It’s Really Hard To Buy A Gun In Japan

As the U.S. deals with the aftermath of a deadly and horrifically tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, the discussion of stricter gun control laws often yields Japan, one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to gun-related violence, as an example of successful gun control laws. In 2014, the U.S. saw 33,599 gun deaths compared to only six in Japan, reports the BBC, and OECD data ranking Japan second only to Iceland in terms of gun deaths, with the U.S. topping the list (out of 34 countries).

Of course, raw statistics are not the only thing to consider in this. More nuanced discussions about gun control laws reflect not only on the legal aspects of acquiring and owning a gun, but cultural as well. While it's a fairly objective statement to say that the United States and Japan have distinctly different cultural and historical lenses with which they view firearms, there is something to be said about the vastly different process behind not just purchasing a gun, but keeping one in Japan. This excerpt from a piece by The Atlantic describes the strictly regulated process:

To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

The Atlantic

A cultural schism in how the U.S. and Japan view access to firearms seems determined right from the get-go, with the Second Amendment of the United States proclaiming a citizen's right to bear arms, a Japanese government postwar ordinance to collect citizens weaponry eventually being revised into the 1958 Firearm and Sword Control Law, which strictly prohibits the possession of firearms or swords. Today, handguns and rifles cannot be owned, sold, or purchased by citizens, the Japan Times reports, but rifles and shotguns are available to those who clear the license protocol.

Hunting is certainly much more of a necessity for acquiring certain meats for restaurants and butchers in Japan than it is a hobby. That's not to say gun enthusiasts and hobbyists don't exist, however, as survival games (mock tactical airsoft battles with teams of friends in open fields) hold a niche, but passionate popularity, and most hobby and model shops have some variety of airsoft guns available. There doesn't seem to be that much of a thriving taste for the real thing, however, and even with cultural differences, it seems hard to discount the influence of strict legislation.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.