Kunming police officers have been granted permission by both the national and provincial Ministries of Public Security to carry firearms while on duty. Several articles published in Yunnan newspapers have announced the move, which breaks with 65 years of law enforcement tradition in the Spring City dating back to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Officers tasked with patrolling neighborhoods throughout Kunming have typically never carried firearms, although they could be temporarily issued weapons in emergency situations. In many cases, detectives were allowed to carry guns on a daily basis but not regular beat cops. That is now changing, but officers must first undergo additional training stressing "combat tactics" as well as under what conditions they have the legal right to discharge their weapons.
An interview published on the official Kunming Public Security Bureau WeChat account states that there are a total of 15 instances when any armed police officer in China can fire a weapon. Most of these involve large scale threats to public security involving the use of "guns, hazardous or toxic chemicals or explosives". However, more common crimes, such as armed robbery, arson, homicide, and "mob" fights have also been deemed viable situations for gun use by police, provided they issue verbal warnings in advance. Officers handling guns must meet national certification standards and receive 16 hours of instruction per year before being licensed for a weapon.
The gun in question is called the "05 Chinese Police Revolver" and has been issued to an increasing number of police departments across the country. The sidearm is intentionally unique to China, firing nine-millimeter bullets from a revolver setup instead of from a clip. According to a lengthy Wall Street Journal write-up:
Named for the year it was developed, the police revolver[,] with a length of 186 millimeters and weight of 650 grams[,] is designed to fire 9-millimeter-caliber ammunition, of both the rubber and regular varieties. Sometimes fitted with a wooden grip, the six-shooter is accurate up to 25 meters and is considered simple to operate, reliable and durable.
In addition to having a limited six-shot capacity, the revolvers each have their own identification number and are only assigned to one person. When on duty, police officers are required to clip guns to their belts via an extendable cord. They are also required to check firearms in and out at police stations at the beginning and end of each work day.
Kunming is the most recent city in China to announce it will issue sidearms to members of its public security apparatus. The move comes following a nationwide edict allowing police to be armed that was issued by Beijing in April 2014. The change in law enforcement policy is directly linked to rising concern over public security across the country following mass attacks at train stations.
The first of these was a shocking knife rampage in Kunming in early March that left 29 civilians dead and 130 injured. More recently, in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, another coordinated attack involving an apparent suicide bomber was carried out, killing one bystander. The national policy allowing police to carry guns was put to the test almost immediately when police opened fire at the Guangzhou Railway Station after at least two men began indiscriminately stabbing travelers on the morning of May 6.
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