Suicides or Mass Shootings: My Gleanings From What Japan’s Approach Says About The Way Private Arms Laws Should Be Instituted – Especially in the US
Japan appears to have a system for ensuring that mass gun violence is at the barest minimum, because what's the use of a gun–If it’s to feel safe, won't it be safer if no one had guns at all? This thinking seems to be working quite well for them.
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The Japanese have gun law all figured out
You’re in Japan; you’re a citizen. You desire to own a firearm. Well, Japan's tightly controlled process for buying and owning a gun requires a lot of steps and checks.
First, you’ll be extensively interviewed by the police about why you need a gun to begin with. Then you’re made to undergo a psych-evaluation by a qualified psychologist. If successful, you’re put through the processing for three different permits, and a background check that includes interviews of family and neighbours. You are further made to join a “gun club” that includes a few police officers, who’ll periodically make checks at your home to inspect the gun and ammo, every year.
Lastly, you’re made to undergo mandatory training of your “shooting ability” annually at a designated shooting range, where every piece of brass must be found after each evaluation session. Only wielders who record a consistently very high score at the range are renewed for the next year. This process will be repeated each year unfailingly.
It’s a long, tedious process that questions every bit of motive till the state is absolutely sure your reason, yourself, and your desired weapon are a needful match. Most people would rather avoid the intrusion into their private lives that the process demands. Japanese are private folk –a sentiment that’s very apparent in their society.
How Did Japan Get Here?
Gun Control is not a mystery, nor does it act in isolation. People who criticise slogans such as; “more stringent control will curb gun violence rates” need to understand that elsewhere on this planet, some people have attempted to solve the puzzle of gun violence, and been successful. But of course, it didn’t happen overnight.
Mind you, these are the same folk famous for sword-slinging Samurai, ninja assassins, and Yakuza clan gangs. So how did they circumvent this history of violence to where they are today?
Firstly, most parts of the Orient world respects culture; a tradition laced with deep reverence for the elderly, their rulers and their rich history. The Japanese are no exception; they have a culture that undervalues the individual, upholds national pride, imposes strict submission to hierarchy and government, and is in effect very conservative. It’s been built over centuries and underlies every decision they take.
If you've been to Japan; it’s a unique blend of ambient-brevity and tech. It’s a pleasurable eye-opener. Japanese society teaches without insisting how it's possible to live in complete harmony without agitating to challenge the rules. In truth, in most parts of the country, there's hardly any need for violent policing. There’s an aura of safety in the air even in Osaka, which is often rougher around the edges than cities like Tokyo.
Japan has a strange, yet welcoming feeling. And in effect Japan has recorded zero killing sprees all decade. Primarily because carrying weapons is very illegal. It’s not difficult to see how that in a place where gun possession is illegal, there’ll be no records of unwanted deaths by gunshot, nor reckless shooting sprees by minors or mentally-ill youngsters.
Foreigners and tourists are the first to notice the “Japanese” way of life, and its stark opposite to the liberality and lax morals that exist in most parts of the US, and elsewhere. Now, extend this “nature” into gun control enforcement, and you begin to form an image of where the American shortfalls stem from.
However, Americans are not particularly enthused that as Americans they’re forced to accept their lack of self-control, trigger-happiness, and impassion to human life, especially of minorities –even though the record number of unwarranted deaths by firearms grow, confirming these claims– as reasons for their woes.
In defence, US regulators are quick to point out that limiting free access to guns hurts the rights of those who really need the security of weapons. Such people ridicule others for placing a naive amount of trust in the government and state protection–both of whom have proven to be largely inefficient at actively dealing with the growing crime situation in the country.
However, gun-law advocates voice these reasons as pretentious and reckless; a mere basis for inaction and corporate greed, due to the profitable business of firearm sales. Something that statistics also back. In truth, every country that has instituted strict gun laws nationwide has seen significantly reduced cases of gun violence, and in most cases eliminated them completely.
Somehow, the complexity of US Federal state laws and the lobbying strength of interest groups seem to avoid attacking the obvious head-on. Owning a gun in Japan is a privilege while in most parts of the USA it's considered a right. This distinction exposes a great many differences to how the issue is to be tackled; although again, not impossible to do so. Anything can be achieved with national will.
Americans, it appears, would rather just send "thoughts and prayers" to the families affected by mass killings, than rid their society of access to these weapons.
Are The Japanese The Only Ones Winning The Gun Control Battle?
The Japanese may have taken the lead, but others, like South Africa, Austria, Germany, Australia, and most parts of Europe & Asia, are quite on a similar track of strict control, and enforcement.
In Canada, to get your firearms licence, you’re required to complete a form that probes your financial standing, and asks if you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy; when your last break-up from a romantic partner occurred, and many other interesting questions designed to evaluate your mental preparedness, and your history, or need for the weapon.
Similarly in Austria, and Ukraine, you’d have to go through a medical evaluation, tons of checks and tests, schedule a talk with a psychiatrist, pass a psychological test, before you even commence to talk with the Police, who’ll then issue you the mandate to buy a gun. Registration pending.
In Germany, a plausible reason for permission is required, and your ability to “prove the required expertise". For a fact, ask a German on the street, and they wouldn’t know where you have to go to buy a firearm, except to the police.
In Austria, background checks can take forever, and licensed weapons need to be locked and concealed in a regulated manner, paired with various unannounced inspections by the police to see that compliance is maintained. Should you go hunting with your gun, you’ll need to pass an exam, following a month’s study program. All quite expensive –a deliberate strategy to deter people. Ireland has a similar process which takes about 3 months from date of application, to weapon in hand.
Even in petty crime-ridden South Africa, possession of a firearm is conditioned on a competency test and several other factors, including extensive testing, background checks of the applicant, inspection of the applicant's premises, and licensing of the weapon by the police.
Australia took it a step further after a mass shooting in 1996, and completely banned all automatic weapons. Next they instituted a gun amnesty and a buy-back scheme, and guess what, it worked! Every gun touting citizen brought out their weapons for cash.
Many countries all over the world, have similar regulation for gun control, which have aided tremendously in keeping gun violence at bay by denying, and in most cases making it utterly impossible for citizens to make contact with firearms.
Because in truth, having a gun in possession increases the tendency of use. In the US alone, over 200 shootings in the past 15 years happened because of mere disagreements. It’s crazy to think that in the middle of a disagreement, arguers will pull out guns to resolve it. Sounds like the wild west all over again. But this is modern day USA.
It’s not like other states don’t get their fare share of gun incidents and deaths, but in a restrictive gun society, you’re less likely to be killed by a random “good” citizen, than by a reckless drunk driver. In Mexico for example, with all its corruption and drug cartels, it’s an excessively tedious process to acquire and register a gun legally. Though Mexico is a prime example of criminals getting guns no matter what, there’s no news of mass shootings, because for the average citizen the hassle to owning a gun is not worth it. Which in turn makes it easier for law enforcement to target criminals; since if you’re not one, why are you carrying a firearm?
Is There a Link Between Mental Health And Gun Violence?
Remember the 70+ people shot in the city of Chicago in 2021, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the whole of the US? Even with reform pushes for more stringent gun laws within the state, violence continues to rise. Does it mean that Americans have a death thirst, and not a gun problem?
Two schools argue such: one half insists Americans don't have a gun problem, but a mental illness and a gratuitous violence-in-entertainment problem. And that their societal ills are the root cause of the killings, that must first be addressed.
Proponents of this divide do agree to more restrictions, but also argue those ~400mil reported firearms already owned in the US would not be a real problem if mental health was addressed just as keenly, and vocally.
They postulate that “one can restrict guns but people will continue to be killed”, so instead of blindly asking for stricter gun laws, we should address the American culture of mistrust, and racial incompatibility. That way Americans can begin to feel safe without guns. They further argue that Japan isn’t a good comparison, because unlike the US, it is a racially and ethnically homogeneous society, with the smallest of expat community, a smaller gap between the rich and poor, and most likely has no equivalent to a 2nd amendment law –a totally different society with a totally different culture and history.
People who want these kinds of changes are going to have to deal with the extremely hard task of repealing the 2nd Amendment.
However potent this argument is, the other half of the debate vehemently resists it. In their counterargument, they argue that, mental health is not the sole reason for gun violence, nor is it remotely the trigger. Every country on Earth has mental health issues but only one country on Earth has channeled theirs into shooting up schools. Simply because guns exist. Removing the immediate danger is a more sensible way to deal with gun related incidents. It significantly lowers the risk.
They furthermore assert that if America first removed one of the most convenient and accessible tools for committing mass murder from the hands of literally anyone who wants it, it would then have the capacity to address the underlying systemic issues that drive people to commit the crimes. Painting killers as victims of mental challenges is playing a silly game of blame-shifting. No progress will come of it.
Are Japan’s Suicides Too Linked?
The worst thing that ever happens in Japan to a person is to get stabbed or robbed. Or in the rarest cases, dealing with the Yakuza –which is even rarer than finding gold in the streets of Japan, especially for the everyday person. Crime obviously still exists, but mass shootings don't happen. Never.
Japan sells the most video games in the world, many of which are violent R-rated shooting titles, yet guns have never been a big thing in Japan. Swords however were, and when the government tried to ban swords, people found all sorts of ways to hide them in plain sight, so that people could continue to carry them, as part of their traditional apparel, even though it is still technically illegal.
Sure, Japan does have a suicide issue predominantly among the young male population, which has during the last decade dropped significantly, dwarfing the combined suicide and homicide rates in the United States year on year since 2001. Japanese people tend to internalise rather than externalise their hurt and emotional distresses, making them more susceptible to suicides rather than outward violence. Leading us to believe even more that gun violence is not a mental health problem, as much as it is just “access to firearms”.
In reality, statistics point at the demographic of mass shooters in America, as mostly all-white young men with a history of entitlement to an ideal and reality they created, based on their foreknowledge of access to a firearm, because most of these crimes are pre-meditated. The influence therefore is not external, but superficial at best, a facade.
It’s almost as if not being able to put guns in everyone’s hands is the answer. US Federal gun reforms may be a better solution for everyone, if those who mattered would be selfless enough to address it.
Deep Quote: More dangerous than a terrorist with a gun, is a civilian with a gun.
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