Abe’s shot: Why gun violence is so rare in zero-tolerance Japan | Shinzo Abe


Japan has near-zero tolerance for gun ownership and one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the world, making the attack on Shinzo Abe a particularly extraordinary act of violence.

A 1958 post-war law on possession of swords and firearms states: “No person shall possess a gun or firearms or a sword or swords.”

The path to gun ownership in Japan has 13 steps. First, potential gun owners must join a hunting or shooting club, then they must take a firearms course and pass a written exam, before asking a doctor to declare that they are mentally fit and have no history of drug addiction.

They must then apply to take a full-day course in how to shoot a gun and store it safely.

Police then interview potential gun owners about why they want a gun and conduct a thorough background check which involves interviewing the person’s family members, their relationships with neighbors , their work history and their financial situation.

If successful, they can then apply for a gunpowder permit and obtain a certificate from a dealer stating the type of gun they want. They then have to buy an ammunition locker and a gun safe, which are inspected by the police, who then do another background check.

Among the few exceptions are hunting and sporting rifles. Even then, future owners must take courses and pass written and practical exams. They must then undergo psychological evaluations to determine if they are fit to own a firearm. Police background checks are extensive and even involve interviewing relatives of gun owners.

Possession of handguns by civilians is prohibited. The few violations reported in the media usually involve members of the country’s yakuza crime syndicates. According to police, there were 21 arrests for the use of firearms in 2020, 12 of which were gang-related, Nikkei Asia reported.

According to the National Police Agency, six gun deaths were reported in Japan in 2014, and the number rarely exceeds 10, in a country of 126 million people. In 2006, only two people were killed in gun attacks.

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A 2022 report from the University of Washington found that while the United States had more than four firearm homicides per 100,000 people in 2019, Japan had almost zero. Comparing the World Bank‘s high-income countries with the rate of firearm homicides per 100,000 population, the United States had 4.2, Australia 0.18 and Japan 0.02, according to The report.

In 2013, the country hit an all-time high for gun crime, with 40 criminal gun cases fired, but it has been on a downward trend ever since.

There are also strict laws on the number of gun shops allowed to open – in most of the country’s 47 prefectures, a total of three gun shops can operate in each prefecture.


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