A study conducted by the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University found that Asian Americans who experienced instances of racism during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to purchase firearms for self-defense.
The researchers found that experiencing racial discrimination is linked to the increase of firearm ownership and that Asian Americans with higher anticipatory racism-related stress are found to have greater intent to buy a gun.
Sampling 916 Asian American adults, the data was collected in December 2020 and January 2021. Researchers examined the firearm-related risks, firearm and ammunition purchases, along with the measures of racism and discrimination experiences of individuals since the beginning of the pandemic.
“That was concerning to us and that’s how we started this study looking into whether the racism and discrimination experience by Asian Americans were linked to their increased firearm purchase,” said Hsing-Fang Hsieh, assistant research scientist in Health Behavior and Health Education at the U-M School of Public Health.
“We also wanted to learn how the firearms were stored and whether they were carried more frequently, as these are two indicators of increased injury risk,” she added. “It could be interpersonal violence that could happen. It could be accidental, like the unsafe storage that leads to firearm injury. So that’s what we are concerned about and why we did this study.”
The study also found that 55% of those who acquired a firearm during the pandemic were first-time gun owners. More than one-third of the firearm owners carried a gun more frequently while outside of their homes. About 43% of individuals said that guns on their property were stored loaded, while about 47% said that at least one firearm was stored unlocked.
“For me, as a public health researcher and nurse by training, the focus is ‘How do we protect people?’ Not only those people who buy the firearms and their families, but also people around them in their neighborhoods and in the larger society,” said Tsu-Yin Wu, a professor of nursing and director of EMU’s Center for Health Disparities Innovation and Studies.
Wu added, “I’d rather devote effort in prevention. I really want us to refocus on what we can do as a health discipline in the community to educate people. There’s things happening right now and how do you watch for signs of mental distress related to racism? If you notice someone around you doing unsafe behavior related to firearms, how can you be an advocate and how do you take precautions for yourself, your family and your community?”