“It was in the '80s that the government told us to hand in our guns for safekeeping, and we never got them back.” This quote from an indigenous Taiwanese man named Talum Suqluman sets the scene for the story of how Taiwan's native population has nearly lost its ability to legally use firearms to hunt. A film crew from VICE News helped tell the story of how Suqluman was arrested and sentenced to prison after using a factory-made hunting rifle to shoot animals for food.
In Taiwan, civilian gun ownership is almost entirely banned, with the only exception being homemade guns for members of the island's native tribes. However, there's a catch: these weapons cannot be mass-produced or bought from stores. They must be hand-built by each individual hunter, and can only be used by their creator.
“Eventually, [the government] told us we had to make our own guns. We don't really have the proper equipment, so we use whatever metal and welding equipment we can find,” Suqluman tells the film crew. Unsurprisingly, this leads to many preventable injuries. “Instead of shooting animals, we ourselves get shot. Either the barrel bursts or the bullets are discharged accidentally.” Since ammunition isn't readily-available for the homemade guns, many Taiwanese backyard gunsmiths have resorted to using improvised ammo. One hunter showed off his muzzle-loader, which fires a 10mm steel ball bearing propelled by a nail gun cartridge.
There appears to be a growing movement to restore hunting rights and legalize factory-built rifles in Taiwan. This movement is motivated by hunter safety, conservation, and the preservation of cultural heritage.
Check out the 40-minute VICE documentary below: