NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 15, 2008

China's weapons laws are among the world's toughest.  Its blanket ban on private ownership of rifles, pistols and even gun replicas is a core tenet of social policy.  Still, a gun culture is taking hold, says the Wall Street Journal. 

In response, the government holds gun-surrender drives, appealing to citizens with posters in subways to turn in arms with no questions asked, or even for cash:

  • A six-month campaign this year netted 79,000 guns, 1.8 million replica guns and 5.75 million bullets, the Ministry of Public Security said last month.
  • A similar effort in 2006 turned up 178,000 guns and 638,000 replicas in four months.

The Ministry of Public Security says its police increasingly face armed and aggressive suspects.  Most Chinese police aren't armed, and they sometimes are provided little more than a uniform to do their job.  An emerging market for bulletproofing underscores the need.  Meanwhile, possession of a single gun is grounds for a prison sentence of as long as three years, and the penalty for a gun crime often is execution:

  • In July, a Shanghai man drew a prison sentence of 12 years, and his wife 11 years, for possessing three guns and 600,000 bullets, plus peddling weapons on the Internet.
  • Chinese authorities say they dealt with 4,666 gun cases last year.
  • Officials often respond to sensational gun crimes in the United States and elsewhere by affirming the need to maintain tough laws.

Gun control was introduced in 1966, after children aiming a Spanish rifle at sparrows near Tiananmen Square shot out a window in the Great Hall of the People, according to an official history of the Ministry of Public Security.  Authorities grew more vigilant after the violently suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989, and after rapid economic growth began to spur social tensions.  The government imposed the current rules in 1996, forbidding the private manufacture, sale, transport, possession, import or export of bullets and guns, including replicas.

Source: James T. Areddy, "Staring Down the Barrel: the Rise of Guns in China," Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2008.

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