Gun Industry Targets Asian Americans as First-Time Gun Owners and Future Pro-Gun Advocates, New Violence Policy Center Study Reveals
WASHINGTON, DC – Exploiting the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, the gun industry is targeting the Asian American community as potential new gun buyers and future pro-gun advocates, according to How the Firearms Industry Markets Guns to Asian Americans, a new study from the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study was released today at a press conference with the VPC, MomsRising, Newtown Action Alliance, AAPI Victory Fund, and Asian Americans directly impacted by gun violence.
The firearms industry and gun lobby are currently targeting minority communities in their marketing in response to long-term stagnation in the traditional gun market of white men. This coordinated “diversity” campaign was launched in 2015 at the annual “Industry Summit” held by the gun industry trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). Until recently, this campaign focused primarily on Black and Latino Americans (for more information, please see the January 2021 VPC study How the Firearms Industry and NRA Market Guns to Communities of Color), but the gun industry has now ramped up its efforts to target Asian Americans.
Asian Americans have low gun ownership rates, strongly support stricter gun laws, and are the fastest growing voter group in the United States. As a result of their increasing size and consumer power, Asian Americans are viewed as an untapped market by gunmakers. And in the eyes of the firearms industry and gun lobby, the purchase of a firearm is the first step down the path for new gun owners to become future pro-gun advocates and voters.
In marketing efforts to communities of color, the gun industry frequently focuses on the self-defense use of firearms. The VPC study rebuts these false claims, citing unpublished FBI data showing that in 2019, across the U.S., Asian/Pacific Islanders committed only two firearm justifiable homicides and that, for the five-year period 2015 to 2019, Asian/Pacific Islanders committed only 37 firearm justifiable homicides. During this same five-year period, 3,076 Asian/Pacific Islanders lost their lives in firearm homicides, suicides, fatal unintentional shootings, and other gun deaths: a ratio of 83 to one.
The study also reveals, using data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that from 1999 to 2019 more than 10,000 Asian/Pacific Islanders died from guns in the United States.
The most public face of the industry’s marketing efforts targeting Asian Americans is competitive shooter Chris Cheng, who has served on NSSF’s “Inclusion and Outreach Working Group.” According to Cheng, “Diversity is the next area of success for our industry.” Cheng has also advised and provided “my full support and resources” to Asian American and Pacific Islander Gun Owners, now the Asian Pacific American Gun Owners Association (AAPIGO), “the first ever AAPI gun owners group.” In April 2021, the pro-gun blog The Reload detailed the role Cheng envisioned for the group: “Chris Cheng…told The Reload an Asian group would fill a hole in current efforts by the gun-rights movement and the firearms industry to reach new demographics….’[W]e have a template and a blueprint for how this can be successful,’ he said. ‘Now, the challenge is taking that and applying it to Asian Americans.’” According to NSSF chief lobbyist Larry Keane, if the organization’s minority marketing efforts are successful, “The impacts will be significant on the future of Second Amendment rights in America.”
In conclusion, the VPC study states, “For any American, regardless of race or ethnicity, bringing a gun into the home increases the risk of death or injury to the owner or a family member. If the marketing efforts targeting the AAPI community gain traction, the impact will be measured not only in dollars and cents in gunmakers’ coffers, but in increased death and injury among Asian Americans.”
QUOTES FROM PRESS CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS
Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director, Violence Policy Center: “Much like the tobacco industry’s search for replacement smokers, the firearms industry is seeking replacement shooters. The targeting of Asian Americans is just the latest example of how gunmakers will cynically exploit any tragedy to fatten their bottom line, regardless of the lethal real-world impact of their actions.”
Gloria Pan, Vice President, MomsRising: “Historically, Asian Americans have owned very few guns, which is precisely why we have experienced low rates of gun violence. Safety through gun ownership is a myth that gun manufacturers peddle, and one Asian Americans must not succumb to because every credible study has shown that more gun ownership in a community only leads to more gun-related injury and death. Guns everywhere do not make any of us safer, and we must do everything possible to thwart the gun industry’s cynical, destructive marketing, not only to Asian Americans but to all Americans.”
Po Murray, Chairwoman, Newtown Action Alliance: “Four hundred million civilian-owned guns in America have not made us safer. The NRA and the NSSF have spent over $29 million each since the Sandy Hook tragedy to block all lifesaving gun bills. I call on my fellow Asian Americans to reject the corporate gun lobby’s attempt to exploit our fear and anxiety to increase gun industry profits. I know first-hand that guns don’t make us safer. My neighbor shot and killed his own mother, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and used an AR-15 to kill 20 children and six educators before taking his own life. Guns in our homes double our risk of homicides and triple the risk for suicides.”
Varun Nikore, Executive Director, AAPI Victory Alliance: “AAPIs are the fastest growing group in the U.S. and also more politically engaged than ever before. Much of this engagement was due to the hate and fear driven by vicious rhetoric spewed against our community. If the same right-wing forces that fostered this environment now encourage members of the AAPI community to take up arms as a self-protection measure, that would be the ultimate deadly irony. The vast majority of Asian Americans are immigrants, or children of immigrants, who are learning what it means to be an American. For far too many, being American means being able to pick up a gun to solve all of their problems. This is a lesson Asian Americans should not and must not learn.”
Mike Song, Founder, Ethan Miller Song Foundation: “On January 31, 2018, my 15-year-old son Ethan was fatally shot in the head by an unsecured gun at his best friend’s home. Firearms are now the leading cause of death for American children and teens. As a Korean American who has been directly impacted by gun violence, I urge other Asian Americans to consider the risk before buying a gun.”
For the landing page of the study and related materials, please visit https://vpc.org/how-the-firearms-industry-markets-guns-to-asian-americans/.
For a PDF version of the study, please visit https://vpc.org/studies/AAPI2021.pdf.
MomsRising.org is an on-the-ground and online grassroots organization of more than a million people who are working to increase family economic security, stop discrimination against women and moms, and build a nation where businesses and families can thrive.
Newtown Action Alliance is a Newtown-based, national grassroots organization formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Our mission is to achieve the steady and continuous reduction of gun violence through legislative and cultural changes.
The AAPI Victory Alliance, as a policy and advocacy organization, works in partnership with the AAPI Victory Fund along with legislators at the federal and state level to move and implement policies that benefit AAPI communities from a diverse lens, harness last year’s record voter engagement, build grassroots support of candidates who prioritize the AAPI community, and works on policy proposals to improve hate crime reporting and response.