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How Japan Has Almost Eradicated Gun Crime

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How Japan Has Almost Eradicated Gun Crime
Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?

BBC News
Harry Low
Pocket Worthy
Pocket Worthy·Stories to fuel your mind.


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Shotguns and air rifles are the only firearms you can legally buy in Japan. Photo by Ronald Grant.
If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95 percent.
There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too - and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.
That's not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.
The law restricts the number of gun shops. In most of Japan's 40 or so prefectures there can be no more than three, and you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.

Police must be notified where the gun and the ammunition are stored - and they must be stored separately under lock and key. Police will also inspect guns once a year. And after three years your licence runs out, at which point you have to attend the course and pass the tests again.
This helps explain why mass shootings in Japan are extremely rare. When mass killings occur, the killer most often wields a knife.
My Perfect Country
In a world where a lot is going wrong there is also a lot going right. So what if you could build a country with policies that actually worked, by homing in ideas around the world that have been truly successful?
The current gun control law was introduced in 1958, but the idea behind the policy dates back centuries.
"Ever since guns entered the country, Japan has always had strict gun laws," says Iain Overton, executive director of Action on Armed Violence and the author of Gun Baby Gun.
"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."
People were being rewarded for giving up firearms as far back as 1685, a policy Overton describes as "perhaps the first ever gun buyback initiative."
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The result is a very low level of gun ownership - 0.6 guns per 100 people in 2007, according to the Small Arms Survey, compared to 6.2 in England and Wales and 88.8 in the US.
"The moment you have guns in society, you will have gun violence but I think it's about the quantity," says Overton. "If you have very few guns in society, you will almost inevitably have low levels of violence."
Japanese police officers rarely use guns and put much greater emphasis on martial arts - all are expected to become a black belt in judo. They spend more time practising kendo (fighting with bamboo swords) than learning how to use firearms.
"The response to violence is never violence, it's always to de-escalate it. Only six shots were fired by Japanese police nationwide [in 2015]," says journalist Anthony Berteaux. "What most Japanese police will do is get huge futons and essentially roll up a person who is being violent or drunk into a little burrito and carry them back to the station to calm them down."
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Japanese police practise martial arts every week and avoid using weapons whenever they can.
Overton contrasts this with the American model, which he says has been "to militarise the police."
"If you have too many police pulling out guns at the first instance of crime, you lead to a miniature arms race between police and criminals," he says.
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To underline the taboo attached to inappropriate use of weapons, an officer who used his gun to kill himself was charged posthumously with a criminal offence. He carried out the act while on duty - policemen never carry weapons off-duty, leaving them at the station when they finish their shift.
The care police take with firearms is mirrored in the self-defence forces.
Journalist Jake Adelstein once attended a shooting practice, which ended with the gathering up of the bullet casings - and there was great concern when one turned out to be missing.
"One bullet shell was unaccounted for - one shell had fallen behind one of the targets - and nobody was allowed to leave the facilities until they found the shell," he says.
There is no clamour in Japan for gun regulations to be relaxed, says Berteaux. "A lot of it stems from this post-war sentiment of pacifism that the war was horrible and we can never have that again," he explains.
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There are a limited number of longstanding rifle owners in Japan - when they die their heirs must hand the rifles in. Photo from Reuters.
"People assume that peace is always going to exist and when you have a culture like that you don't really feel the need to arm yourself or have an object that disrupts that peace."
In fact, moves to expand the role of Japan's self-defence forces in foreign peacekeeping operations have caused concern in some quarters.
"It is unknown territory," says political science professor Koichi Nakano. "Maybe the government will try to normalise occasional death in the self-defence force and perhaps even try to glorify the exercise of weapons?"
According to Iain Overton, the "almost taboo level of rejection" of guns in Japan means that the country is "edging towards a perfect place" - though he points out that Iceland also achieves a very low rate of gun crime, despite a much higher level of gun ownership.
Henrietta Moore of the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London applauds the Japanese for not viewing gun ownership as "a civil liberty", and rejecting the idea of firearms as "something you use to defend your property against others."
But for Japanese gangsters the tight gun control laws are a problem. Yakuza gun crime has sharply declined in the last 15 years, but those who continue to carry firearms have to find ingenious ways of smuggling them into the country.
"The criminals pack the guns inside of a tuna so it looks like a frozen tuna," says retired police officer Tahei Ogawa. "But we have discovered cases where they have actually hidden a gun inside."
 

thomas

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Thanks for sharing this article. It's quite reassuring to know that it's highly unlikely to be shot in Japan. And I'm curious what's the current rate for a black market gun.
 

Mark of Zorro

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Japan is a great example of punishing the innocent to ensure you got all the guilty. Very strange for a country that suffered atomic bombings of innocent civilians for anyone with high enough logic functions to see the disparity.

On the other hand, America is a great example of how polarization creates utter insanity. I am in the middle about guns, but when I talk to Americans of either side they both think I must be the enemy. I am both pro-guns and pro-gun control but today's American generally cannot even begin to understand how that is possible. They think its nonsense and I am either crazy or trolling. Most today think gun control is the same as a total gun ban, which is nonsense of course. But my ideas of gun control are VERY different from what is being proposed by American politicians who don't seem to know the first thing about guns or why we have the 2nd amendment.

Anyway, I totally resent the government of Japan preventing me from owning firearms and even certain knives with their ridiculously strict regulations I could not hope to over-come. I like safety as much as any other person but not to the point my rights are not safe and I will be totally screwed in a disaster or emergency situation.
 
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musicisgood

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I got my first 22 rifle at the age of 12. Went hunting with it. I'm all for guns, for hunting and protection. If the bad guys got one, that means I should have one. Simple survival thinking. Japan survives on the thought that everyone is nice. Am I right on this, so far if that is the case, I've got to agree with them.
Do wish I had a friend with a shotgun, love to go wild boar hunting here.
 

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I started shooting in 1955 with my cousin's Red Ryder BB gun. Hunting and shooting was part of my life growing up , my father made sure of that. Over the years , I would say I've owned about 100 different guns. Right now I'm down to just 13 in my collection. Even in my time as a policeman , I never had to shoot anyone. I got my first permit to carry a concealed firearm in 1974 and I renew it every 4 years. I usually always have 1 gun and most often 2 guns on my person when I leave my home. Gun crime in Maine is rare. If there is a shooting it almost always is a domestic (husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend). Once in a while a drug dealer from out of state comes here and a drug deal goes bad , but again a rare occurrence. I think of a gun as just another tool , that depending on the person who uses it , can be used for good or evil. Guns have been part of American culture and history and even protected under our constitution. I think they guess that there are over 300 million guns owned here in the US , but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot more. It seems in countries where guns are restricted , often knives are used for evil. Bombs and vehicles also can be used. America does seem to be headed down the road to being gun free some day. Young people are not hunting and shooting and learning about guns now. Often their parents don't want them to even know guns exist or that they are evil. I hope in my lifetime left , I can still enjoy target shooting.
 

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Japan survives on the thought that everyone is nice.
Sorry but I think you're off the mark there. The very low trust levels that Japanese people have of others and institutions in their country according to international surveys suggest that Japanese people emphatically do NOT think that everyone is nice. Japan survives by having an extremely elaborate set of social customs that are designed to avoid conflict unless it is a last resort, coupled with ostracism for the miscreants. That's not necessarily a criticism- every system has its advantages and disadvantages - nor am I saying that Japanese are not nice, but I think it's much closer to the actual situation.
 

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In my country guns aren't prohibited but strictly regulated. Private gun ownership is rare and usually restricted to hunters. It is almost impossible to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm which is limited to police and, in rare cases, to private investigators and security services. I have known only one person who owned a handgun and seeing him carry it felt rather peculiar and out of place. The first time I ever touched a gun was in the army when I was assigned to clean and lubricate our colonel's Glock 9mm. We later learned how to handle the Steyr AUG, and I have to admit that target practice was exciting. However, having seen the destructive force of guns and automatic weapons first-hand I find it hard to view them as mere tools.

While I do understand that guns are protected under the U.S. constitution and an intrinsic part of American culture, Americans also need to realise that this is absolutely not the case in many other nations. In most European countries, except perhaps for Switzerland, private gun ownership is frowned upon to almost the same extent as in Japan. Most people welcome strict gun laws and the relative safety they entail. I apologise if this sounds offensive, but I hope that our American friends understand that the notion of any correlation between the right to bear arms and the concept of freedom appears utterly absurd to a majority of Japanese and Europeans.

Interesting read:

 

Mark of Zorro

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I apologise if this sounds offensive, but I hope that our American friends understand that the notion of any correlation between the right to bear arms and the concept of freedom appears utterly absurd to a majority of Japanese and Europeans.

Not offensive. But I will also apologize if this sounds offensive...I hope that our non-American friends will study history a little more. Weapons and freedom go hand in hand because eventually, the crap WILL hit the fan. Even in very modern times, the Cubans, Vietnamese and Afghanis can attest to the fact that guns can save you from tyranny, even from U.S. government tyranny. And one of these days, American citizens are going to need their guns against their own government, just as others have. I cannot say they will win, but at least freedom will have a chance.

For other examples you might want to study the Bundy stand off vs. the Standing Rock protests, both very recent. One of the Bundy protestors was murdered by police, but otherwise, they won. Standing Rock lost and I think one woman lost an arm.
 

Mark of Zorro

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Young people are not hunting and shooting and learning about guns now.


That's all true, but its that last point that is really killing us....young people are not learning about guns (properly). Even worse, American society is breaking down as it seems Americans think American ways are in the DNA and totally shirking their responsibility to raise their kids to be socially active and responsible via the method that counts most...BY EXAMPLE.

Most American gunners are now blaming mental illness for American gun problems, even as they are as guilty as the anti-gunners at promoting an irresponsible society that literally raises youngsters to be mentally ill and even as those same conservative pro-gunners constantly rail against social healthcare which includes mental health care obviously.
 

Mark of Zorro

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The problem with the "guns don't preserve freedom" article above is that it correlates freedom with democracy. There is no democracy on the Earth at the moment! What there are are representative democracies. But guess what? If that is not what the people want and they actually have what they want, whether a monarchy or theocracy, well guess what? That's FREEDOM! You cannot really quantify freedom and put it in a statistical chart. I cannot tell you which today's Iranian would choose, whether the oppressive Ayatollah or the oppressive Shah, but regardless, its not like they realistically have a third choice except by shooting their way into it, is it? Even America has already reached the point the only way its going to have real freedom is with a gun battle.
 

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Japan has the lowest crime rate in the world anyway. Guns don't kill, people do.
 

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Not offensive. But I will also apologize if this sounds offensive... I hope that our non-American friends will study history a little more. Weapons and freedom go hand in hand because eventually, the crap WILL hit the fan. Even in very modern times, the Cubans, Vietnamese and Afghanis can attest to the fact that guns can save you from tyranny, even from U.S. government tyranny. And one of these days, American citizens are going to need their guns against their own government, just as others have. I cannot say they will win, but at least freedom will have a chance.

I really cannot comment on the U.S. government, however, I can see one crucial difference across the pond: Europeans have trust in their state and their institutions (but not necessarily in their politicians). This attitude can probably be traced back to the paternalistic central states of the 19th century and the postwar welfare states that took good care of their citizens, thereby fostering a sentiment of social and political stability. That sentiment, well-grounded or not, still prevails to this day and might be one explanation why Europeans don't see the need to stay armed to their teeth and to organise in "militias".
 

yamcha

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What you say sounds like Stockholm Syndrome to me.

The right to bear arms and form a militia is crucial to freedom. All counties including North Korea has a constitution that allows its citizens to free speech, vote, and protest but only America gives her citizens the power to protect their rights. Not only should we be allowed handguns but according to our 2nd amendment, we should be allowed to have any kind of weapon we want. including anything that the military has. We also should have no law telling us to have to register anything.

Europeans and Canadians do not understand what free speech is. You can be jailed in Europe for even questioning the holocaust, I hear.
 

Mark of Zorro

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That sentiment, well-grounded or not, still prevails to this day and might be one explanation why Europeans don't see the need to stay armed to their teeth and to organise in "militias".

If history is any guide, I bet Europe will pay dearly...again. Remember both World Wars started there, and that after a grand old long peace where the people got complacent.

however, I can see one crucial difference across the pond: Europeans have trust in their state and their institutions (but not necessarily in their politicians)

So very many Americans are the same though. And its hard to tell if its trolls, bots or real people, but the number of upvotes on the Japan Today website for pro-Trump rhetoric is truly disconcerting. WWIII might just start in the U.S. My hope is that a United Europe takes the U.S. government down.
 

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So you would rather have Hillary Clinton?

I don't know about WW3 but I do think there might be another civil war in America. There is enough civil unrest now to spurt it. Why would Europe take down American when it can't even handle its own immigration problems and England is no longer a part of their crappy union? Anti-Semitic sentiment is growing stronger in America and the rest of the world according to the news. White and Japanese nationalism is also on the rise too according to the news.
 

thomas

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I want to remind everyone to stay on topic!

I believe we have an old thread about American politics that was started on the occasion of Mr Trump’s election. Please continue there. This thread, however, focuses on gun control in Japan and other countries.
 

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America is so split now between liberals and conservatives , a revolution could start with small groups in certain areas. As for a nationwide revolution , I think it would take the military and law enforcement to start gun confiscation which I don't believe will happen. They all swear to uphold the constitution and I believe they will. I think when Trump gets re-elected , which looks like a sure thing if the economy stays strong , he will appoint at least one and maybe two more strong conservative judges to the Supreme Court. Then all the liberal laws that states have passed will be overturned and revolution avoided. With half a billion guns out there (my guesstimate ) and all the ammo to go with them , lets hope things don't go off the deep end. As for WWIII , I believe it will start with China. They have billions to spend on building their military/Navy/Airforce and are opening bases around the world. It may take a few years , but they want to become the number one super power in the world and have the money to do it.
 

yamcha

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While I do understand that guns are protected under the U.S. constitution and an intrinsic part of American culture, Americans also need to realise that this is absolutely not the case in many other nations. In most European countries, except perhaps for Switzerland, private gun ownership is frowned upon to almost the same extent as in Japan. Most people welcome strict gun laws and the relative safety they entail. I apologise if this sounds offensive, but I hope that our American friends understand that the notion of any correlation between the right to bear arms and the concept of freedom appears utterly absurd to a majority of Japanese and Europeans.


I really cannot comment on the U.S. government, however, I can see one crucial difference across the pond: Europeans have trust in their state and their institutions (but not necessarily in their politicians). This attitude can probably be traced back to the paternalistic central states of the 19th century and the postwar welfare states that took good care of their citizens, thereby fostering a sentiment of social and political stability. That sentiment, well-grounded or not, still prevails to this day and might be one explanation why Europeans don't see the need to stay armed to their teeth and to organise in "militias".


You are the guy who got off-topic first so take your own advice and go to the American Politics thread.
 

yamcha

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America is so split now between liberals and conservatives , a revolution could start with small groups in certain areas. As for a nationwide revolution , I think it would take the military and law enforcement to start gun confiscation which I don't believe will happen. They all swear to uphold the constitution and I believe they will. I think when Trump gets re-elected , which looks like a sure thing if the economy stays strong , he will appoint at least one and maybe two more strong conservative judges to the Supreme Court. Then all the liberal laws that states have passed will be overturned and revolution avoided. With half a billion guns out there (my guesstimate ) and all the ammo to go with them , lets hope things don't go off the deep end. As for WWIII , I believe it will start with China. They have billions to spend on building their military/Navy/Airforce and are opening bases around the world. It may take a few years , but they want to become the number one super power in the world and have the money to do it.

Warfare isn't like how it was during the first two great wars. Why do you think China will start it and why?

There cannot really be a revolt in America unless the citizens can possess the same weapons and technology the military now has. What are handguns and assault rifles going to do against bombs, tanks, subs and aircraft carriers, right?

As for Trump, I don't think we have seen anything yet. As you know, the first term is all about securing the second term even though Trump has accomplished a huge amount during his first term already. I believe that during his second term we will really see some fireworks.
 

thomas

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You are the guy who got off-topic first so take your own advice and go to the American Politics thread.


My answer relates to gun control and explains why Europeans trust their institutions. But thank you for telling me how to run the forum.
 

Mark of Zorro

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They all swear to uphold the constitution and I believe they will.

Fascinating in the face of how they haven't been and are proven time and time again to not give a rat's *** about significant portions of the Constitution, in particular our right to keep and bear arms, even in open carry states. Tons of examples of police repeatedly harassing even the same individual for open carry over days and weeks.

And Trump? He would order goons to go take your guns away the second a neighbor called in a bogus complaint about you.

The only reason American cops won't rush in and grab your guns generally is because they are constantly "in fear of their lives" as if we hired them to protect THEMSELVES. And THAT is reason number one why Americans are going to have lots of guns for a long, long time to come no matter what gun control or gun ban or Constitutional reform the U.S. government may introduce. The only way U.S. cops are going to confiscate guns is to ambush gun owners at 3 a.m. with flash bangs and shoot them in bed first and take the guns later.

Reason number two will be, of course, the addiction half of male Americans have to guns. Oh I wish it was reverence for the Constitution and a desire to keep the U.S. government in check, but I know better. That sort of high mindedness is rare as emeralds, and maybe not just in America either.
 
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yamcha

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People just don't understand that an armed society is a safer society. Thanks for the link, I need to pass it on.

99.9% of gun crime in America is racially motivated (black on black, brown on brown, etc.) and the guns they use are unregistered and illegal. (Look it up for you who don't know.)

The average registered gun owner almost never fires his gun outside of the gun range besides when he uses it to protect himself or to stop a crime and this is almost never shown on TV. The registered gun owner also knows well how to secure his guns from children and burglars and always transports his guns and ammo separately.

Here is a great video:

 

Mark of Zorro

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People just don't understand that an armed society is a safer society.


I agree as far as the government vs. the people goes when we are talking long periods of time.

But I think you should not equate safety with lack of crime. Safety is about A LOT more than just crime. There are also accidents and suicides (which I refuse to label as a crime), cases of mistaken identity or intent, etc.

In fact I believe that with training and rigor, an armed society can be extremely safe and Canada shows that, even if Canada is not my prescribed methodology. However, America proves that an armed society is a dangerous society when its just willy-nilly about the whole thing. So does Somalia.

And even if schools shootings account for a minority of gun deaths, you cannot just overlook them. We don't care much when gang members kill each other with no innocent casualties, but when teenagers murder their classmates (gun being weapon of choice) its deeply disturbing and traumatic, even for children and teens not even going to that school. Where else is that happening in the world in such numbers?
 

yamcha

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I didn't know Canada was an armed society. Somalia and the most likely the rest of Africa is a pretty different deal and probably still has a long way to go before they can be compared to the West or the Far East in terms of economics, infrastructure, and gun legislation.
 
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