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Monterey Park Hero Wants Gun Control. Here's Why He's Wrong.

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

A year ago, the Monterey Park shooting claimed 11 lives. It was the first mass shooting of the year, at least by any definition that’s not designed to push a gun control agenda, and it kind of shot California’s vaunted anti-gun laws efficacy in the foot.

Pun fully intended.

Monterey Park could have been worse, though. It ended when one individual apparently figured it was better to go out fighting and fought back, eventually ending the attack and surviving the ordeal.

It was a gamble. Everyone knows that attacking a gunman while unarmed is often a losing proposition, only this time it wasn’t.

But now the hero of that occasion thinks what we need is more gun control.

In the year since Brandon Tsay wrestled a firearm away from the hands of a mass gunman in the lobby of his family’s dance hall in Monterey Park, California, he’s experienced muscle spasms some nights — as if he’s trying to defend himself.

“I couldn’t sleep at night because it felt like this haunting presence was over me and I was anxious all the time,” he said.

Tsay, 27, said his anxiety has lessened since getting mental health help last year. But he says what he calls a “golden bubble” around his heavily Asian American community has burst, and the reality of gun violence has sunk in. On the first anniversary of the shooting on Jan. 21, Tsay is calling for more reforms to gun legislation.

“People are really scared,” he told NBC News. “We really see a need to restrict assault weapons, especially the abuse of power and using such weapons without proper training or licensing or knowing how to safely operate a weapon of that caliber.”

Now, I’m not going to dismiss Tsay’s act of heroism because, well, he was heroic. There’s no real dispute about that and I respect the guts it took to act. Not everyone would have and, to be frank, a lot of people would probably have figured they’d be killed if they tried and accomplish nothing.

Tsay apparently felt differently.

Yet his arguments for gun control are a different matter entirely.

For one thing, the Monterey Park shooter basically used two handguns. One was an MAC-11, which is a scary enough gun for many, but it’s still just a handgun. His other was a Chinese knock-off of a Russian Tokarev.

But it should be noted that the MAC-11 is already illegal in California.

Clearly, gun control failed to stop the attacker there, so why would more regulations suddenly work?

And, to be fair, Tsay doesn’t think everything should be banned. It doesn’t even look like he’s saying so-called assault weapons need to be subject to a blanket ban.

Having gone through that experience, Tsay said he still feels that people have the right to protect themselves through firearms — but that there needs to be a line drawn.

“Things of that caliber, like weapons of mass destruction — which is what they are — can be highly destructive,” Tsay said. “They need to be restricted somehow. You can’t just have anybody who wants one, get one.”

What he doesn’t get is that when you start deciding that not everyone who wants one can get one, especially without some kind of objective criteria–say, convicted felons or people who have been adjudicated by the courts to be ineligible to buy a firearm–you start getting into the realm of guns suddenly becoming a privilege, not a right.

Here’s the thing about Tsay, though. He’s a regular guy. He’s not a policy expert, he’s just someone who was in a terrible situation and now that he’s actually talking about it, he’s pushing gun control because, honestly, it’s all he can probably think to do.

But gun control failed in Monterey Park. There’s no reason to believe that additional gun control laws would suddenly make everything magically better, either.

What I wonder, though, is how his thinking might have been different if he’d been armed. Then, instead of having to charge a gunman, he could have engaged him, possibly much sooner, and saved even more lives.

I’m not begrudging him for what he did. He stepped up when a lot of people wouldn’t have.

If he’d been armed, though, we might have been having a different conversation a year ago and, I suspect, Tsay would be having a different view of the Second Amendment.

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