Japan has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. The country averages fewer than 10 gun-related deaths per year, compared to tens of thousands in the United States. This low rate of gun violence is largely attributed to Japan’s cultural attitudes and restrictive laws regarding firearms.
After World War II, Japan banned all gun ownership except for shotguns and air rifles used for hunting and sport shooting. The law states that “no person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords.” There are a few exceptions, but overall it is extremely difficult for civilians to legally acquire guns in Japan.
Handguns are completely prohibited. Only law enforcement and some military personnel can legally own pistols or revolvers.
Gun Licensing Process
To obtain any type of firearm license, Japanese citizens must undergo extensive background checks, written exams, mental health evaluations, and shooting range tests. Applicants must pass a test on gun laws and maintenance, as well as demonstrate accuracy in shooting targets. Licenses must be renewed every 3 years.
Once licensed, gun owners must store their weapons in separate locked compartments. Police inspect licenses and storage annually. Guns can only be shot at designated firing ranges.
In addition to strict laws, Japanese society emphasizes conformity, group harmony, and respect for authority. This helps reinforce social norms against violence.
Gun ownership is not considered a right or necessity for self-defense. Most Japanese view firearm possession as unnecessary and dangerous. Pressure to conform makes people less likely to acquire illegal guns.
Thanks to its laws and cultural attitudes, Japan experiences almost no gun crime compared to other developed nations. In 2018, there were only 9 firearm-related deaths in Japan, a country of over 125 million people.
The shooting assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2022 shocked the nation, as gun murders of public figures are extremely rare. It appears the suspect used a homemade firearm, highlighting the difficulty of obtaining even illegal guns in Japan.
While Japan’s strict policies would be at odds with American gun culture, they demonstrate how comprehensive gun control paired with social norms can virtually eliminate gun violence.