Japan has almost completely eliminated gun deaths - here's how



Gun control discussions crop up every time there is a national shooting, the most recent of which being the October 1st mass shooting in Las Vegas, in which a gunman, perched in his hotel room, began shooting at an outdoor concert, killing at least 59 people and injuring 527.

One of the biggest questions: How does the US prevent this from happening over and over again?

Although the US has no exact counterpart elsewhere in the world, some countries have taken steps that can provide a window into what successful gun control looks like. Japan, a country of 127 million people and yearly gun deaths rarely totaling higher than 10, is one such country.

"Ever since guns entered the country, Japan has always had strict gun laws," Iain Overton, executive director of Action on Armed Violence, a British advocacy group, told the BBC. "They are the first nation to impose gun laws in the whole world, and I think it laid down a bedrock saying that guns really don't play a part in civilian society."

Regulations upon regulations

Japan's success in curbing gun deaths is intimately linked with its history. Following World War II, pacifism emerged as one of the dominant philosophies in the country. Police only started carrying firearms after American troops made them, in 1946, for the sake of security. It's also written into Japanese law, as of 1958, that "no person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords."

Government has since loosened the law, but the fact Japan enacted gun control from the stance of prohibition is important. (It's also one of the main factors separating Japan from the US, where the Second Amendment broadly permits people to own guns.)

If Japanese people want to own a gun, they must attend an all-day class, pass a written test, and achieve at least 95% accuracy during a shooting-range test. Then they have to pass a mental-health evaluation, which takes place at a hospital, and pass a background check, in which the government digs into their criminal record and interviews friends and family. They can only buy shotguns and air rifles - no handguns - and every three years they must retake the class and initial exam.

(Even Japanese riot police infrequently turn to guns, instead preferring long batons.Toru Hanai/Reuters)
Japan has also embraced the idea that fewer guns in circulation will result in fewer deaths. Each prefecture - which ranges in size from half a million people to 12 million, in Tokyo - can operate a maximum of three gun shops; new magazines can only be purchased by trading in empty ones; and when gun owners die, their relatives must surrender the deceased member's firearms.

A culture of trust

The result is a situation where citizens and police seldom wield or use guns.

Off-duty police aren't allowed to carry firearms, and most encounters with suspects involve some combination of martial arts or striking weapons. When Japanese attacks do turn deadly, they generally involve fatal stabbings. In July of 2016, an assailant killed 19 people in an assisted living facility. Japan rarely sees so many fatalities from guns in an entire year.

Gun control in Japan, combined with the prevailing respect for authority, has led to a more harmonious relationship between civilians and the police than in the US. It's something of a chicken-egg problem: The police, in choosing to use sub-lethal force on people, generate less widespread fear among the public that they'll be shot. In turn, people feel less of a need to arm themselves.

The US, meanwhile, has a more militarized police force that uses automatic weapons and armored cars. There is also less widespread trust between people (and between people and institutions). The factors combine to produce a much fearful culture that can seem to be always on-edge.

Japan's approach would be a tough sell in the face of American gun culture, but it can provide a starting point for reining in the senseless violence that has become a hallmark of life in the US.

NOW WATCH: The iPhone now has a built-in document scanner - here's how to use it


More Related News

'Nowhere to hide': North Korean missiles spur anxiety in Japan fishing town
  • World
  • 2017-10-19 06:34:26Z

By Malcolm Foster ERIMO, Japan (Reuters) - Ever since North Korea lobbed two missiles far above this windswept fishing town on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, seaweed farmer Mitsuyo Kawamura says she's been on edge. "Now when I hear a loud sound, I look outside, I look out at the

USA and Japan
USA and Japan's giant robot battle was a slow, brilliant mess

The oft-delayed giant robot fight has finally taken place.

Asia stocks mixed, Nikkei cheered by likely ruling party win
Asia stocks mixed, Nikkei cheered by likely ruling party win

TOKYO (AP) - Asian shares were mixed on Wednesday, as some indexes got a boost from overnight gains on Wall Street. Japan's benchmark held steady as expectations grew that a likely ruling party win in Sunday's Japanese parliamentary elections will help stability and growth. The Shanghai Composite

Underdog center-left party may outperform expectations in Japan snap poll
Underdog center-left party may outperform expectations in Japan snap poll
  • World
  • 2017-10-18 03:50:42Z

By Linda Sieg TOKYO (Reuters) - A new center-left party pledging to bring "bottom up" democracy to Japan may prove the surprise success story of an election on Sunday, although the party is forecast to win a mere sliver of seats compared to Prime Minister Shinto Abe's ruling bloc. Abe

US, Japan agree to maximize diplomatic pressure on N. Korea
US, Japan agree to maximize diplomatic pressure on N. Korea

TOKYO (AP) - U.S. and Japanese diplomats agreed Tuesday to maximize pressure on North Korea to resolve tensions over its nuclear program, while citing the need to be prepared for the worst if diplomacy fails.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Economy

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.