Emil Guillermo: Thinking about gun violence and Thai Khin, Asian American teen shot and killed in school adjacent incident

Image for Emil Guillermo: Thinking about gun violence and Thai Khin, Asian American teen shot and killed in school adjacent incident
GoFundMe page for Thai Khin

His mother called him Thai-Thai.

17-year old Thai Khin was a young Asian American you never heard of unless you live in Stockton, Calif.

Unlike many 17-year-olds who are thinking about college and their future, there is no tomorrow for Khin.

Instead, he’s a 17-year-old with a GoFundMe page–to help his family pay for his funeral.

Khin was shot and killed on Wednesday, April 12 during school hours.

It wasn’t a school shooting. It was school adjacent.

Khin wasn’t in class at Cesar Chavez High School. He was in a nearby place called Unity Park in Stockton playing basketball with a buddy.

That’s when someone tried to rob his friend of the gold necklace around his neck, family members told a reporter.

The buddy was pistol-whipped; Khin stepped in and tried to stop the fight.

The perp reacted by taking a gun and putting a bullet into Khin, who died later at a local hospital.

For Khin’s family, it was like having a gold necklace ripped from their necks.

“He had this joy for life. He was always smiling, always cracking jokes,” Jennifer Khin, Thai’s aunt, told the Stockton newspaper. “That’s what he did. If you were around Thai, you were smiling and you were laughing.”

But this was no joke. And now Thai Khin is part of America’s sad legacy.

Another one.

One is a bad number for a gun story. Because a single victim incident is just a statistic in the Gun Violence Archive.

I reached out to Khin’s family, but I haven’t heard back. I still wanted to write about Khin because an Asian American dying from a gun shot shouldn’t be considered normal in America.

And because Khin’s kind of shooting death shouldn’t be greeted with a relative silence.

When an Asian American teenager is shot and killed, we all should notice.

But last Monday on the week Khin died, America was already “gunned out” with the Louisville bank shooting, where five where killed.

America paid attention.

Yet, how many of the victims in Louisville can we recall a week later?

For that matter, how many of the victims do we remember from the Uvalde school?

Or even the Nashville Covenant school shooting on March 27 that claimed three nine-year olds and three adults?

Do you recall any of these victims?

There are either too many, or not enough.

America has a short attention span.

The media’s preference is to cover the mass shootings in America. They’re the newsworthy ones.

But even the mass shootings quickly become genericized.

What about the single shootings, which happen so frequently as to be considered less newsworthy?

In other words, it’s normal in America.

When Thai Khin died last week, the Gun Violence Archive, which usually shows deaths within the last 72 hours, listed Khin as the 76th death between April 11 and April 14. I counted 395 people injured. And 104 deaths.

If it were 104 gun deaths in a single event, maybe we’d all finally take notice and force legislators to take action.

But spread them out within 72 hours and 104 deaths sound few alarms in America.

Most of the deaths also don’t appear to be caused by a high-powered AR-15 style weapon.

Many were simple handguns.

And that’s why banning assault weapons shouldn’t be the sole remedy as we look for answers. We should be focusing on America’s love of violence.

A gun is just a tool.

Or in the highly-publicized San Francisco murder of tech exec Bob Lee, it wasn’t a gun that was used. It was a knife.

We need to talk more about ending violence, period.

How do we do that as a society? Fund public meditation classes? Or mediation? Teach people non-violent communication skills? And not just for adults but for teens like Thai Khin.

Those paths may be more fruitful than waiting for politicians to defeat the gun lobby.

Consider how this past weekend was the 16th anniversary of the Virginia Tech assault. 32 people were murdered—27 students and five faculty members in 2007. The Asian American perp also died.

Since then, there has been some legislative action, including background checks, but does any of that really get to the root cause? It impacts the tool. It doesn’t solve the problem. Focusing merely on weapons alone keeps us from the peace we seek as a society.

What if we bypassed the gun lobby and tried to figure out what happens in our personal interactions before a gun or any weapon becomes the “go to” answer.

Until we can do that, we won’t solve a thing.

The numbers from both mass incidents will rise as they have since 2007. And sadly, so will the numbers we barely notice from the single incidents, like the kind that took the life of Stockton teenager Thai Khin.

At least with mass shootings, perps are usually apprehended or shot at the scene.

In many of the single incidents like the one involving Khin, the perp got away and is still on the loose.


No one is thinking about justice for Thai Khin.

Visit the GoFundMe page for Thai Khin:

NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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