Gun control in China

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The People's Republic of China has one of the strictest gun control regulations in the world.[1] Generally, private citizens are not allowed to possess firearms.


A firearm for defense against enemies inside a Hakka Fujian Tulou.

Gunpowder was invented in China more than a thousand years ago,[2], with the first definitive written record of chemical formulae found in the mid-11th century Song dynasty military compendium Wujing Zongyao, and the very earliest possible reference dating to the Eastern Han dynasty. During the Ming and Qing dynasties matchlock muskets were used in China, and the Chinese used the term "bird-gun" (Chinese: 鳥銃) to refer to muskets.[3]

Mao Zedong remarked "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" in 1927 and 1938, a sentiment that was continued after winning the civil war. The country's strict centralized stance on gun control was officially instated in the country in 1966,[2] and extended in 1996 when the government banned the buying, selling and transporting of firearms without official permission.[2][4] According to the Chinese police, up until 2006, an underground gun-trading triangle in Southwest China fed the Chinese gun market, with guns being manufactured in Songtao and trafficked into Xiushan and Huayuan before reaching a national distribution scale.[4]

From June to September 2006 (6-month crackdown), the Chinese authorities confiscated 178,000 illegal guns, 3,900 tons of explosives, 7.77 million detonators and 4.75 million bullets.[5] In 2007, a study released by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies estimated that around 40 million guns were owned by Chinese civilians, an over-estimation according to the Chinese authorities.[4] Throughout the 2000s, The Wall Street Journal noted a rise of gun popularity in China.[2]


In China, firearms can be used by law enforcement, the military and paramilitary, or security personnel protecting property of state importance (including the arms industry, financial institutions, storage of resources, and scientific research institutions).

Civilian ownership of firearms is largely restricted to non-individual entities such as sporting organizations, hunting reserves, and wildlife protection, management and research organizations. The chief exception to the general ban for individual gun ownership is for the purpose of hunting.[6] Individuals who hold hunting permits can apply to purchase and hold firearms for the purpose of hunting.[7] Illegal possession or sale of firearms may result in a minimum punishment of 3 years in prison, and the penalty for a gun crime is death penalty.[8][2]

Airsoft guns are also practically prohibited due to the Ministry of Public Security dictating very restrictive new criteria that rendered most such toy guns being defined as real firearms,[9] and violation may lead to a criminal conviction for illegal possession of firearms.[10]

Special regions[edit]

Miao people[edit]

The possession of traditional smoothbore blackpowder muskets is allowed to some Miao hill people, the so-called Miao gun tribes, as an essential element of traditional dress and culture;[11] however, possession of gunpowder is regulated.

Biasha people[edit]

The Biasha people living in Bingmei, Guizhou, claim they can legally possess guns, since they use them for their annual traditional performance.[4]

Hong Kong and Macau[edit]

Firearm ownership in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau is tightly controlled and possession is mainly in the hands of law enforcement, military, or private security firms (providing protection for jewelers and banks). Still, possessing, manufacturing, importing, or exporting airsoft guns with a muzzle energy not above 2 joules (1.5 ft⋅lbf) is legal to citizens in China's SARs.

Firearms control was inherited during British and Portuguese rule and more or less retained today. Under the Section 13 of Cap 238 Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance of the Hong Kong law, unrestricted firearms and ammunition requires a license.[12] Those found in possession without a license could be fined HKD$100,000 and imprisonment for up to 14 years.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Owning toy guns leads to life imprisonment in China due to strict laws on firearms - Global Times". Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  2. ^ a b c d e James T. Areddy, Staring Down the Barrel: the Rise of Guns in China,, 14 October 2008 (accessed on 18 August 2019)
  3. ^ Kenneth Warren Chase (7 July 2003). Firearms: A Global History to 1700. Cambridge University Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-521-82274-9.
  4. ^ a b c d Hu Yinan, Writing on the wall for guns,, 18 August 2010 (18 August 2019)
  5. ^ Zhu Zhe, China reiterates stance on gun control,, 21 April 2007 (accessed on 18 August 2019)
  6. ^ "中华人民共和国枪支管理法 (Firearm Administration Law of the People's Republic of China)". Archived from the original on 2017-05-01. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  7. ^ "中华人民共和国猎枪弹具管理办法 (Hunting Firearm, Ammunition and Equipment Administration Regulation of the People's Republic of China)". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  8. ^ "China Reiterates Stance on Gun Control".
  9. ^ ""Public Security Bureau notice of "Recognized standard of an imitation gun"" (Legal issues in airsoft)".
  10. ^ Lee, Jason (23 August 2013). "Why did they destroy 320,000 plastic toy guns?". Plastic News.
  11. ^ Lee, Jason (23 August 2013). "China's Last Armed Village". Reuters.
  12. ^ "Do not carry restricted items in Hong Kong". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  13. ^ "CAP 238 FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION ORDINANCE s 13 Possession of arms or ammunition without license". Retrieved 26 March 2016.