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In gun-taboo China, tourism to U.S. firing ranges grows

BEIJING – Dickson Wong, a marksman with a deep interest in firearms, arranges tours for groups of other Chinese gun enthusiasts to travel to DeSoto County, Fla., so they can shoot at firing ranges.

That’s a long way to travel for target practice, but its exceedingly difficult to do that here in China where the restrictions on firearms are so severe that even possession of air rifles or toy guns can land you in jail for years.

“It’s a place Chinese can go to experience real gun culture,” Wong, 38, said. “It’s impossible to shoot here.”

Wong estimates tens of thousands of wealthy Chinese now travel to the U.S. every year to shoot, and aims to capture some of that demand when he opens his own state-of-the-art gun club in 2019.

He hopes to draw 5,000 Chinese tourists a year to his club with luxury accommodations and Chinese-speaking instructors. A promotional video for the club highlights sumptuous steaks, open-air firing ranges and a wide selection of weapons.

Gun tourism already is a growing business in the U.S. because of lax laws regulating firearms compared to other countries. For example, Honolulu attracts target shooters from Japan, which has stringent gun-control regulations, and Las Vegas has many firing ranges available for domestic and foreign visitors.

Wong has the closest thing to a gun shop in Beijing. It has camouflage gear, holsters and T-shirts quoting the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment – which guarantees the right to bear arms. What’s missing from the shop are the arms, which are illegal to manufacture or sell in China for private use.

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