Some Chinese farmers farm during the day and make guns in the evening. Their families and whole villages sometimes join in. Hualong County in Qinghai Province, Songtao County in Guizhou Province and Hepu County in Guangxi Province are the three major counties for the production of illegal guns. According to incomplete statistics, illegal guns from Qinghai showed up in more than 10 provinces. In these regions, the cost of a gun is only 200 to 300 yuan. Several transactions later, the sales price can be nearly 10,000 yuan. With these profits, people are sometimes tempted to move.
Qinghai is the 'Gun Sales Axis'
With Qinghai as its center, the national "Gun Sales Axis" radiates over the whole country. This has only taken shape in recent years. The Qinghai Province Public Security Department has captured more than 200 gun sales suspects in the past 10 years, seized more than 10,000 various kinds of guns and spare parts, more than 1,000 tools to make guns and discovered more than 60 gun factory hideouts. In 2002, they uncovered a case of gun parts and dredged up more than 1,000 gun parts from the Yellow River.
In the 1990s, uncovered cases revealed that illegal gun sales cases in provinces like Shanxi, Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan, Anhui, Xinjiang, Tibet, etc. are nearly all related to Hualong County.
Hualong's illegal guns flow to the prosperous southeast costal region. The cost of an imitated 4-6 handgun is 200 to 300 yuan. It sells for several hundred yuan locally. The price then rises to more than 1,000 yuan when shipped to Xining, and can go up to 15,000 yuan in other Provinces. In the past, the guns were mainly traded to the pastoral areas for herdsman to use for hunting. Now the guns are traded mainly to the economically well-developed areas and into the hands of vicious black markets.
The Source of the Popularity of Illegal Gun Making
Illegal gun-making and sales have long been problems. The country's three major illegal gun manufacturing bases are Hualong County in Qinghai Province, Songtao County in Guizhou Province and Hepu County in Guangxi Province. Their common characteristic is poverty and their common goal is to extort profits.
Hualong is an impoverished town with 240,000 residents. It is surrounded by high mountains and a natural environment that makes transportation difficult. In the 19 key villages of the three most severe gun crime counties, Dehenglong, Shalianbao, Qunke, annual income per person averages 1,000 yuan. There was once an armament factory making the industry a public foundation. In Yaqutan Village, nearly every family has a gun workshop. Gun making has even become the local "pillar industry." Farmers farm during the day and make guns in the evening.
The natives have attempted to rely on gun sales to become rich. An imitation 5-4 type or 6-4 type military pistol takes less than seven days to make. The cost is only 200 yuan. The profit is several hundred yuan. A semi-automatic rifle can sell for tens of thousands of yuan.
Extortion Profits Build the Momentum for Gun Sales
Driven by reasons such as extortion profits, Hualong County's gun-making criminals' activities appear to have picked up momentum. Some criminals who have been hiding continue their illegal gun sales. Some escaped to other regions in the province to start a new hideout workshop. To avoid investigation, illegal gun makers even store tools. Manufacturing cells are usually located in a hidden place in the front or backyard for easy access. Some may even dig tunnels to connect to other places as an escape route. These underground armament factories are extremely crude. Workers are mostly illiterate but the guns that they produce can be very refined. Additionally, their gun techniques are continuously enhanced.
In Hualong, whether it is the gun-making group or the gun sales group, these groups are mostly composed of blood relatives like fathers, sons, uncles, nephews and brothers. Experts think there is a need to increase the law enforcement strength to thoroughly eradicate illegal gun making and provide the farmers with a regular source of income to escape from poverty.