News / Asia

China, US School Attacks Highlight Difference in Gun Control

  • Stuffed animals and a sign calling for prayer rest at the base of a tree near the Newtown Village Cemetery in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 17, 2012.
  • A student looks for a place to leave flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting at the entrance of Newtown High School December 18, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • Barbara Wells of Shelton, Conn., holds her daughter Olivia, 3, as she pays her respects Dec. 17, 2012 at one of the makeshift memorials for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
  • First Burials for Newtown Victims Amid Profound Sadness
  • Frank Kulick, adjusts a display of wooden crosses, and a Jewish Star of David, representing the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, on his front lawn in Newtown, Conn., December 17, 2012.
  • Mourners grieve at one of the makeshift memorials for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, December 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn.
  • Names of victims are displayed on a flag in the business area in Newtown, Connecticut, December 16, 2012.
  • A child's message rests with a memorial for shooting victims, December 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn.
  • A memorial is seen along the road to Sandy Hook Elementary School a day after a mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 15, 2012.
  • A sign and a U.S. national flag are seen near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 15, 2012.
  • This photo posted to the Emilie Parker Fund Facebook page shows six-year-old Emilie Parker, who was gunned down in Friday's school shooting in Connecticut.
  • Robbie Parker, the father of six-year-old Emilie who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, speaks during a news conference on Dec. 15, 2012 in Newtown, Conn.
  • This undated photo shows Adam Lanza posing for a group photo of the technology club which appeared in the Newtown High School yearbook.
  • A man bows his head as he stands at a makeshift memorial, outside Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 15, 2012.
  • Elizabeth Bogdanoff, left, kisses her daughter Julia, 13, during a prayer service at St John's Episcopal Church on Dec. 15, 2012 in Newtown, Conn.
  • People grieve next to a makeshift memorial of flowers and balloons next to the Sandy Hook Elementary school sign in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Dec. 15, 2012.
  • A woman covers her mouth as others look on stand near candles outside Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church near Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.
  • A young girl is given a blanket after being evacuated from Sandy Hook Elementary School following a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec.14, 2012.
Connecticut School Massacre
Near simultaneous attacks on elementary schools in both the United States and China have prompted many to examine the very different approach each nation takes on gun control laws.

Armed with a rifle and two handguns, 20-year-old Adam Lanza was able to carry out one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history on Friday, killing 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Henan attack

Just hours earlier, a disturbed 36-year-old Chinese man, armed with a kitchen knife, walked into an elementary school in central Henan province and allegedly began attacking students. Although police say he was able to injure 23 children and an elderly villager, none of the injuries were severe and he was subdued a short time later by police and teachers.

It was the latest in a series of violent attacks on students in China that has led to soul-searching and increased security outside educational institutions. But nearly all of the incidents involved less deadly weapons such as knives, meat cleavers, or hammers, and there has been nothing that approaches the scale of Friday's tragedy in the U.S.

Joseph Cheng, a professor at City University in Hong Kong, says that he attributes this to China's tough gun laws, which make it nearly impossible for regular citizens to obtain firearms.

"Basically, unless you are a well-organized criminal gang, you normally do not have access to guns and modern weapons," says Cheng. "And ,since these cases are related to mentally disturbed people, they normally grab choppers and hammers from the kitchen in their homes and use these as weapons."

A mother explains how her son (L) got hurt during a knife attack that took place on December 14, 2012 at a primary school in Guangshan county, central China's Henan province.
A mother explains how her son (L) got hurt during a knife attack that took place on December 14, 2012 at a primary school in Guangshan county, central China's Henan province.

Homicide rate comparison

A look at how the U.S. ranks in comparison to the rest of world when it comes guns and gun violence.
The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate in the world. 
1. United States  -  89
2. Yemen            -  55
3. Switzerland     -  46
4. Finland            - 45
5. Serbia             - 38
Despite the high number of guns, because of its large population, the U.S. does not have the worst firearms murder rate.
1.  Honduras     -  69
2.  El Salvador  -  40
3.  Jamaica      -   39
4   Venezuela   -  39
5.  Guatemala  -  35
The United States ranks 28th, with a rate of 3 per 100,000 people
*The U.S. is one of the leading countries in the number of deaths attributed to guns.
1.  Brazil              -  34,678
2.  Colombia         -  12,539
3.  Mexico            -  11,309
4.  Venezuela       -  11,115
5.  United States   -  9,146
Source: UNODC & Small arms survey of 2010 
The United Nations estimates that China's overall homicide rate is less than a quarter of that of the United States. Gun control advocates argue this is because China, which has over a billion more people than the U.S., has only a fraction of the number of the U.S.' guns.

"Certainly China has a much better control of weapons in comparison with the United States," said Cheng, who admits that guns are available for those who want them. "Because of the corruption of the military, there is apparently a pretty large circulation of small weapons in the black market."

But, Cheng says even if you are able to pay what it takes to illegally obtain guns, many are deterred from doing so because of the heavy penalties associated with illegal gun ownership.

Those found in possession of a single gun can get a prison sentence for as long as three years and many receive the death penalty for committing gun crimes in China, which regularly leads the world in annual executions.

Gun laws

Michael DeGolyer, who teaches government and international studies at the Hong Kong Baptist University, acknowledges that China's restrictive gun laws "possibly" play a part in reducing violence.

But he says he is concerned that, school children in countries around the world seem to be increasingly the target of violent attacks, no matter what type of weapon being used.

"The use of guns is higher in the United States in these kinds of attacks. But I think the fact that we have had attacks on schools, on children, not just in the United States, but in China and in other places - Norway, Pakistan - may indicate that we are getting a more widespread kind of stressor," he says.

Mental illness factor

In China, many have blamed the attacks on weaknesses in the Chinese medical system's ability to diagnose and treat psychiatric illnesses, which have been on the rise as many are unable to cope with the rapid pace of social change.

But DeGolyer is reluctant to blame just one factor.

"I think this is an area that definitely calls for research instead of pointing fingers or trying to argue that this is one particular cause or another," says DeGolyer. "Of course, the control of weaponry is one of the actions you can take to try to address the extent of the violence, but why are we seeing rising attacks on children globally? What is behind that?"

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Phil from: Washington
December 19, 2012 2:01 PM
"The United States ranks 28th, with a rate of 3 per 100,000 people" and that's supposed to be something to celebrate???? Being ranked 28th is completely unacceptable considering how many countries there are in the world and what the U.S. proclaims itself to be - the greatest country in the world. I don't think you want to be in the company of Honduras, El Salvador, Jamaica, Venezuela, Guatemala and all those infamous African nations where gun-related deaths are mostly due to civil wars and lack of effective law enforcement. Time to gun down the 2nd amendment and make the U.S. truly deserving of that title of the greatest country on earth.
In Response

by: Richard from: PA
December 20, 2012 10:15 PM
Phil, very articulate. Since the 2nd Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights why don’t we as you say “gun down the 2nd A” – we can start with the 1st – how would that be? Oh I see youre from Washington . . .

by: John from: NY, USA
December 18, 2012 8:34 PM
On May 12, 2010, Wu Huanming walked into a Kindergarten in Hanzhong, China, and killed seven children and two adults with a meat cleaver. Just thought I'd mention it.
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 19, 2012 3:01 AM

I don't agree with you 100 persent. there is no relationship between the attack and the gun law.
in my opnion, the criminal can use any weapons besides guns to attack students no matter the residents are armed with fireweapons, they can use kitchen knife, hammers or somethingelse. the most important question is "why our elementary student become the target of attack",

by: jack from: USA
December 18, 2012 3:36 PM
How many of it's own citizens has China's Government exterminated over the decades? Millions. An unarmed populace is subject to its rulers mercy.

In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 18, 2012 11:45 PM
what you said true or not, must has past for more than 50 years. Who cares any more? Now a day most Chinese benefit from the rapid economy growing leading by communist party. And majority Chinese applaud the tough control of guns and other lethal weapons by communist party. Keep it in mind, young Chinese are looking forward we dont waste time to look back.

by: John from: USA
December 18, 2012 1:08 PM
I have been to China. I'd rather live right here in the USA.
In Response

by: sce from: Indiana
December 20, 2012 12:23 PM
I think it's time for the gun control issues to go to "We the People". Each state should hold a referendum and let the people decide about gun ownership - particularly semi-automatic assault weapons. This would take the matter out of the hands of the government, both state and federal, as well as the NRA. Folks would have a hard time pointing fingers if the choice is theirs.
In Response

by: Zhang from: USA
December 19, 2012 12:39 PM
Born in China, living in the U.S.
The feeling is not always mutual.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 18, 2012 11:49 PM
poor Van Son Nguyen, same communist party but majority Vietnamese hate their government however majority Chinese support our communist government. Why its so different? LOL
And Vietnam is poor and backward but China is rich and leading the time! Shame on Vietnam.
In Response

by: Van Son Nguyen from: Adelaide, Australia
December 18, 2012 8:45 PM
I agree with you.
I feel very sorry for the victims families. I wish that it never happens again. However, I am angry with those who used that incidence to pledge for gun-control as is now in Australia.
One of the basic reasons to make USA as is today is the right to arms of the citizen. Without ability to fight, any dictactor could send armed thuggs (such as Police, Security Agents , etc..) in the name of "peace", "liberty" etc to made life miserable and not worth to live. Just look at VietNam. The Vietmamese have not been allowed to arm so dictators follow dictators could do whatever they wish.
We as a whole, accept that civil right is to be violated, the right to be assumed innocent is sacred, so we have to accept that the un-stable persons could keep guns until proven otherwise and we have to accept the consequence even if it going to happen to my family. Otherwise, I do not want to see VietNam or Chinese style of government spread to USA.
In Response

by: Doe from: USA
December 18, 2012 4:54 PM
John, your comment is very interesting. May be a typical Republican response? The article is about gun laws. The US surely can make it better place even it were greatest on earth.
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