Illegal firearms' owners in Beijing could be jailed for up to two years if they do not turn their weapons in by July 15, Beijing Public Security Bureau has announced.
As part of a national crackdown on illegal guns launched last month, the bureau is urging the public to hand in firearms to police, including replica guns and airguns.
Those who hand over weapons to police before the deadline will not be punished.
Bureau figures show that about 100 guns were confiscated last month in the capital, including five pistols, three shotguns, 38 airguns and 65 replicas.
Ninety-eight people have been taken into custody, and 10 of them will face criminal charges, the police said. So far no cases have reached court.
Toy guns, which can look identical to real ones, have to be turned in as well, as they might "cause human injuries," said Qian Jin, director of the bureau's dangerous object control department.
"Such guns may cause unnecessary nervousness among the public," he said.
He said the guns confiscated are from three major sources: those used by criminals to commit crime, those sold on black markets, and those purchased before the implementation of the Law on Control of Guns in 1996.
Prior to the law, Chinese were allowed to buy and keep airguns.
Confiscated guns will be stored by the bureau prior to destruction.
In South China's Guangdong Province, police are busy tracking down illegal guns.
In April and May, 6,684 guns were confiscated in the province, 6,085 of which were replicas. About 70 cases involving illegal guns were cracked with 12 gangs smashed.
A large number of guns were found in Hualong County, Northwest China's Qinghai Province, according to the local police.
Hualong is a place where the production, sale and stockpiling of guns is rampant, the Ministry of Public Security said at a press conference last month.
Although criminals who sell guns can receive punishment ranging from three years in jail to the death penalty, high profits still attract people to the trade.
"Each gun may generate profits of up to 3,000 yuan (US$375)," said Xu Hu, deputy director of the ministry's public security bureau.
"The money is a huge temptation for farmers with yearly incomes of less than 1,000 yuan (US$125)," Xu said.
The county government has planned to eradicate production and sale of guns within three years.
However, Zhao Xiaoan, director of the public security bureau in Qunke, a town under Hualong where the problem is particularly serious, questioned whether the goal could be achieved.
"It's common practice for local villagers to make guns to earn money," he said in a telephone interview.
The director said that villagers who offer information could receive rewards ranging from 1,000 yuan (US$125) to 20,000 yuan (US$2,500), but so far little had been forthcoming.
Guns are usually produced in basements with very basic tools such as springs, sheet iron, steel saws, emery wheels and electric welding machines.
Some key parts, such as cartridge clips, are imported from other places.
"It's not as complicated as you might think," Zhao said, adding that basic knowledge of gun making has been passed down through families, as before 1949 there was a weapons factory in the area.
He stressed that the key to the problem is to "help local villagers out of poverty."
(China Daily 07/05/2006 page3)