Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Karp, Aaron. 2007 ‘Completing the Count: Civilian firearms.’ Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City, p. 50. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 27 August
National registration data: Solid but partial
China's firearms law of 1996 (China, 1996) forbids civilians to own guns unless specifically approved by law enforcement authorities. In practice, this has been interpreted to sharply limit ownership.
According to a report from 2005, the country of 1.3 billion people had only 680,000 legally registered civilian firearms. But the same source noted that over five million military firearms were distributed to Chinese civilians in the 1950s and 1960s, and never recovered (Courrier international, 2005).
Registration is not comprehensive anywhere, but China is typical of cases where relatively few of the guns in civilian hands are known to authorities.
A completely different sense of scale comes from a series of police campaigns against illegal firearms since 1996. As of 2002, these campaigns reportedly seized 2.3 million guns (Small Arms Survey, 2005, p. 82). In 2005 total seizures were said to be five million guns (Hu, 2005).
More recently, the chief Chinese public security official responsible for firearm issues maintained that 38 million firearms were seized by police in the period 1996-2006 (Xiao, 2006).
While such figures test credulity, they convey a sense that civilian ownership in China is much more common than official registration data suggests.