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Due to mass shootings and an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, Asians and Asian Americans who were traditionally gun-averse are beginning to consider training to use firearms as a means to defend themselves.
Asian Americans have reportedly been the lowest gun-owning demographic in the U.S. However, studies and data collected over the course of the pandemic have shown that racial discrimination is linked to the increase of firearm ownership among Asian Americans.
In a 2021 national survey, an industry trade group showed 30% of gun retailers reported an uptick in Asian American customers.
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Kris He, a 22-year-old immigrant from China, considered purchasing a gun in California three days after his gun license became official.
“I’m afraid in my house,” he said. “I think if you have gun, I have gun. I afraid you, you afraid me. So, it’s safe.”
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Trish Sargentini, a 34-year-old biotech worker in the Bay Area, recalled the many viral videos of Asian Americans being victimized during the pandemic. Out of fear, she became a gun owner.
"I definitely felt very worried for myself and others in the Asian American community," she said. "That was the first time that it was very clear that I wasn’t just American. Suddenly, I’m Asian American."
In an interview with Barron’s, Tom Nguyen, a firearms instructor based in Azusa, California, noted that he receives more business every time a mass shooting occurs.
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People are concerned for their own personal safety and their families. The interest in guns goes up because a lot of people feel like: “I don’t want to be vulnerable. I don't want to be the only person that’s vulnerable while someone’s attacking me with a gun.”
In recent years, the gun industry has reportedly invested more in marketing toward Asian Americans.
Josh Sugarmann, the executive director of Violence Policy Center, told CNN that the gun industry has seen an opportunity to target the Asian American market amid the pandemic and the rise in anti-Asian attacks.
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What you’re seeing head-on is the marketing efforts by the gun industry to target a new market. The primary base of the gun industry’s sales attention has been older White males. And what’s happening is they’re dying off. To borrow a phrase in the tobacco industry, the industry is not finding replacement shooters to take their place. They saw an opportunity with the hate crimes committed against Asian Americans during the pandemic and they stepped in and said, “this is something we can exploit.”
But for Chris Cheng, who owns a private gun range near Santa Cruz, the gun industry is not just about profit.
If you want to look at the firearms industry from a business perspective. Sure, right? Anytime a business diversifies (its) demographics, of course, that’s good for the bottom line. But this accusation that gun companies put profits over people is just not what the industry is about. The industry is about providing people with firearms to protect themselves if they choose to do so.