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.
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.
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 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.