It is not difficult to buy a gun in Vietnam, even though civilians are totally banned from owning them.
Prices range widely, from VND400,000 (US$18) to tens of millions of dong (VND10 million equals $455).
They are mainly air guns illegally imported through the land borders with China, Laos and Cambodia.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters have witnessed several deals between sellers and buyers in Ho Chi Minh City recently.
On August 13, a man named Nghia received an order for an air gun via a phone call, and he offered, “Now I have one at VND8 million [$364].
“This shoots metal balls that are 4.5mm in size.
“If you need a cheaper one, I have an air gun using plastic balls, at VND400,000 each.”
Nghia explained that the cheaper one is weaker in firing force and is only for shooting lizards for entertainment.
A good one with strong assaulting power is priced at at least VND8 million, he added. That price includes hundreds of metal balls and five CO2 tubes to power the gun.
Each tube of CO2 is sufficient to fire 40 balls.
Nghia also confirmed that he would visit the address of the buyer to offer and test his ‘product.’
In the afternoon of the day, Nghia arrived at the address of a buyer named An and drove him to an apartment building on Ma Lo Street, Binh Tan District.
He guided An to a restroom on the ground floor of the apartment building and showed him an air gun.
Nghia charged the CO2 tube into the gun stock, put a soft drink can three meters away from him, and fired twice.
The Tuoi Tre reporters did a brief research and learned that the manufacturing price of the air gun is no more than VND3 million ($136).
Nghia also displayed another air gun which he said is much better, imported from Turkey and priced at VND23 million ($1,045).
He said that many people who are doorkeepers in the northern city of Hai Phong have bought the Turkish guns.
“The one from Turkey is small and uses plastic balls like that used by policemen,” Nghia said.
Another man named Dung in District 8 offered to sell a metal pistol for VND4.5 million ($205).
It can fire plastic, metal or glass balls and can pierce thick glass, he said.
Besides guns, Dung said he has other kinds of weapons such as electric rods and swords.
There are many people who sell antipersonnel weapons, and the Tuoi Tre reporters know how to contact at least two of them.
According to Vietnamese laws, individuals who own a gun can be punished with up to five years in jail and a pecuniary penalty of VND40 million ($1,800).
Dr. Tran Ngoc Duc, from the Vietnam People’s Police University, said the penalty for owning guns is still not heavy enough, and suggested that Vietnam should have more regulations to define different categories and the firing power of various guns.