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Thursday, 16 October 2008

Chinese authorities say they dealt with 4,666 gun cases last year

Chinese authorities say they dealt with 4,666 gun cases last year. Officials often respond to sensational gun crimes in the U.S. and elsewhere by affirming the need to maintain tough laws.With guns often hard to buy, some criminals forge them instead. Late last year, Shanghai police responded to a call about a robbery in progress at a gritty scrap yard. According to a police spokesman, officers spotted a man fleeing the scene and yelled "freeze," but he pulled a crude homemade pistol from a bag.
Witnesses say the suspect was brought down after a gunfight that had shots echoing all around the neighborhood. A police spokesman said the suspect, identified as Tang Qingjie, was shot in the leg by an officer. He said Mr. Tang had never managed to fire his weapon, which in a police photo appeared to have been soldered together.
The handling of Mr. Tang's case also offers a possible indication of why gun crimes in China seem so rare. They sometimes aren't highlighted when criminal charges are made public. When Shanghai prosecutors formally arraigned Mr. Tang in September, they alleged he committed robbery -- a serious charge but not one that automatically suggests use of a weapon.Speaking generally about Chinese law, a court spokesman said evidence of a gun can be introduced during a robbery trial. But criminal trials in China aren't always open to the public, and evidence can be suppressed.The Communist Party lauds marksmanship enough to give freshmen college students basic training in it. Shooting produced a national hero for China in 1984, when Xu Haifeng became the country's first Olympic gold medalist by winning the 50-meter pistol event in Los Angeles. At this year's Beijing Games, China won five of its 51 gold medals in shooting events.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.
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."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."



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