Japan is a country where mass shootings are very rare. The country follows some of the world’s strictest gun control laws, resulting in gun deaths counts in single figures annually— but President Donald Trump bulldozed right over that inconvenient truth.
The U.S. commander-in-chief recently met Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko before a round of talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
When Akihito asked about the recent Texas church shooting, where a white man, Devin Patrick Kelley, who briefly worked for the U.S. Air Force killed 29 people and injured 20 more at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Trump suggested such mass shooting incidents “can happen anywhere,” before calling the shootings a “terrible incident.”
What he didn't know was that he uttered those words in a country where gun death counts are at a bare minimum. Japan has a population of more than 127 million people, but it rarely sees more than 10 gun deaths a year.
Handguns are banned in Japan and anyone who wants a license for a shotgun or air rifle must first undergo a string of background checks, a written test and health evaluations.
"Ever since guns entered the country, Japan has always had strict gun laws," Iain Overton, executive director of Action on Armed Violence, a British advocacy group, told the BBC. "They are the first nation to impose gun laws in the whole world, and I think it laid down a bedrock saying that guns really don't play a part in civilian society."
Japanese people want to own a gun must attend an all-day class, pass a written test, and achieve at least 95 percent accuracy during a shooting-range test.
Then also have to clear a mental-health evaluation, which takes place at a hospital, and pass a background check, in which government looks into their criminal record and interviews theirs friends and family. Japanese people can only buy shotguns and air rifles as handguns are banned, and every three years they must retake the class and initial exam.
Even police officers use firearms as a last resort. As a rule, they must accomplish a black belt in judo or other Japanese martial arts before qualifying.
"What most Japanese police will do is get huge futons and essentially roll up a person who is being violent or drunk into a little burrito and carry them back to the station to calm them down," journalist Anthony Berteaux told the BBC earlier this year.
In the U.S., however, gun deaths are in tens of thousands every year but the Republicans have no plans for adequate gun control polices. There have been more than 52,000 incidents of gun violence in the country in 2017. More than 13,000 people have been killed by guns since January. The gun homicide rate in America is reportedly 25 times higher than that of any other developed nation. The United States has 5 percent of the world's population, but 31 percent of the world's mass shooters.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Eugene Hoshiko