Dangerous deals

By Global Times – Agencies Source:Global Times – Agencies Published: 2015-6-8 18:58:01

Police penetrate underground homemade gun market

Chinese police have been persistently cracking down on illegal air gun possession according to the laws that forbid manufacturing and individual possession of weaponry. However, recent cases announced by the authorities show that despite stringent controls, weapon lovers have found their way to hand make air guns and ammunition and sell them to collectors and those with dangerous motives.

Police in Zhengzhou, capital city of Central China's Henan Province, sort confiscated guns before destroying them in a steel plant on September 4, 2014. Photo: CFP

A policeman shows a lathe used to make air guns confiscated in a recent crackdown on May 13 in Bengbu, East China's Anhui Province. Photo: CFP

The police in Bengbu, East China's Anhui Province, recently busted two gangs that mass produced air guns to sell in the black market. During the raid, 13 suspects were detained, and police confiscated 22 guns of various types, more than 6,000 pieces of ammunition, six half-done weapons, as well as three sets of machinery that were used to produce the weapons.

Although air guns are widely considered a toy in some Western countries, they can pack lethal power, and be used to kill birds and even humans, depending on the design.

Police records show that the chief suspect, surnamed Wang, taught himself to become an air gun maker. He sold his products to make a profit of 100 percent over his cost. Before the bust, Wang had already sold his homemade air guns to other cities in the province for two years, according to the Anhui-based newspaper Xin'an Wanbao. Privately owned guns are illegal in China, as they are believed to be dangerous to the public.

During an incident in the province, earlier this year in Bengbu's Wuhe county, a man pulled an air gun from his pocket during a fight and pointed it at his adversary. He didn't fire, fortunately, before police arrived and stopped the fight.

The air gun that he used was homemade, and was powerful enough to kill. That alerted the local police, who then commenced a county-wide search for illegal weapons. They found that scattered in their jurisdiction and adjacent areas were a large amount of illegal air guns. In most cases the weapons were used for hunting birds, but sometimes were also used for menacing other people. Cases of using air guns in provocative acts had been recorded.

After compiling all the files of illegal possession of air guns, police launched 15 raids on the suspects in the early morning on April 16. The raids resulted in 13 people detained and air guns confiscated along with ammunition.

Self-taught gun maker

The chief suspect Wang was a local arms enthusiast, who had a stable job leasing cranes to construction sites. He made the weapons only out of personal interest, according to police.

Wang liked hunting and taught himself how to make guns. With abundant spare time and a stable income, he bought himself a lathe and practiced through online study. He acquired information and knowledge from websites and was directed by other enthusiasts online and in QQ chat groups. They shared the knowledge, materials and parts for making air guns. He gradually grew from an amateur into an expert air gun maker.

Two years ago, Wang began assembling air gun parts and eventually made complete guns and ammunition. When he went out hunting, he hid his air gun in a fishing pole case, and took it out to shoot birds while seated beside the driver.

Gradually he made a name for himself in the sphere of illegal weapons. A lot of air gun enthusiasts in and outside of the county, including members of the county's shooting association, tracked him down and asked him to make them weapons.

Some of the air guns he made and sold were used for threatening violence. Some simulated the Airforce Airguns Company's Condor model, and had an effective range of more than 30 meters. The police said Wang bought all the parts online, and assembled them into usable guns. It cost Wang about 5,000 yuan ($800) to make one weapon, which he sold at 10,000 yuan using social media.

All the confiscated air guns and ammunition were stored in an exhibition room in the county police bureau, as well as the lathe and the computer that Wang used for arranging the sales. The guns were of different types and sizes, and some were fortified with silencers and telescopic sights. The police said these confiscated arms would be enough to arm a platoon of soldiers.

The police are still working to track and retrieve the arms that had been sold to Wuhu and Tongling, in other parts of Anhui Province.

The possession of arms is illegal in China, including air guns. China adopted the Arms Management Law in 1996, in which it rules that weapons are under stringent management of the State, and any unit or individual is not allowed to possess, produce, sell, transport, lease or lend arms.

China's law states that anyone who illegally manufactures, sells, delivers or stores guns, ammunition and dynamite should face a 3-to-10-year prison term, while the illegal possession of guns and ammunition results in up to seven years imprisonment.

Interest in weaponry

While Wang made guns partly for profit, most of the individual cases of illegal arms production involve hobbyists. In a separate case in Shiyan, Hubei Province, last August, Xiaobin, then 24 years old, was detained by the police for illegally carrying guns. Xiaobin learned how an air gun works through studying toy pistols. Without help from others, he managed to make an air-powered automatic weapon with a shooting range of 30 meters.

The idea of making an air gun started when he successfully repaired a toy rifle for his neighbor's son. He was inspired by the parts of the toy gun, and bought a range finder, a stainless steel pipe, a pressure meter, springs and a number of other components. He made the trigger mechanism at a lathe factory in town, and then found a piece of walnut wood which he carved into a butt.

Through several days of effort, Xiaobin assembled these parts following online instructions shared by similar enthusiasts, and successfully made an air rifle that could shoot ammunition 30 meters away.

There have been many other cases of making air guns in recent years. Some kept the weapons for themselves, while others sold them for profit.

Police said many customers buy an air gun just to show off their manhood, or because they are collectors, so the potential market is big.

Sales online 

Homemade guns, as well as smuggled weapons, are all sold online. QQ chat groups are the most common place for the illegal arms trade. Members pretend to be animal traders and call the weapons "dogs" and ammunition "dog food."

Trading is conducted in a secret manner. Sellers will give potential customers links to online shops, usually for clothing. The customer can simply buy "clothes" there and finish the payment, then wait for his weapon to be delivered.

Police in Tiantai, Zhejiang Province, earlier this year busted an illegal gun trading platform on QQ. It was run by a man surnamed Peng who bought an entry-level air gun and saw the market potential. He later developed the idea of serving as a middleman for the arms trade, reported China News Service.

Peng then began promoting air guns and soon attracted his first customer. The buyer sent photos of air guns that he wanted and described his preferences. With the order, Peng contacted different dealers through a QQ group. Through five different deals, Peng collected all the components he needed through online payment on Taobao, and eventually delivered all of them to his customer.

Peng bought all the parts for about 10,000 yuan, and surcharged his customer 5,000 yuan.

This was followed by an influx of customers, who either entrusted Peng to buy complete air guns or parts and ammunition. Until the police raid at the end of last year, he had finished eight deals with a profit of 20,000 yuan.

Through Peng, the police discovered a pyramid-structure of selling homemade guns and parts. On top of the pyramid was a 23-year-old named Xu, who sold more than 1,000 parts and complete air guns.

The confiscated guns and illegal weapons are usually destroyed. News of public destruction appears from time to time.

The police in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, on June 5 destroyed more than 100 guns, 2,000 illegal knives and 50 arrow bows. The previous day, Fuzhou police in Fujian Province destroyed 162 guns, 1,979 knives and 243 bows.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, last year police confiscated a total of 154,000 guns of all types in China, including air guns, and cracked 16,000 cases involving illegal guns. The authorities warned that a complete chain of manufacturing and sales of illegal weapons is taking shape, and almost all deals were made online, which posed a great challenge for the police to discover, track and bust the illegal deal makers.

Posted in: In-Depth

blog comments powered by Disqus