The Hong Kong government launched a public consultation on Wednesday on further restricting genuine firearm components to “combat the misuse of arms by criminals in posing threats to citizens’ lives and property.”

The proposed amendments seek to amend the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance to specify certain firearm components so that – in future court cases – the police or prosecution would not have to prove that the parts are being “used or intended to be used to discharge a missile” to fit the definition of “arms.”

firearm parts to be specified
Proposed amendments to the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance. Photo: Security Bureau, via screenshot.

In the consultation paper, the government said there was a “worrying increase” in crimes involving firearms. Cases involving the smuggling of firearms into the city increased from six cases in 2016 to 35 in 2020.

The Security Bureau said that criminals would often disassemble guns into different parts and smuggle them in using air parcels in separate shipments.

The government also cited mass shootings in the US and the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, adding that the police seized models of guns similar to those used in the attacks.

Post office

Under the proposed amendments, firearm parts to be specified include barrels, chambers, cylinders, frames, bodies, receivers, breech blocks, bolts and other mechanisms capable of containing the pressure of discharge.

Police seized firearms
Police seized firearms in April 2020. Photo: Hong Kong Police, via Facebook video screenshot.

However, according to a firearms expert who did not wish to be named, the proposed changes to the legislation add little to current gun control legislations: “If you have already specified criminals, who can you really regulate with these amendments, since they’re doing illegal things anyway.”

He added that the consultation paper did not mention other departments responsible for the control of firearms imports.

“The gatekeeper is not the police, it’s the Customs and Excise Department, and if the parcel is mailed in, it’ll be the post office,” he said. “The consultation paper did not mention the roles of these two departments.”

“The police is not the only law enforcement department in Hong Kong… but the document seemed to be tailored for the police, to make it more convenient for them to enforce the law.”

2019 protests police riot gear
Photo: Jimmy Lam/USP & HKFP.

Since 2010, Hongkong Post has banned the mailing of all arms and ammunition in accordance with the Universal Postal Convention, even if a licence has been issued by the Hong Kong Police and the Trade and Industry Department.

Furthermore, current imports and exports of arms are regulated by the Trade and Industry Department, under the Import and Export Ordinance.

According to the arms expert, the proposed changes pose a question on whether genuine firearm components used in model guns would constitute as a violation of the law: “I’m not sure whether they’re paving the way to the mass confiscation of civilian firearms.”

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.