Chinese Tourists Flocking to U.S. to Shoot Guns

Chinese Tourists Flocking to U.S. to Shoot Guns
Even air guns and replica guns are illegal in China, and are seized and destroyed by the government. photo from WSJweb photo

People always want what they can’t have, and they’ll often to go serious lengths and pay exorbitant prices to do so. In China, nobody is allowed to own a firearm. Even owning an air rifle or a toy gun could earn you jail time there, which has created an interesting tourism opportunity here.

This story from USA Today talked to Dickson Wong, a marksman who arranges trips for groups of other Chinese gun enthusiasts to travel to DeSoto County, Florida to shoot. (And you thought you had a long drive to the range.)

"It's a place Chinese can go to experience real gun culture," said Wong, 38, in the story. "It's impossible to shoot (in China)."

Wong says tens of thousands of wealthy Chinese travel to the U.S. every year to just to go to a shooting range. He hopes to capture some of that business when he opens his own gun club in 2019. China only has a few public shooting ranges, run by the government, in which firearms are chained to the shooting benches.

He plans to bring in 5,000 Chinese tourists a year to his club with luxury accommodations and Chinese-speaking instructors.

“Gun tourism already is a growing business in the U.S. because of lax laws regulating firearms compared to other countries. For example, Honolulu attracts target shooters from Japan, which has stringent gun-control regulations, and Las Vegas has many firing ranges available for domestic and foreign visitors.”

Wong owns the closest thing you can have to a gun shop in China, a store with camo gear, holsters, and t-shirts bearing quotes from the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, but no guns, which are illegal to even manufacture in China for private use.

The story says, as a result of resistance to Japanese occupation during WWII and a protracted civil war, China was awash in firearms when the communists came to power in 1949.

“The Chinese government took away people’s guns to prevent them rising up.”

- —Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist at Renmin University

The government then confiscated many guns in urban areas, but allowed some farmers to keep guns for hunting. Tighter gun control restrictions in the years after were largely ignored until the government crushed demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In 1996, a law was passed formally banning all citizens from owning firearms. The ban was expanded in 2008 to replica firearms. Gun possession can garner a prison sentence of up to seven years, the story says.

Regardless, the story says sales of replica guns is soaring in China through various websites. Criminals in China are also using guns more, especially those involved in illegal drug trades.

In August 2015, an 18-year-old in southeastern China was given life in prison for ordering 24 imitation guns from Taiwan The story says. Twenty of the guns turned out to be real firearms. He has since been told his sentence will be commuted.

The Chinese government says the strict laws are for public safety, but many say the real reason is to keep the people powerless to start any kind of uprising or rebellion.

"The Chinese government took away people's guns to prevent them rising up," said Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist at Renmin University, in the story. "Do you think they would be able to demolish peoples' homes if they hadn't?"

Xiaozheng was referring to the government’s broad right to seize private property. The government also widely publicizes mass shooting incidents from the United States.

The story says Chinese media only reported 25 firearms deaths last year, but that there are no official numbers. According to a 2011 Centre for Disease Control and Prevention report, China's suicide rate is 22.23 people out of every 100,000. This rate places the country among the countries with the highest suicide per capita in the world.

Though its citizens cannot own firearms, ironically, China is one of the world's largest small-arms producers, including the Norinco company (full name is China North Industries Corporation) which makes a variety of small arms, many of which are clones of popular firearms produced in various countries.