Civil Liberties

When Guns Are Outlawed, Cambodia Will Be Tits-Deep in Guns


Steve Lee/YouTube

Four hundred homemade guns, 24 crossbows, and 360 "electro-fishing" kits were put to the torch on Tuesday by police in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province, reports The Phnom Penh Post. The weapons were mostly voluntarily turned over for destruction as part of "efforts to reduce crimes such as robbery, illegal hunting and illegal fishing," according to the local top cop. That's pretty interesting, considering that civilian ownership of firearms has been illegal in Cambodia since 1999. Apparently, the memo is taking a while to make the rounds.

Then again, maybe the memo did make the rounds, and is being used as wadding in hand-loaded shotgun shells. When Rachel Louis Snyder checked out Cambodia's illicit gun markets for Slate in 2004, she found that the 1999 law had successfully driven the price of an AK-47 from $40 to $100—with ready supplies available via back-door deals from the army.

But Steve Lee's experience is probably more closely relatable to that story from The Phnom Penh Post. In 2013, the Australian fancier of things that go "BANG" paid an enterprising Cambodian hunter for an opportunity to pop off a couple of shots from a hand-crafted muzzleloader. "Came across this guy near the Cambodian/Thailand boarder where guns are completely illegal. I decided to do a review on his home made rifle," he wrote. "It shows that even with total gun control, people will still get firearms even if they have to make them themselves." (He's since been back for more illicit firearms fun.)

I've actually shot scarier looking experimental weapons, though I don't recommend the experience.

With a thriving black market and a creative local gun industry, I'm going to make a wild guess that the bonfire in Banteay Meanchey wasn't the end of the story, and that nobody who wants to be armed was feeling terribly deprived afterwards. Which is, of course, completely predictable, and pretty much what you'd expect looking at the history of firearms regulations everywhere.