This is 18 year old Liu Dawei.
He will be spending the rest of his life in a Chinese prison. Why? Because the judge let him off easy for being a teenager. Even though he wanted to give Liu the death penalty.
Wow, so what heinous crime did this young man commit? Terrorism? Multiple homicides? Dressing up like a giant purple dinosaur and making up his own theme song to the tune of a beloved patriotic classic?
Nope. He ordered fake guns online. Not real guns, replicas. 24 to be exact. From a Taiwanese store. But that shipment never arrived because it was intercepted by authorities. According to state-run People’s Daily, police “identified 20 out of the 24 ‘replica guns’ as real guns.” And so this 18 year old kid was sentenced to life in prison for arms trafficking.
And get this: Those 20 real guns aren’t actually…real guns. It’s just that China has such crazy strict gun laws, that they include things no other country would consider to be guns. That was actually the defense Liu’s lawyer used in court. According to China’s gun laws, anything with a barrel that can shoot an object with a force of 1.8 joules per centimeter squared is a gun. That’s less than one-tenth of what is classified as a gun in that bastion of anarchy—Taiwan.
Liu’s lawyer argued that’s pretty much the same amount of force he could produce throwing a “handful of beans.” After which he was promptly arrested for having hand-guns. Ok, that last part was a joke. But it is true that in China, an object that could shoot a projectile with as much force as throwing a handful of beans is considered in the same league as a Magnum. Dirty Harry eat your heart out.
But Liu most definitely was not lucky. And his plea to the judge to “Shoot me dead with the guns I bought! If I die, I’ll admit I’m guilty,” probably missed the mark. Liu was arrested in 2014. His family has appealed the ruling, and are awaiting a final verdict. Their appeal was accepted for review by a higher court earlier this month.
As I said, China has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world. Private gun ownership is banned. And that includes rifles, pistols, and even gun replicas. Simply possessing a single gun can get you a three-year prison sentence. An actual gun crime typically means execution. Of course, rule of law is a mercurial thing in Communist China. Liu got a life sentence for buying replica guns. But this guy only got 12 years for running an entire online gun store.
Mao Zedong famously said “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” And so once they got political power, the Chinese Communist Party made sure to take those guns out of the hands of the people. But there’s one thing Mao couldn’t have predicted: a lot of Chinese people think guns are really cool. At least that’s if you go by the increasing gun tourism industry targeting Chinese travelers. No pun intended. For a change. Chinese tourists flock to the United States for a chance to shoot a live weapon at a gun range. Although according to state-run China Daily, “some people have complained that Chinese tourists at gun clubs have not been careful, taking pictures and pointing the guns at other people.”
And although it’s super illegal to own a gun in China, it actually seems to be pretty easy to buy one, if you want to take that risk. You can go to the dark web and get guns shipped from overseas in pieces, like this reporter found. Or just Google it, like this reporter did.
So how will the Communist Party handle the increasing fascination with guns? And what do you think of Liu Danwei’s sentence? I know they smuggle bear paws into China as medicine, but should they have the right to bear arms? Leave your comments below.