Biden at Lunar New Year celebration: ‘Silence is complicity’


President Joe Biden reiterated a call against anti-Asian hate and against assault weapons at the White House’s Lunar New Year reception on Thursday, days after a deadly mass shooting at a celebration of the same holiday in Monterey Park, Calif.

“Silence is complicity. We cannot be silent. I will not be silent,” Biden said.

As he has in response to other mass shootings, Biden on Thursday called again for a ban on assault weapons — a political improbability in the current Congress, in which Republicans hold a majority in the House.

The president said he asked Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, whether he should go to California or host the celebration at the White House.

“She felt very strongly. She said, ‘We have to move forward,’” Biden said. Chu told Biden to “stand in solidarity and in the spirit of toughness that this holiday is all about,” he added.

Chu was previously on the Monterey Park City Council, and she served as mayor three times. She was among members of Congress who wanted to attend the White House’s celebration but had votes on the Hill, Biden said.

Biden also recounted his conversation with Brandon Tsay, the man who disarmed the Monterey Park gunman in a physical altercation in nearby Alhambra after the shooting, which left 11 people dead and several others wounded. (The gunman later killed himself.) Tsay told Biden he thought he was going to die but acted to protect others, the president said.

“Sometimes we underestimate these incredible acts of courage — someone shooting has a semi-automatic pistol aimed at you, and you think about others. That’s pretty profound,” Biden said.

The president said that he’d been in contact with California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week. The state suffered other high-profile, deadly mass shootings since Saturday night, when the shooting happened in Monterey Park: two related shootings in Half Moon Bay that killed a total of seven people, and an additional shooting in Oakland that left one person dead.

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Monterey Park on Wednesday to mourn the victims.

Biden on Thursday thanked first responders, and he asked the nation to support the communities involved in the shootings.

“These are tight-knit communities, as you all know,” Biden said. “They’ll be affected by what they saw — and what they lost — for the rest of their lives.”

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