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Seven killed as California stunned by deadly back-to-back mass shootings

US officials already stunned by the news of a mass shooting in southern California responded to the Half Moon Bay shootings which killed seven people on Monday, Jan. 24, 2023.

At least seven people have been killed and one other critically injured in two related shootings in the US state of California hours after two students were shot dead in Iowa as the US gun epidemic becomes deadlier than ever.

The latest carnage in the western US state came less than 48 hours after a gunman shot dead 11 people at a Lunar New Year celebration near Los Angeles on Saturday night.

Earlier on Monday, two students were also killed in what police believed was a gang-related shooting at a school in the state of Iowa. An 18-year-old suspect has been arrested over the incident, the police said in a statement.

The motive for the shootings in California, which has sent ripples of shock and outrage across the state, is not known yet. 

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office tweeted just before 5 p.m. local time (0100 GMT) that a suspect in the shootings was in custody.

“The Sheriff’s Office is responding to a shooting incident with multiple victims in the area of [Highway] 92 and the [Half Moon Bay] City limits,” the office tweeted.

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Dave Pine in a statement said four people were killed at a mushroom farm and three at the trucking business on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay, a city about 48km south of San Francisco.

“We are sickened by today’s tragedy in Half Moon Bay,” Pine noted in a statement. “We have not even had time to grieve for those lost in the terrible shooting in Monterey Park. Gun violence must stop".

Pine said the suspect worked for one of the businesses, calling him a "disgruntled worker".

The police identified the suspect as 67-year-old Half Moon Bay resident Chunli Zhao, who was "taken into custody without incident" and a semi-automatic handgun was found in the suspect’s vehicle.

Sheriff Christina Corpus, speaking at a news conference, said the 67-year-old was taken into custody after driving to a sheriff's substation in Half Moon Bay where he was pulled to the ground by armed officers.

"Shortly thereafter three additional victims were also located deceased with gunshot wounds at a separate shooting scene," she told reporters.

California has witnessed two mass shootings in the last week, with the police saying that suspects in both cases used semiautomatic handguns and both appeared to have connections to at least some of the victims.

Governor Gavin Newsom called Monday's shootings another “tragedy”.

"At the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay. Tragedy upon tragedy," he tweeted.

The killings on Monday marked the fifth mass shooting in the US this month and the deadliest since 21 people were killed in a school in Uvalde, Texas, according to the AP/USA Today database on mass killings in the country.

The US suffered 647 shootings with four or more victims in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive website, with death rates from firearms reaching their highest level in three decades.  

The changing legal landscape for firearms comes as gun ownership continues to grow across the country.

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 populations.

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