The Gun Culture in China

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article about the legal and illegal gun cultures in China, a country where civilian gun ownership is banned (at least among those without wealth or power).

Shanghai — 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.

Even replica guns (airsoft guns) are banned!

Even as China’s government seeks to keep guns off the street, and shields its massive gun-manufacturing business behind state-secrets laws, it helps stoke the public imagination about guns. Schoolchildren learn to salute the flag shouldering imitation rifles, while state media celebrate the heroism of military and athletic marksmanship.

I have a Chinese friend who was very surprised to learn that Chinese state owned factories exports guns and ammunition to civilians overseas.

The main source of guns appears to be lax control of gun factories and theft from arsenals. China is one of the world’s largest gun manufacturers — for the export market and for its security forces. Older guns are left from past wars and a time when hunting was common. The police have also busted workshops that forge guns and bullets by hand inside China. Meanwhile, people illegally import replicas — exact-looking imitations of guns.

An airsoft gun in luggage is not going to be picked up by an airport scanner. I was in a gun shop a couple of years ago and an Australian guy came in asking where he can buy an airsoft gun. He said he they were banned back home but bringing them in from overseas for kids to play with is a common practice. He wanted a couple of airsoft pistols for his son to sell to his friends.

Beijing’s support for the sport has helped spur a rise of hobby enthusiasts. The government has sanctioned businesses such as the Shanghai East Shooting Club, a former bomb shelter where customers can have a drink and fire a variety of weapons. Owner Zhang Jiewei says his clients are looking to relax.

China must be the only country in the world which bans guns but allows shooting clubs (if you have enough money and connections)!

But increasingly, gun fans are gaining access to guns — and hunting illegally. In rural Anhui province last year, a group of wealthy businessmen, gun-club owners and former army officers organized wild-fowl shoots. Feasting on game cooked in a spicy brown sauce, one of them toasted, “Guns have brought us together.”

I asked my Chinese friend how people hunt if guns are banned. He told me nobody hunts because there is nothing to hunt anymore. Most of the larger sized game has been wiped out by the massive population and are now endangered.

Gun buffs can turn to Small Arms, a twice-monthly glossy magazine that claims 60,000 subscribers. The Beretta M9 semiautomatic pistol “is classic,” said Zheng Zhoujian, an 18-year-old reader. “I envy people in other countries where guns are legal.”

A bi-monthly magazine in a country with a total firearm ban! Incredible!

Every single day I am grateful that I own firearms. The full article is well worth reading.

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

More by Steve Johnson

Join the conversation
2 of 19 comments
  • KidNxtDoor KidNxtDoor on Jun 03, 2012

    You can actually own nonautomatic pistols and hunting rifles for hunting perpesess.

  • Sam Suggs Sam Suggs on Feb 07, 2013

    I am proboly being senstive but I dont care for the tone of the wall street journal qoutations