Gun ownership will not make Asian Americans safer
The March 16 Atlanta mass shooting killed 8 people, 6 of whom were women of Asian American descent. That was followed by the Indianapolis shooting in April, where 4 of the 8 victims were members of the Sikh community. These recent shootings happened in the context of surging anti-Asian hate crimes. The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism found that starting from the first quarter of 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes surged by 169 percent.
Asian Americans understand that gun violence in the United States is a public health crisis, which is why 80% support gun policy reform. But Asian Americans are living in fear right now, which has led many to buy firearms to feel safe.
But more guns do not make us safer: Guns have not made us a safer country, nor have they made us safer in our homes. While in general having a gun in the home doubles the risk for homicides and triples the risk for suicides, for people of color, gun ownership could make them additionally vulnerable beyond these domestic risks.
For example, in 2012, Marissa Alexander, a Black legal gun owner in Florida, fired a warning shot in self-defense against her husband from whom she was afraid for her life. She was denied the protection of a Stand Your Ground defense, designed for gun owners, and her gun usage caused her to be convicted for aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. In 2017, Philando Castile in Minnesota was shot to death by police during a traffic stop after he disclosed he had a firearm. Gun-rights advocates did not defend Castile’s legal gun ownership, nor did they call for accountability for Castile’s murder, but were notably silent.
The reality is the right to own firearms is not equally respected or protected for communities of color.
Why the United States has not been able to enact effective solutions to our gun violence epidemic -- even solutions as minor as and commonsensical as universal background checks -- stems from the same root cause as anti-Asian racism and violence: White supremacy.
White supremacy thrives on racism, and white supremacy opposes any solution to stem gun violence. At the end of the day, racism and oppression against people of color is possible only because they are backed up by the threat of violence, and that violence is backed up by guns in white hands.
Gun violence is a civil rights issue. The answer to gun violence is not to buy more guns. We will never solve our gun violence epidemic until we begin to fight and dismantle the explosive combination of racism, white supremacy, and guns.
For more information: “Asian Americans are buying guns in the wake of recent attacks, but community leaders say that's not the way to prevent hate crimes,” CNN.com, May 4, 2021