Ten people were killed and at least 10 others were injured in a mass shooting in the city of Monterey Park, California, while festivities were taking place for Chinese New Year, officials and witnesses say, as the exact numbers of casualties are not yet known.

The shooting took place on Saturday night in Monterey Park, just east of Los Angeles in the US state of California, around the location of a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration that had taken place earlier in the evening.

According to initial reports, at least 16 people have been shot, including multiple victims who succumbed to their injuries. Police have yet to confirm the exact number of dead and injured but reports are claiming that 10 people have been killed at the scene.

Two witnesses said they heard gunfire but initially assumed it was fireworks to mark the Lunar New Year. When officers arrived at the scene, many of the victims were found inside one of the businesses as the area is home to multiple Asian businesses.

Tens of thousands of people had attended the festival earlier in the day for a two-day long Monterey Park Lunar New Year Festival of the “Year of the Rabbit” downtown, which is considered one of the largest in the region.

Chinese New Year officially begins on January 22nd, 2023, and ends on February 1st.

Details about the circumstances of the shooting were also not yet known.

The incident is the latest in a spate of attacks targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) across the United States.

Crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders soared in recent years, especially during the coronavirus pandemic with experts blaming this in part on discriminatory rhetoric from former US president Donald Trump, who repeatedly used racist terms against Asians. Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus”.

Between March 2020 and March 2022, more than 11,400 hate incidents against Asian Americans have been reported across the United States, according to a report by Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that tracks such incidents and advocates for combatting hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Mass shootings are another specific concern as domestic violence and gun violence have also risen during the last year. The US experienced more than 600 mass shootings in 2022, nearly double the number recorded four years ago when there were 336, according to Washington-based Gun Violence Archive.

The rate of deaths caused by firearms is getting worse as the population of the US goes up. This is while firearm purchases rose to record levels in 2021 and 2022. The changing legal landscape for firearms comes as gun ownership continues to grow in the United States.

Analysts see a link between bias-motivated gun violence and a rise in hate groups and toxic discourse in the United States targeting vulnerable, often marginalized population.

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