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First hate crimes, now mass shootings. For some Asian Americans, feeling safe means owning a gun

Jeong Park, Hailey Branson-Potts and Anh Do, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — Guns have always made Lynn Kim nervous. She had never considered firing — let alone buying — one herself.

But that changed last week after two mass shootings in California, two days apart, carried out by older Asian American men who targeted fellow Asian Americans.

After hearing the news, Kim, who is Korean American, told her husband: “It’s time. Honey, let’s research getting a gun.”

Kim, who is in her 40s, lives in West Los Angeles with her husband, their middle school-aged daughter and her mother. Her greatest fear is a “terrible stranger” breaking into their home while her mom is alone.

“I’m a little afraid of weapons. I’m much more afraid if we’re attacked. I can’t let anything hurt my family,” said Kim, a human resources employee who is studying up on guns and plans to watch YouTube videos on the basics of handling a firearm.

The mass shootings at a Monterey Park ballroom dance studio and in rural Half Moon Bay follow a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, along with violent crime increases in major California cities.


For a small but growing number of Asian Americans, owning a gun seems like the only way to feel safe.

Research shows that Asian Americans, who have some of the lowest gun ownership rates in the country, have been buying more firearms in the last few years — as have other racial groups.

“There is just an explosion of gun ownership during the pandemic,” said Alex Nguyen, a research manager at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for stronger gun safety laws.

Nearly 30% of gun retailers said they had more Asian American customers in 2021 compared with the previous year, according to a survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm industry trade association.


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