Mass shootings spur Asian Americans to buy weapons

Lynn Kim never thought about buying a self-defense weapon, but changed her mind after two shootings in California last week.

The two mass shootings took place just two days apart, both by elderly Asian suspects targeting other Asian Americans. After hearing the news, Lynn Kim, a Korean-American, told her husband, “It’s about time. Honey, let’s consider buying a gun.”

Kim, in her 40s, lives in West Los Angeles with her husband, middle school daughter and mother. Her biggest fear was that a “terrible stranger” broke in when her mother was home alone.

David Liu, owner of a gun shop in Arcadia, California.  Photo: Tribune News.

David Liu, owner of a gun shop in Arcadia, California. Photo: Tribune News.

“I’m afraid of weapons, but what scares me much more is being attacked. I can’t let anything harm my family,” Kim said. She is learning about guns and plans to watch YouTube videos to learn the fundamentals of gun handling.

The mass shootings at the ballroom in Monterey Park and in rural Half Moon Bay came after a wave of hatred for Asians erupted during the Covid-19 pandemic, along with an increase in crime in the cities. major city in the state of California.

For some Asian Americans, owning a gun seems to be the only way to feel safe.

Research shows that people of Asian descent, who have the lowest gun ownership rates in the US, have bought more guns in the past few years.

“Gun ownership rates explode during the pandemic,” said Alex Nguyen, research director at the Giffords Law Center for Gun Violence Prevention, an advocate for tighter gun control laws.

Nearly 30% of gun retailers say they have more Asian-American customers in 2021 than the year before, according to a survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a gun industry trade association.

The NSSF survey found that gun purchases increased even more strongly among other racial groups. More than 60% of retailers said they sold more guns to whites than they did in 2020, 45% had more customers of color and 37% sold to more Hispanics.

The rise in gun ownership represents a remarkable cultural shift in Asian-American communities, particularly in coastal cities, observers say.

Even so, white males are by far the most common gun-owning population, and Asian Americans the smallest, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Asian people are a growing part of California’s community with gun ownership,” said Sam Paredes, executive director of California Gun Owners, a gun advocacy group.

They buy guns to “be more proactive in protecting themselves, their homes and businesses, especially in the face of increased hate violence against them. You can’t blame them for that,” he said. .

California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the US, and two mass shootings last week, which left 18 people dead, have rekindled a long-standing debate across the country about gun control.

Some say that buying a gun is not the right way for Asian Americans to deal with their fears.

Gloria Pan, vice president of advocacy group MomsRising, urged Asian Americans to “resist the call to buy potentially deadly guns.”

Governor Gavin Newsom said he understands why people, especially Asian Americans, are arming themselves.

“The tensions piled up, years of Covid-19, a community that felt disrespected, underappreciated, under-resourced and then mass shootings,” he said on Jan. to the reason so many Asian-Americans rush to buy guns.

However, he condemns pro-gun groups, saying they have deepened community fears about rising crime, immigration or other issues.

The gun industry has ramped up its marketing to Asian Americans, one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in America. More racially diverse faces are being featured in gun advertisements and on the covers of weapons magazines.

“In the midst of Covid-19, as we see racist attacks against Asian Americans on the rise, the gun industry sees this as an opportunity to find ways to sell guns to this community.” Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, an organization that advocates for gun control.

Chris Cheng, a native of China and Japan living in the US, said he was proud to have been recruited by the National Rifle Association years ago to be “another face for gun ownership”. “, and he’s also happy to help the firearms industry market to the Asian community.

A memorial site for the 11 victims of the shooting in Monterey Park, California.  Photo: Tribune News.

A memorial site for the 11 victims of the shooting in Monterey Park, California. Photo: Tribune News.

“Amidst the social upheavals related to race, a lot of Asian Americans are wondering: ‘Can the government protect me?’ And many people’s answer is ‘No’,” said Cheng, sports shooter and winner of the channel’s “Top Shot” competition. Historyexplain.

Cheng, 43, grew up in Orange County and now lives in San Francisco. His father, a US Navy veteran, taught him how to use a gun safely when he was a young boy.

Two years ago, he was involved in founding the Asian American Gun Owners Association. Cheng said the association has so far gathered about 2,000 members.

For new gun owners, the psychological transformation will go from fear to excitement when learning how to use a gun and finally feeling power in their hands.

Amateur musician Mike Yu, who came to the US from the island of Taiwan, may soon become such a new gun owner. He and his father plan to visit a gun store to buy a Glock.

Yu, 25, said his father was worried about the risk of a gun being fired, but changed his mind after the Monterey Park shooting.

In California, in order to carry a gun in public, a gun owner needs a license issued by the government. Without a permit, they can only keep their weapons at home, which offers little protection against shootings.

But people thinking about buying a gun say it will make them feel safer, even if they can’t carry a gun around.

Yu lives with his parents and cousins, and guests from Hong Kong or Taiwan often stay at their home.

“I don’t know how those guests would feel knowing there was a gun in our house,” Yu said. “But we don’t want to be victims of mass shootings.”

Jeff Liu was exposed to guns as a teenager. His father then bought a gun as a precaution, because the neighbor’s house was stolen.

Liu currently owns about 20 guns. He has a license to carry a firearm but usually doesn’t carry a gun in public, unless he’s in an unfamiliar location.

Liu, 48, an Irvine resident who was born in Taiwan and works at an auto company, was especially concerned for the safety of his two children, so he took them to a shooting range to learn how to use a gun.

“I think guns are like a last resort,” Liu said. “You really don’t want to use it, but I want to have a choice and a chance to react, just in case.”

Last week, at his gun shop in Arcadia, a city with a large Asian population in California, David Liu consulted a chiropractor looking to buy a gun.

“Gun control is bullshit,” he said. “I still tell the media that they should worry about online games.”

David Liu, 56, opened a gun shop in 2016 with a sign written in both Chinese and English. Outside, he hung the campaign flag of former president Donald Trump 2020.

He was born in Taiwan and moved to Hong Kong at the age of 4 and then to the US as a teenager. David Liu thinks the media has “exaggerated” the link between the wave of hatred towards Asians and the rising trend of Asian-American gun ownership.

According to him, people feel unsafe because of the increase in thefts and other crimes, as well as the protests demanding justice for the black man George Floyd killed by police in 2020.

David Liu says about half of his clients are Asian-American. When asked if many Asians have visited the store since the two mass shootings last week, he just laughed.

“Over the past three years, anyone who needs to buy a gun has already bought one,” he said.

Vu Hoang (Theo Tribune News)

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