As we’ve noted while covering the protests in Hong Kong, where demonstrators have picked up bows and arrows for self-defense, China’s laws regarding gun ownership make California look like Texas. Civilian gun ownership is banned in the communist-controlled country, but when Chinese students head to the United States for college, it appears that many of them want to take advantage of the Second Amendment freedoms we enjoy here.
Oxford, Ohio is home to Miami University, and there are plenty of international students on campus who’ve discovered the local range. Mayday Gun Range opened in March of last year, and as the Oxford Observer reports, the owner wasn’t expecting students would make up a much of the range’s clientele.
“We were shocked, to say the least,” at the range’s popularity among the Chinese students, said Jeff Day, owner of Mayday. Day is a lifelong Oxford resident and respected firearms instructor around southern Ohio. “We haven’t quite hit the wider student market yet, but the Chinese students have loved coming here almost since the beginning,” Day said.
Leonard Chen, a Miami junior, said he remembers how nervous he was when he first tried shooting at Mayday last winter. Today, Chen has sampled almost every gun Mayday has to offer.
“I was scared first. Now that I have learned, my friends and I go often. We want to be as good as John Wick,” said Chen, referring to the movie anti-hero who never seems to miss.
One of the challenges, according to Day, was making sure that the Chinese students could understand and follow range safety rules. Some of the international students may have better proficiency in English than others, but the owner wanted to ensure that nobody would be turned away because of a language barrier.
“Our priority here is education,” Day said. “If you own a gun range and education isn’t your main focus, you’re being irresponsible.”
Thus, Day’s daughter, Moriah—a manager at the range, along with one of the regular Chinese customers, who has since graduated and returned home, collaborated to translate the range’s rules and other firearm regulations.
Moriah Day also helped provide an understanding of the American vernacular associated with firearms. “One of the most common phrases we hear from a new Chinese customer is ‘I want to play guns’,” she said. “It was important to clarify that the word ‘play’ takes away from the seriousness behind handling something that could potentially be dangerous to themselves and others,” she said.
Now the gun safety rules aren’t just available in English, but in Cantonese and Mandarin as well. Plus, Jeff Day says the range is now drawing interest from visitors from China who aren’t even attending classes at the local university.
Another surprise for Jeff Day came in the form of one of Miami’s Chinese interpreters asking if he would accommodate a group of Chinese high schoolers looking to attend college in the states. The students were going to several major US cities sightseeing and touring colleges, and while checking out Miami, they wanted a side trip to the range.
“These kids were going on tours of New York, Chicago and Cincinnati to see what American cities were like and one of their stops just happened to be right here,” said Day. “There was even a Chinese diving team that was in the states for a tournament nearby and they stopped by to shoot for a while too,” he added.
Back in the waning days of the Cold War, I was a teenager who fervently believed that Ronald Reagan, rock and roll, and Levi’s jeans all played a role in bringing down Soviet communism. Youth living behind the Iron Curtain looked to the West with envy, and for those who burned to escape the yoke of authoritarian rule, it was the personal freedoms as well as the West’s prosperity that they wanted for themselves.
I see that same desire in the stories of these students; banned from possessing a gun at home and embracing what freedom they have here in the United States. The local paper didn’t ask, and I don’t know if these gun-loving students would have felt comfortable speaking on the record, but I would love to know what they think about their fellow students in Hong Kong defending themselves with bows, arrows, laser pointers, and umbrellas from government oppression. Does seeing the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy forces make them thankful that they’re at school in the United States? Has being able to go to a gun range and learn how to safely and responsibly use a firearm changed their views in any way of a government that doesn’t trust its people with the right to keep and bear arms? Or is this just a fun way to spend some time before returning to a country that demands its residents be disarmed so that they might remain under the thumb of the ruling Communist leaders?
I’d like to think that, just as smuggled rock albums and black market blue jeans changed the lives of young people living behind the Iron Curtain, these students have been changed by the freedoms and liberties they’ve experienced here in the United States. Once you’ve experienced, even to a limited extent, our right to keep and bear arms, can you really be satisfied living under a regime that requires an unarmed and subjugated people?