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Tokyo’s zero-tolerance gun laws: What makes Japan different from other nations, lessons for India

Tokyo’s zero-tolerance gun laws: What makes Japan different from other nations, lessons for India

The attack on former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe comes as a surprise because getting hold of a weapon for a civilian is a herculean task and considered a taboo for the pacifist Japanese population.

Tokyo’s zero-tolerance gun laws: What makes Japan different from other nations, lessons for India  (Photo: Reuters) Tokyo’s zero-tolerance gun laws: What makes Japan different from other nations, lessons for India (Photo: Reuters)

A gun totting assassin on a shooting spree is a rarity in Japan as the country’s strict gun laws since the end of World War II make it almost impossible for a citizen to possess a lethal firearm. 

The attack on former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where an assailant shot him in the chest comes as a surprise because getting hold of a weapon for a civilian is a herculean task and considered a taboo for the pacifist Japanese population. 

It’s in this context that the shooting incident when the former Prime Minster was attacked during a political campaign seems even more dreadful. It is suspected that the assailant used a self made weapon. 

Japan has the most stringent gun laws 

Other than police and military nobody can keep lethal arms in Japan. Civilians cannot buy a handgun or a rifle, only air guns are allowed that too for a specific purpose. 

For buying a gun a person must achieve 95 per cent accuracy at a shooting test, also clear a written test and go through a mental health assessment at a hospital. 

Only after all clearances can a gun license be given 

Strict background checks are done before a civilian is allowed a weapon. This includes speaking to family, friends and relatives of the applicant to check the antecedents and the license is valid only for three years. 

In Japan an individual has to go past 13 layers to get a gun license making it the country that needs highest number of clearances. In comparison getting license is easiest in USA and Yemen. 

Japan's low crime rate attributed to strict gun laws 

-Japan has a low crime rate and incidents involving guns are rare. 

-In fact theft cases account for a chunk of the crime in the country. 

-With a cap on number of gun shops in an area, purchase of weapons always remains low. 

-There are strict checks to ensure a weapon is surrendered after the death of the owner. 

-Even police personnel when not on duty cannot carry a firearm. 

Ironically, the culture not possessing arms in Japan can be attributed to USA and traces back to World War II. The US disarmed Japan ensuring even civilians don’t possess weapons and after the war the pacifist 

India gun laws 

On paper the gun laws are extremely strict in India and getting a valid arms license is a long process which can take up to one year. 

Under the Arms Rules of 1962 there is a prohibition on possession, sale, acquisition, manufacture, import, export and transfer of firearms without a valid license. 

Indian Ordnance Factory has the duty to manufacture and sell these arms and ammunition in India. 

An individual who wants an arm license in India must be 21 years. Valid reasons for owning are gun are sports, crop protection and self defense. 

Just like in Japan, before a license is granted the police carries out background checks of the applicant for two months which would include interview of the applicant as well as his family, even neighbours, verification of the mental health history of the applicant, behaviour to assess whether the person has an aggressive nature. 

The licensing authorities interview the applicant after this where they state the reason to approve or reject the license. 

Once the license is approved the applicant has to participate in the compulsory arms handling course whereby safe handling of the weapon is taught including firing and transporting a firearm 

The firearm license has a life of three years and therefore, the same has to be renewed. 

Also read: Ex-Japanese PM Shinzo Abe assassinated, succumbs to gunshot wound

Also read: Japanese stunned by Abe killing in mostly gun-free nation