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Max Fisher: A land without guns — how Japan has virtually eliminated shooting deaths

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 8:24 a.m. MDT

In this July 29, 2012 file photo, anti-nuclear protester stage a rally outside the Japan's parliament complex in Tokyo as tbousands of the protesters rallied to demand the government abandon nuclear power after the accident last year in Fukushima.  (Associated Press) In this July 29, 2012 file photo, anti-nuclear protester stage a rally outside the Japan's parliament complex in Tokyo as tbousands of the protesters rallied to demand the government abandon nuclear power after the accident last year in Fukushima. (Associated Press)

Our take: In a July 23, 2012 article at The Atlantic, writer Max Fisher explored how, in part by forbidding almost all forms of firearm ownership, Japan has as few as two gun-related homicides in a year.

"What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world's least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller?" the article asked. "In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

"Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country's infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.

"Japanese tourists who fire off a few rounds at the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club would be breaking three separate laws back in Japan — one for holding a handgun, one for possessing unlicensed bullets, and another violation for firing them — the first of which alone is punishable by one to ten years in jail. Handguns are forbidden absolutely. Small-caliber rifles have been illegal to buy, sell, or transfer since 1971. Anyone who owned a rifle before then is allowed to keep it, but their heirs are required to turn it over to the police once the owner dies."

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