting at a dance hall Saturday night killed 11 people, Newsom expressed frustration and dismay that he had to add another to the list of tragedies this year. The nation has seen 39 mass shootings just in the first 24 days of this year, he said, and Monday’s, which left seven people dead at two farms in Half Moon Bay, hit especially close to home.

“What the hell is going on?” he asked.

Flanked by a group of legislators all vowing to double down on gun control this session, Newsom said that while he has no objection with a responsible individual owning a gun, the nation’s lax stance on the issue defies logic.

“What the hell is wrong with us,” he asked, “that we allow these weapons of war and large-capacity clips out on our streets and sidewalks?”

Newsom spoke from the I.D.E.S. Portuguese Hall on Main Street in downtown Half Moon Bay, which had been used as a reunification center the night of the shooting – becoming a place of anxiety and, in many cases, heartbreak, as families gathered to find out the fates of their loved ones. On Tuesday morning, a piece of yellow crime scene tape hung limply from the entrance to the center’s parking lot, while across the street, an American flag hung at half mast in the picturesque town center populated with bed and breakfasts, garden shops and a children’s swimming school.

Chunli Zhao, who was arrested Monday, is accused of shooting five people – killing four and wounding one — at Mountain Mushroom Farm, where Zhao worked. A short time later, authorities say Zhao shot and killed another three people about three miles south on Highway 1 at Concord Farms.

Newsom promised he would continue fighting for strong gun control laws, while also attacking Republicans for getting in the way of making the country safer. He singled out several by name, including Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.


“We haven’t heard one damn word from him,” Newsom said, noting the GOP leader’s silence following the Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay shootings.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to ban “military-style assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines – a bill that would have outlawed the modified 9 mm semi-automatic weapon used by the gunman in Saturday’s mass shooting in Monterey Park. President Joe Biden has signaled his support for the measure.

Monday’s shooting not only devastated the Half Moon Bay community – its tragic impact was felt throughout the Bay Area. On Tuesday afternoon, Cupertino resident Connie Cunningham stopped by the reunification center to drop off a pot of yellow chrysanthemums in honor of the victims. She was in the area for a planned camping trip at Francis Beach when she heard the news of the shooting and decided to make a detour.

“Coming here to just hang out and camp and stuff, it all of a sudden just seemed trivial to me,” she said, fighting tears.

To Cunningham, this “horrific event” – following on the heels of so many other instances of gun violence – is proof that the country needs to better control its guns.

“It just boggles my mind that people don’t understand it’s the number of guns we have in our society,” she said.


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