Asian Americans Buy More Guns to Protect Families After Rise in Attacks, Trade Groups Say

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In response to the alarming rise in violence against the community, more Asian Americans are reportedly buying guns for the first time, ignoring calls of advocates against firearms.

Police data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino showed an increase of 169% in anti-Asian hate crimes in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period last year.

There are no official figures on Asian American firearm purchase, but trade groups say gun sales spiked last year and remain at “unprecedented levels,” according to CNN.

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Of more than 3.5 million gun-related background checks last month, the FBI documented nearly 1.7 million gun purchases, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which cross-references FBI data with actual merchant sales figures.

Gun rights advocate Chris Cheng told CNN that in recent months, he has been answering messages from Asian Americans looking to purchase their first firearms.

The former champion of the History Channel’s “Top Shot” said more Asian Americans are starting to understand that they are their own “first layer of protection” — and that police cannot help them all the time.

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Jimmy Gong, who owns Jimmy’s Sport Shop in Mineola, New York confirmed the surge in interest with Forbes in March.

“There are more Asians being introduced to firearms,” he told the outlet. “Before, there was never gun culture in the Asian community. But after the pandemic and all the hate crime going on, there are more Asians buying guns to defend themselves.”

Gong saw his sales double amid the pandemic. He said about half of his business comes from Asian Americans, who also buy pepper spray.

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Other gun stores have reported a similar trend, according to Forbes. Danielle Jaymes, general manager of Poway Weapons and Gear in Poway, California noted a 20% increase in Asian American first-time customers compared to the previous year. Tim Hensley, general manager of Towers Armory in Oregon, Ohio reported seeing five or six Asian American customers per day, compared to two or three a month before the pandemic.

A nonprofit called Asian American and Pacific Islander Gun Owners (AAPI GO) launched last month to educate and promote “safe [and] responsible gun ownership” in the AAPI community.

“AAPI GO endeavors to provide educational materials and supportive resources to AAPI individuals and allies that are new to firearm ownership or are planning to purchase their first firearm in the near future,” the organization said on its website.

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Against the interest in firearm ownership are advocates who claim that guns do more harm than good.

“I don’t think that guns make us safer. I understand the fear. I really understand the fear, but I just want our community [to] find other options,” Caroline Fan, founder and president of the Missouri Asian American Youth Foundation, told CNN.

Gloria Pan, vice president for national advocacy group MomsRising, urged interested Asian Americans to “really try to think through it.”

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“You see videos of people being harassed and violence being committed against them on the streets, but in your state probably carrying around a gun might be illegal,” Pan told CNN. “It might also be that carrying a gun might provoke other unintended consequences that put you in harm’s way.”

Feature Image (Cropped) via Michael Saechang (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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