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Chinese Teen Sentenced to Life in Prison for Buying Toy Gun Replicas Online

When 18-year-old Liu Dawei ordered 24 toy gun replicas from a Taiwanese website, in July 2014, he never imagined the purchase would soon land him in prison for the rest of his life.

Liu never even got the fake firearms he paid 30,540 RMB ($4,600) for, as his mail order was held at customs. Instead, police soon arrived at the front door of his home in Quanzhou city and arrested him for arms trafficking. According to the official police statement, they had intercepted his package and found that 20 of the 24 gun replicas were actually real guns. That sounds like a perfectly good explanation for the boy’s arrest, but only until you learn about what qualifies as a real gun in China.

Chinese law classifies any weapon with a barrel that can fire an object at 1.8 j/cm2 as a real gun. During Liu Dawei’s trial, his lawyer argued that that is roughly the speed at which he could throw a handful of beans at someone’s face, and that the country’s current definition of an actual firearm simply makes no sense. Liu himself claimed that he had no idea that he would be breaking the law when he ordered the replicas, and that he thought he was merely buying a bunch of toys.

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