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Asian-Americans buying guns in record numbers to fend off racist attacks: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Svetlana Kim practices shooting her new handgun while standing next to Tom Nguyen, instructor and founder of L.A. Progressive Shooters, at the Burro Canyon Shooting Park in Azusa, California, the US, on July 18, 2020. (Photo by Time)

Asian-Americans in the United States are buying guns in record numbers to fend off violent, racist attacks, a new report has revealed.

In a report on Tuesday, British daily The Guardian recounted the experience of a number of Asian Americans, among many, in arming themselves to counter increasing racial attacks in the United States.

Figures show that more than five million people in the US became first-time owners during the COVID-19 pandemic as gun sales to the Asian Americans community soared by about 43 percent, according to the trade organization National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

Gun ownership rates soared to record heights as videos of anti-Asian violence began flooding social media and cable news.

“I realized I have to take ownership of how I want to live my life,” said Vivian Moon, 33, a real estate agent and artist who lives alone in Buena Park, a small California city outside Los Angeles.

Moon, who describes herself as a brave woman in case of attacks, became disillusioned with the police’s ability, and also willingness. Therefore, since early last year, when violent attacks against Asian women and seniors increased across the US, she has decided to protect people who looked like her.

Since then, Moon, as a Korean woman, has made an effort to reach out and teach her friends, many of whom are women of color, about gun safety.

“Back then Korean Americans took a stand and took their safety into their own hands,” she said, as she is inspired by the legacy of the Los Angeles uprising and the armed Korean immigrants who defended their businesses on rooftops when riots broke out in South Central.

Back in May, the results of a study by researchers at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University showed that Asian Americans who experienced increased acts of racism at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to acquire firearms and ammunition for self-defense.

Researchers at the University of Michigan collected data between December 2020 and January 2021 from a representative national sample of 916 adults who identified as Asian American. 

The study further showed that more than half of those who purchased a gun are first-time owners.

“Racism is like a time bomb that causes stress and anxiety, which increases people’s intention to buy firearms,” said Tsu-Yin Wu, the lead researcher and director of EMU’s Center for Health Disparities Innovation and Studies. “Not only are people carrying it on more days, they’re also carrying it more than 50 percent of the time.”

The report also cited Nathan Tiep, 42, and his wife, who are in the process of buying their first gun after watching news coverage of home invasions in the vicinity of their neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

“The past few years have brought to light how the police are with people. You’ve seen people get shot and killed by police. Do you really trust that they will serve and protect us?” he said, adding that more so than the rise in attacks against Asians, his decision to buy a gun was made by the Black Lives Matter protests during the pandemic, which shattered his trust in law enforcement in the US.

Tom Nguyen, another Asian American, managed to found LA Progressive Shooters to provide firearms education to people of color. He made the move after seeing a “massive increase in first time gun owners,” particularly single women.

According to him, the pandemic has been a “lightning rod moment” for Asian Americans and other marginalized groups of people who formerly have held an ambivalent or fearful attitude toward guns.

Nguyen now leads introductory classes on firearm storage and shooting.

“Many folks are intimidated by these conservative, white-dominated spaces that don’t seem very friendly to them. So the gun industry has a long way to go in terms of addressing more diverse segments of our population who are interested but feel forgotten or ignored.”


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