Brandon Tsay’s State of the Union moment

Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old who made headlines around the world for disarming the Monterey Park shooter last month, stood and waved to the crowd of lawmakers as President Biden le called a “hero” and called for new gun control measures in the state on Tuesday night. of the address of the Union.

“He thought he was going to die, but then he thought about the people inside,” Biden said as Tsay won a rare bipartisan standing ovation. “In that moment he mustered up the courage to act and snatched the semi-automatic pistol from a gunman who had already killed 11 people at another dance studio.”

“He saved lives,” Biden added. “It is time we did the same. Ban assault weapons once and for all.

Tsay had endured a long day. The hero’s official treatment in Washington, including a fried shrimp reception with lofty speeches, was admittedly overwhelming for him. He is still processing his emotions just weeks after the mass shooting.

A few weeks ago, he was known only to his family and friends. But on Tuesday night, Tsay, dressed in a black scarf and dark suit, sat in the Chamber gallery, chatting with First Lady Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and U2 singer Bono, who then put his arm on Tsay’s shoulder to comfort him as Biden talked about him.

As he was driven between meetings and receptions with members of Congress and other dignitaries to the White House and Capitol and finally to the House chamber on Tuesday, Tsay was asked more than once to relive the trauma that brought him here.

At a reception, in a banquet hall in the Rayburn House office building, he mustered a half-smile and occasionally waved in the corner as lawmakers took turns praising his bravery. Rep. Judy Chu, who originally invited Tsay to the State of the Union before Biden stepped in, called him a ‘hero’ while introducing him to a group of colleagues before recalling that he didn’t. don’t like to use that word.

Juily Phun, whose aunt was one of the 11 people killed in the shooting and attended the State of the Union address as Chu’s guest, told the reception how “that sense of honor fights with my other emotions”.

“It’s bittersweet to represent my family and my community here,” Phun said at the reception with Tsay, hosted by members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “Right now it’s a personal tragedy. But it’s also a case where I’m one of the few people in my family who doesn’t need a translator.

When Tsay took his turn — after a stream of politicians with prepared notes thanking each other and promising legislative action on gun violence — he spoke haltingly and curtly, thanking Chu, a Democrat who represents Monterey Park, for its support of the community which suffered 11 dead and nine injured in the mass shooting.

“I’m touched and touched,” Tsay said. “Sorry, I haven’t prepared anything.”

Chu pressed him to say more, walking him through the murderous Lunar New Year celebration and asking how he found the courage to confront the abuser at his family’s Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio.

“That night was truly awful and it still haunts me today, thinking about it,” he said. “But what led me to face the shooter was my instincts and my character, the way I was raised and my feelings towards members of my own community.”

Brandon Tsay, left, meets with Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) and Rep. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) at a Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus event on February 7, 2023 in Washington.

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

The few dozen congressional staffers and activists in the room had already been offered tissues as they listened to Phun recount the impact on his family and challenge the country to “really see us”. Some dabbed at their faces again or held hands as Tsay spoke of the fear he had when grabbing the shooter’s gun. He also spoke of the personal toll, saying he had “gathered the strength to seek emotional and therapeutic treatment”.

Rep. Norma Torres, a Democrat from Pomona, used the word “heartbreaking” as she walked away from her meeting with Tsay.

“He’s not used to being in the spotlight,” she said. But eventually, there will be a breaking point, when he realizes what he’s done “and why so many of us want to talk to him.” Tsay told him he was close to that point now because Torres promised all of his new friends in Washington would stick together, Torres recounted.

“The fact that he got to meet the president, he was excited about it,” Torres said. “But he knows that at some point he’s going to have to think about all that, right?”

Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Torrance, said he also felt mixed emotions. He deeply admires Tsay, he said, but somehow “I wish he wasn’t here.”

“I wish this whole incident didn’t happen. And I think it’s just tragic that so many people died or were injured in this mass shooting,” he said. “I’m glad he did when he did, but I think it’s weird to celebrate the action against the backdrop of so much pain.”

Tsay’s humility and vulnerability are among the reasons people have been drawn to him. He has promised to find ways to use his attention and the money people have given him to help his community, while acknowledging that it is overwhelming. Chu said he was still in shock but accepted the new responsibility that had been thrust upon him.

Tsay defines a “new, non-toxic masculinity,” said Carol Hay, a philosopher at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and author of “Think Like a Feminist.” She wrote about men getting up when needed without pumping their chest.

People watch to one side.

Brandon Tsay at the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus event.

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

“He doesn’t relish fame. He does not glorify violence; he uses fame to help his community,” Hay said.

The only time Tsay laughed during his public comments on Tuesday was when Chu asked if he had been trained in martial arts. “No prior training, but I took Shaolin kung fu lessons,” he said.

Towards the end of his time at the reception, Chu asked Tsay if he had a message for the American people.

“You might not know it, but there’s actually courage in all of us,” Tsay said. “And that courage can come to you at any time.”

Then he walked to the side of the room.

Staff writers Nolan McCaskill and Noah Goldberg contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times

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