Chinese Penalties for Illegal Ownership of Guns and Ammunition

Chinese Penalties for Illegal Ownership of Guns and Ammunition
Chinese Penalties for Illegal Ownership of Guns and Ammunition

U.S.A. -(Ammoland.com)- A Chinese man inherited some ammunition from his father, who had been in the military.  Rather than turn them in, he kept them as a remembrance of his father. Through a set of unfortunate circumstances, the cartridges were thrown in the trash by a former landlord. They were found and traced back to the man, who was sentenced to a year in jail. From shine.cn

A man was sentenced to one year in jail for unlawful ammunition possession after he kept a box of more than 400 bullets left by his late father, who used to be a soldier, prosecutors in Qingpu District said.

Under Chinese law, one should be given a criminal penalty if he or she illegally owns more than 20 military bullets, 1,000 pellets for air guns or 200 non-military bullets.

When I started researching Chinese gun laws, I expected severe restrictions and draconian penalties, starting from the Chinese Communist takeover in 1948. I was surprised by facts that did not meet my preconceptions. Yes, guns are strictly controlled in China. Yes, there are penalties. Most people who are found to have illegal guns or ammunition are not jailed or executed. They are detained for a few days and fined a week or two worth of wages. If you are selling guns, the penalties are more severe.

The other side of the story is guns are increasingly popular in China. There is a thriving black market in many types of guns.  Consider the excerpt above. A criminal penalty is only exacted if more than 200 non-military cartridges or 1,000 air-gun pellets are possessed. 200 cartridges for a hunting gun can be several years supply, perhaps a lifetime's worth for big game hunting.  I did not find the definition of a “military cartridge”.  Non-military likely includes .22 rimfire and shotgun shells with birdshot.  It may include some centerfire rifle cartridges.

In the United States, the District of Columbia has more draconian penalties. Only people with specific licenses from the District of Columbia are allowed to have ammunition. Those that have registered firearms are allowed to only have ammunition for that particular firearm. A single cartridge can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

Until 1981, hunting rifles in China were not required to be registered! In 1981, registration of hunting rifles was required, but most people in China, over the age of 18, were allowed to own two hunting rifles! In 1996, the law was changed to make it very difficult for almost anyone to legally own a gun. Common air rifles, which had not been considered guns, were defined as guns by a change in the law.

This does much to explain the large numbers of illegal guns the Small Arms Survey estimated to exist in China.  China has the third largest number of privately held firearms in the world, at nearly 50 million!  Only 1.4 percent of those are registered.  Apparently, most of the guns owned before 1981, were not registered, and most were not turned in in 1996.  The Tiananmen Square protests and massacre occurred in 1989.

Education and industrialization in China have been increasing. The Small Arms Survey reports that craftsmen in the Songtao Miao Autonomous County in Guizhou province make black market semi-automatic pistols for about $45 each. In the coastal cities, they sell for about $1500. There is a thriving black market in guns in China.  From jamestown.org:

China’s expanding underground gun trade is the byproduct of the state’s struggle with market forces. The state fears an armed populace, but a strict ban on gun ownership has only created a black market where the wealthy and well-connected can still buy guns with ease. With the growth of the Chinese economy, the gun trade will continue to expand in response to rising demand from a population with money to spend and an appreciation for weapons stemming from its culture and history. Currently, the gun ban is unlikely to be lifted, yet it is necessary for the Chinese state to recognize the unintended consequences of the ban, and how it allocates guns disproportionately into the hands of black society syndicates that constitute a threat to the livelihood of law abiding citizens, a phenomenon that will have long-lasting negative consequences for social stability.

In 2012, there was a significant crackdown on the illegal manufacture and sale of firearms, including air guns. 160 thousand guns were confiscated from 20 thousand suspects. Notice the ratio: eight guns per suspect. It appears only dealers were arrested. It shows widespread underground manufacture of firearms for the black market.  From statistics released in January of 2013, loc.gov:

According to the most recent statistics released by the MPS, the police uncovered about 670 secret sites for the illegal manufacture and distribution of guns in the campaign launched in 2012.  After investigating around 14,000 cases involving the illegal possession, manufacture, and trade of guns and explosives, the police apprehended 20,000 suspects belonging to 360 criminal organizations; 160,000 guns and 2,780 tons of explosives were seized during the campaign.[69]

I expected the penalty for the illegal carry of a gun in China to be long term imprisonment or even execution. Instead, the penalty appears less than the penalty for the illegal concealed carry of guns in two-thirds of American States.

The comparison is not clear and direct. In most American states, having an unloaded gun in your car is not illegal. Walking in the woods with a gun, in most American states, is not illegal.  Those circumstances would be considered illegally carrying of a gun in China.

The penalties for illegally carrying a gun in China were relatively minor.  Loc.gov/law:

The Law on Penalties for Administration of Public Security contains one provision on minor offenses related to illegally carrying firearms. A person who illegally carries firearms and ammunition, or crossbows and daggers, may be detained for not more than five days and may, in addition, be fined not more than 500 yuan; if the circumstances are relatively minor, he is given a warning or fined not more than 200 yuan. A person who illegally carries firearms and ammunition, or crossbows and daggers, to a public place or aboard public transportation may be detained for not less than five days but not more than ten days and may, in addition, be fined not more than 500 yuan.[64]

500 Yuan is about $75.  Much depends on what the police believe you were carrying the firearm for.  Chinese enforcement of the law is notoriously fluid. During the time a person is confined, the police are probably able to determine if the story you told them is true or false.

Carrying a loaded pistol concealed on your person in China might result in years in jail. Much would depend on who you know in the government.

China does not have a Second Amendment. The gun laws in China are extremely restrictive. On the other hand, enforcement of the law against people with small amounts of ammunition, and even guns appears to be closer to American enforcement for traffic tickets than American misdemeanors or felonies.

There is a Chinese movement to make the firearms laws in China less restrictive. At the moment, it is having little to no success.

I am neither Chinese nor a lawyer. I welcome those with more personal knowledge to comment and aid in our understanding of the state of Chinese firearms law.


About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 28 thoughts on “Chinese Penalties for Illegal Ownership of Guns and Ammunition

    1. When guns are treated with less severity in China, A COMMUNIST COUNTRY, than in some US states and cities, YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A PROBLEM!!

      We should NOT be tolerating this!! Bullets should have been flying at the appropriate targets back when politicians first started infringing on our Right to Keep & Bear Arms, way back when.

      We should be looking at how we can roll back ALL our gun rights, right back to 1776!! Remember, this nation was BORN IN BLOOD IN AN ILL-FATED ATTEMPT TO TAKE OUR GUNS & AMMO!

    2. I spent 30% of my time in China the past 20 years, and generally felt safe. My wife lived in Franco’s Spain for a year, and said she never felt safer, so I suppose we can surmise that in both of our cases we could say living in a dictatorship is very safe. But I live in California and even though we have crime, etc. I generally feel safe. I don’t EDC or have a CCW, because I carried everyday as a police officer many years back and I don’t want to today. I really don’t want to have to shoot anyone, even though if you break and enter my home that would probably happen. Basically I’d prefer to stay here, and continue to fight for our continued right to own firearms and buy ammo without too many restrictions … even though here in sunny CA it’s getting more restrictive.

      1. ‘I carried everyday as a police officer many years back and I don’t want to today’? Because you are lazy? Because your life or the life of your wife is now worth less to you? Please explain; I’m waiting.

    3. This description of China’s policies concerning guns do not sound as bad as you would think a communist country would be. They could learn from NY, NJ, commiefornia and Maryland.

    4. Chairman Mao famously said: “All things grow out of the barrel of a gun.” Apparently the people and government of China paid attention.

    5. Why is anyone surprised ?
      It is not as if China was ever the champion of people having sovereignty over their own lives.
      Almost like Anikin Skywalker as a Teenager believing the Senate had the Authority to determine what citizens need.

      Today Government in some jurisdictions uses *NEED*
      As criteria in an application for concealed carry of a handgun, and determines that personal defense is not *NEED*
      In New York City, that means transporting valuables or large cash bank deposits or withdrawals as in payroll or other large cash transactions, or while stocking ATM machines with cash.

    6. What an interesting look into Chinese policy, and a great point about creating a black market. I would really like to see a version of this article about our dear southern neighbor, Mexico. It is my understanding that firearms and ammunition are for the police and military only. There are stories of Americans being detained for a year or so after being caught at the border with spent brass kicking around in the pickup. What “for the police and military only” seems to imply is that, the cartels and gangsters get to have all the guns they want, plated in gold and fully automatic. Black market indeed.

    7. Is it easy to see, why so many feel and say, “Land of the Free”?

      Any gun laws, are repugnant to the concept of Freedom.
      And ANY politicians that support of introduce any such restrictions, are trairors to their Oath.
      And, guns are the only “Rights”, pols are lusting to strip away.
      1st Amendment, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 10th.

      1. NO offense, but its kinda hard to underatand you sir. Maybe you might want to edit your comment and clean it up alittle, so the anti gunners that might read this dont think WE are all a bunch of back wood dummies. I know you were probably just in a hurry, but I think my point still stands. I do apreciate the SPIRIT of what you were trying to say, tho and agree.

      2. Hey Sir, I just reread your comment after I sent my last message, please disregard that first message. It seems you did exactly what I suggested, I apologize. And probably should have just kept my fat mouth shut. Again sorry. And no disrespect intended.

    8. The Communists seem to pick and choose what they crack down upon within their country very carefully. For example, they heavily restrict the internet and most seem to comply. Now they’ve instituted a sort of “social scale” to grade citizens’ loyalty to determine the level of “freedom” a person gets to travel, etc. I never would have thought that they’d be so loose when it comes to firearms.

      1. The “social score” is sort of like Massachusetts where the local PD gets to decide if your social score (we call it suitability here behind enemy lines) is high enough to rate a carry permit. Exercise your 5th amendments rights and your score can drop below the threshold. The later was actually upheld by the MA appellate court when a subject exercised his right to remain silent when questioned.

    9. Several of my wives’ cousins are police officers in a rural town not far from a large metro city. Only the most senior is allowed to carry a firearm and only after substantial training. However many of the larger metro’s are now training more officers to carry handguns. At large train depots you may even see small detachments of officers with military type weapons. I feel safer traveling in China than I do in some of our own larger citieshere in the U.S.. I carry a small pocket knife which I have to check in when I enter the train station and pick up when I leave. Personally, I would never try to possess ammo or a firearm in China though.

    10. “In the United States, the District of Columbia has more draconian penalties. Only people with specific licenses from the District of Columbia are allowed to have ammunition.”

      This is absolutely false. There are no licenses to own ammunition. DC is not nearly as draconian as you paint it to be and this proliferates false news.

      DC requires registration. That is different than licensing. DC is also CCW shall-issue which is less draconian than Maryland.

    11. It’s too bad that most Americans don’t understand about our second amendment of the constitution. “The right to keep and bare arms, shall not be infringed,” has been infringed from from day one from the very first “gun law” enacted in 1934.
      We as American citizens, have the constitutional right to own and carry firearms of any kind, anywhere in this country, concealed or not, I might add.
      If the government could ever get it right, to carry out punishment for criminals when they commit crimes, then “gun laws” would be non existent. No firearm has ever been illegal nor has it ever carried out a crime.
      Just like the article said. The government of China, even here in the U.S., fears citizen resistance or even an uprising. Therefore, stifle the citizen”s firearm ownership, creating numerous stumbling blocks regarding firearm ownership and possession as a feel good measure. This has been going on for decades in most all countries and it seems that there’s no end in sight.
      Thankfully, it will draw to a close one day when man is to be no longer in control. Praise the Lord!

    12. The second amendment is under attack. Does this mean the constitution is under attack along with the American people as well? I think so. We need to do what ever is necessary to stop this perfect definition of INFRINGEMENT on our constitutional right to bear arms. Taking our rights could lead to a civil war against these tyrants. Enough is enough!!!!

        1. Don’t push your luck, BigTyrant Wannabees ! Military Tribunals could spring up all over the place, all of a sudden, to fix the Felonious Perjurors and the Seditious DirtBags, and the Traitorous Tyrants. All in one night, at 3am. There really aren’t that many of them at the head of the snake, and that’s the part that gets cut off first. Expect us.

    13. A lot of what are called hunting firearms are smooth bore small caliber flintlocks. People make their own powder and shoot bits of lead at birds at very close range. $75 in the countryside is a lot of money. A lot depends on who you are, who the police are, etc. Plain clothes police seem to carry small caliber, cheap semi autos. AKs are ubiquitous. 7.62 indicates you either have an AK or an SKS. I was less familiar with firearms in China than in and adjoining Communist Country where as long as you are in the good graces of the party, you are allowed to keep an AK under the seat of your truck and in your house.

      The communist countries have lots of laws that aren’t even publically available, so you are guilty of something no matter what.

      I like it better here.

      1. Just pointing this out to you in the picture they used it show a box of 7.62×25 which is a pistol caliber. If it was truly military surplus it can go through level 3 body armor

      2. It has been said that every American commits 3 felonies per day without knowing it. Have you ever been to a law library ? They have stacks and stacks of books full of laws that you can be charged with, and most people don’t even know they are there. Not even the police or the judges.

    14. Seems like the Communist Party is leaning slightly to socialistic idea of firearms, until of course someone stands against the ruling party, then mass executions will occur of all the “illegal” gun owners in China. I hope this never occurs, but, I would not be surprised if it does.

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