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Govt. Reiterates Stance on Gun Control
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Public Security Ministry spokesman Wu Heping on Friday said China would maintain strict controls on guns, while responding to the deadly Virginia Tech rampage on Monday.

"I would like to express my deep sympathy and condolences to the victims of the tragedy in the United States, which claimed the lives of many young students," Wu told China Daily.

Wu said the tragedy also throws into focus gun ownership in China.

He said strict controls had helped China avoid a US-style "gun culture", and the rampage had proved that it's necessary to maintain this policy.

A steamroller crushes imitation guns yesterday in Shanghai. A total of 31,450 imitation guns seized in recent years were destroyed.

US media reported that more than 30,000 people die from gunshot wounds in the country annually and there are more guns in private hands than in any other country.

However in China, gun crimes are rare, as private citizens are forbidden from owning and selling guns.

Wu said the ban aims to wipe out potential danger and protect the safety of every individual citizen. "If there's no access to the weapon, people cannot commit a gun crime," he said.

The spokesman added that the US tragedy also reminds education authorities that they should pay more attention to students' mental health.

But despite strict controls, illegal guns and explosives are still traded in China, and Wu said the ministry would continue its crackdowns.

The ministry launched a national campaign against illegal guns last year. Official figures show that from last June to September, police confiscated about 178,000 illegal guns, 3,900 tons of explosives, 7.77 million detonators and 4.75 million bullets.

Ministry figures also show that more than 3.8 million illegal weapons have been confiscated in recent years.

Wu said at a press conference last year that although the production, sale and stockpiling of guns and explosives had been decreasing nationwide since 2001, the problem was still "severe" in some areas, such as in Hualong County in Northwest China's Qinghai Province.

In June 2005, criminals Ma Saiyi and Ma Huni were arrested in Qinghai for the production and sale of more than 100 guns. They were both jailed for 12 years.

Early last year, police in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality also cracked a gun selling case, seizing 45 suspects, 57 guns and 321 bullets.

High profits are deemed the biggest attraction for people who trade illegal guns, although those found guilty of selling guns or explosives face punishment ranging from three years in jail to death penalty.

"Each gun may generate profits of up to 3,000 yuan ($375)," Xu Hu, deputy director of the ministry's public security bureau, said in an earlier interview. "The money is a huge temptation for farmers with yearly incomes of less than 1,000 yuan ($125)."

(China Daily April 21, 2007)

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