The two countries’ opposite approaches [to gun control] are especially striking given both nations were born from armed insurrection — the US winning its independence in the Revolutionary War in 1783, and the Chinese Communist Party establishing the People’s Republic of China in 1949 after a lengthy rebellion against the Nationalist government.
But their attitudes diverged from there, with the US enshrining the right to bear arms in the Constitution, arguing that this right, and a “well regulated militia,” were “necessary to the security of a free state.”
China swung in the other direction, deciding that an armed public posed a threat to safety and stability in the still-fragile, newly won country. For Communist Party leaders, weapons were a means of revolution, with Chairman Mao Zedong famously declaring in 1927: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Just two years after the People’s Republic was founded, the government implemented measures prohibiting citizens from buying, selling or privately manufacturing guns. Several smaller ministries had passed gun control laws over the years — but the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, in which the Chinese military crushed protests led by college students in Beijing with deadly force, marked a tipping point.
The government implemented new gun control regulations just months later — an extension of its wider crackdown on all forms of public dissent and organized resistance.
By 1996, a national gun control law had been promulgated by the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature. Under the law, only a few groups of people are allowed to own guns, including law enforcement, security personnel, government-approved sports shooters and government-approved hunters.
The Communist Party’s grip has only grown tighter under President Xi Jinping. In recent years, authorities have carried out more raids and offered freedom from prosecution in firearms amnesties. Police destroyed 69,000 illegal guns last November; this May, the government announced it was launching yet another four-month campaign to seize illegal guns.
— Jessie Yeung and Steve George in China and the US were both born from armed conflict. They’re now polar opposites on gun control