Guns are banned in China, but authorities are struggling to stamp out a black market for them that spans from the country’s poor rural inland to its booming coast.

China Daily, in a story on Wednesday about the gun trade in the remote area where Hunan province borders Guizhou province and Chongqing, said the region’s underground gunsmiths and their homemade firearms flow mainly from Songtao, an autonomous Guizhou county.

Reports of gun crimes, such as a shooting in Shanghai last year that left two people wounded, have become more common in China in recent years. Guns are still relatively rare, especially compared to places like the U.S. and Mexico, but there are holes in the government’s blanket ban.

Until 2006, the area around Songtao produced illegal firearms that were often trafficked to coastal cities, China Daily said, citing a Chongqing police official.

But the region has continued to produce arms since then. Officials last year were assigned to lead seizure operations in Songtao towns, and a surveillance network soon covered all hostels, hardware stores, metal recovery units and electrical welding companies, the report said, citing county police. But the arms trade still persists in five of the county’s 11 problem towns, it said.

The report also told how a purported arms dealer, whose phone number was written on a wall beside other gun ads in a Hunan town, offered to sell a reporter a semi-automatic Type 64 pistol for 2,200 yuan ($324). “It comes with a silencer and five free bullets,” the man was quoted as saying.

Middle-man fees can bring the sale price of a handmade Type 64 pistol to more than 10,000 yuan in places like the southern city of Shenzhen, China Daily said.

Government numbers in the past have suggested there is also a flourishing online gun trade in China.

Source: Owen Fletcher for the Wall Street Journal.

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