Caixin
Jan 26, 2017 04:00 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Shooting-Gallery Owner Has Sentence for Gun Possession Reduced

(Beijing) — A woman who ran a roadside balloon-shooting gallery in Tianjin was given a suspended three-year prison sentence for the illicit possession of firearms on Thursday after lawyers challenged a previous verdict that caused a public uproar over its severity.

An appeal court commuted Zhao Chunhua’s earlier sentence of 3 1/2 years in prison, handed down after six of the weapons used for recreational purposes at her stall were identified by police as real guns.

The Tianjin No.1 Intermediate People’s Court said the 51-year-old was granted leniency because she had no intention of using the weapons to harm others. But it maintains she is guilty of illegal possession of firearms, according to a statement posted on the court’s official Sina microblog. Owning a nonmilitary gun is a crime punishable by up to seven years under Chinese law.

Zhao’s lawyer, Si Weijiang, told Caixin shortly before the retrial that his team was pushing for a not-guilty verdict because his client was unaware that the six rifles qualified as “lethal weapons.”

The earlier sentencing on Zhao’s case, announced on Dec. 27, triggered a nationwide outcry, given the low level of public awareness on rules governing the possession of weapons or firearms in China. It also prompted calls from legal professionals to review the country’s law regulating gun ownership.

China revised the national standard for what qualifies as a gun, measured using muzzle kinetic energy, from 16 to 1.8 joules per square cm in 2008. The change came amid an official push to tighten control over the sale and possession of firearms and weapons for nonmilitary use. The U.S. standard for a gun is 21 joules per square cm.

Individuals who want to buy a replica gun for recreational purposes in China are forced to purchase them online or through unlicensed dealers in the black market. But there is no official certification attached to them, and as such, there is no way of knowing whether the weapons violate any laws.

Xu Xin, a Beijing-based lawyer who also represented Zhao earlier, urged authorities to revert to the 16-joule standard, in place since 2001.

An 18-year-old boy in Quanzhou, Fujian province, was jailed for life for smuggling weapons into the country after 20 of the 24 replica guns he bought online from Taiwan in July 2014 were deemed as lethal weapons under Chinese law. His retrial is ongoing.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com)

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