Japan has what may be the closest any country comes to “zero-tolerance” of gun ownership – a policy that experts say contribute its enviously low rates of gun crime. As of 2011, legal gun ownership stood at 271,000, according to police records, in a country of 127 million people. Gun-control advocates regularly cite Japan’s highly restrictive firearm regulations in tandem with its extraordinarily low gun-homicide rate, which is the lowest in the world at one in 10 million, according to the latest data available.
There were six reported gun deaths in Japan in 2014, according to the National Police Agency. In 2006 just two people were killed in gun attacks; when the number rose to 22 in 2007 it prompted a bout of national soul-searching. The 1958 law on the possession of swords and firearms states: “No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords.” Among the few exceptions are shotguns, but here too, the restrictions would cause outrage among American gun owners.
Before they can even lay hands on a shotgun for hunting and sport shooting, prospective owners must attend classes and pass written and practical exams. They must then undergo psychological assessments to determine they are fit to own a firearm. Police background checks are exhaustive and even extend to the gun owners’ relatives.
Civilian ownership of handguns is banned. The few violations reported in the media usually involve members of the country’s many crime syndicates who have managed to smuggle them in from abroad.
The notion that gun ownership should be limited to the authorities survived Japanese militarism and carried through to the postwar period. Japanese police officers did not begin carrying pistols until 1946, with the permission of the US-led occupation authorities.
Despite sporadic outbreaks of gun violence, Japan’s yakuza crime syndicates are reluctant to build up caches of firearms. Threatening a rival with a gun is often seen as an “unmanly” departure from the yakuza’s traditional code of honour, to which even modern-day mobsters try to adhere, according to Whiting.
Almost exactly 20 years ago, when a shooting spree in a gift shop in Port Arthur, Tasmania, resulted in 35 people dying in about half an hour. It was the worst mass shooting by one person in Australia’s history. The killer, Martin Bryant, received a sentence of 35 terms of life imprisonment.
Australia’s then prime minister, John Howard, announced a sweeping package of gun reforms in a country where guns had long been considered an essential prop in the national mythology of life in the bush.
Before Port Arthur, most states had a weak licensing system and no requirement to register guns. Howard proposed each state and territory should introduce and enforce a firearm licensing and registration system which required people to have a “genuine reason” for having a firearm, such as sport or target shooting, recreational hunting or being a farmer.
Howard also introduced a national gun buyback policy for all weapons that did not comply, which led to the buying and melting down of more than 650,000 firearms at a cost of $350m (now £185m). One study said the buyback cut the rate of firearm suicides by 74% in the first 10 years.
There have been no mass shootings in the 20 years since Port Arthur; in the 20 years before the massacre there had been 13.
However, since the 1996 National Firearms Agreement, four states have moved to wind back the mandatory 28 days “cooling off” period between applying for and buying a gun, a trend Howard has described as disturbing. One of those states was Tasmania.
Germany’s relationship with firearms is intriguing: while there are a lot of guns in the country, they don’t seem to kill a lot of people.
Germany has one of the highest weapons-per-head rates in the world. In 2014, 5.5m legal weapons were registered as being in the hands of 1.45 million private individuals. The country’s police union estimates the number of illegal weapons in the country to be considerably higher, around 20m. According to Gunspolicy.org, this puts Germany at 15th place out of 175 nations in terms of guns per capita.
Gun ownership is more widespread in the west of the country than in the former East Germany, where private gun ownership was illegal before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Recent reports suggest that gun ownership is rapidly increasing still: between November 2015 and February 2016 alone, 20,000 applications were filed for new gun licences.
Yet in Germany gun homicide rate is one of the lowest in Europe: a death rate of 0.05 per 1,000 people, compared with 3.34 in the US. In fact, incidents of gun crime, including both weapons being fired and used to threaten people, have declined by almost a quarter since 2010. Experts put this trend down to a number of tweaks to gun law in the wake of high-profile shootings.
Within a year, the law regulating access to guns had been changed: Germany is the only country in the world where anyone under the age of 25 who applies for their first firearms licence must undergo a psychiatric evaluation with a trained counsellor, involving personality and anger management tests.
Experienced hunters or sports shooters over the age of 25 may be called in for psychiatric tests if they display certain kinds of behaviour, such as being caught drink-driving. A further tweak to the gun law in 2008 meant that inherited guns have to be fitted with a state-of-the-art blocking mechanism, making them unusable.
Under the newly amended weapons act, it is now harder for individuals to own multiple weapons. A national gun register was established for the first time in 2013 – previously, records of gun ownership were kept only at regional level. Police officers can now also visit registered gun owners’ home for spot checks without warning. Guns in private possessions have to be locked away in a safe, with the security code or location of the key known only to the owner of the gun.
Through a series of amendments in the 20th century, the UK government has managed to restrict the ownership of all automatic firearms as well as the majority of self-loading firearms. The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 was enacted in the wake of the Hungerford Massacre which left 16 people dead and 15 others injured. To own a gun, a UK civilian must obtain a shotgun certificate or a firearm certificate from the police. One must also fulfill a series of stringent criteria to acquire either one of the certificates. The 1997 massacre at a school in Dunblane led to the banning of most handguns. Only 8% of the total criminal homicides in the UK are committed using a firearm of any kind.
Gun ownership in China is strictly regulated. Civilians are not authorized to have guns and can even face life imprisonment if caught trafficking firearms. Institutions such as sporting organizations, legal hunting reserves and wildlife protection, and research entities can own guns. Individual ownership can be obtained for hunting. After a strict process, a license can be obtained for those without felony convictions. Fully automatics and explosives are prohibited in China. China has a low homicide rate, at 0.7 per 100,000 residents in 2014.
Countries where you can buy a gun like a piece of cake.
UAE (United Arab Emirates) –
In a comparison of the rate of private gun ownership in 178 countries, the United Arab Emirates ranked at No. 24.
Honduras – There are more illicit guns in the market than there are legal firearms available.
Finland – The number of guns per capita is rated at 12.81 percent, however, this is based on registered ownership.
Serbia – Serbia has the second highest rate of gun ownership in the world.
Sweden – Nearly a third of Sweden’s population are gun owners, and most of those have the right to own semi-automatic weapons.
Canada – Canada isn’t exactly a gun-lover’s paradise. Small pistols are completely banned, and semi auto weapons are so hard to get hold of they might as well be.
Norway – It has one of the highest guns per capita percentages in the world
Panama – Panama will essentially let you buy whatever non-fully-auto gun you like, including sawn-off shotguns.
Switzerland – Just shy of 30 percent of the population are gun owners, 10-times the rate in Panama.
Czech Republic – Along with Switzerland, Czech Republic is about the most pro-gun country in the whole of Europe.
United States of America – Over a third of population are gun owners.
Bosnia and Herzegovina – 59% of the population owns guns.
Italy, Estonia and Paraguay are also one of the most lenient countries regarding Gun Laws.
WHERE IS INDIA?
India, along with countries such as Australia, has among the tightest gun laws in the world. In India, by contrast, gun laws are strict and gun ownership is rare. India ranks 110th in the world in civilian firearm ownership, with an estimated 4.2 guns per 100 people. America, by contrast, ranks first, with 88.8 guns per 100 people, according to the Small Arms Survey.
In countries where civilian gun ownership is rare, civilian gun deaths are also rare. Conversely, gun deaths are generally more common among armed populations. Indian law permits citizens to obtain gun licenses, though deadlier weapons like automatic rifles are prohibited. Obtaining a gun license is far more difficult in India than in the United States, where the right to possess guns is protected by the country’s constitution and citizens can buy guns without background checks. Yet gun control advocates say India’s strict licensing requirements are undermined by easy access to guns smuggled into the country through porous border areas in the north. Of the 17,488 gun murders that occurred in India from 2010 through 2014, 89 percent were committed with unlicensed guns, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Pointing to the low number of murders committed with licensed guns, some say such licenses should be easier to obtain. Recent years have seen the emergence of a number of pro-gun groups who say allowing civilians to legally arm themselves will make them safer. India shifted from century-old manual record-keeping recently and put into national database information on about 2.6 million gun-license holders.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, only 14 percent of the victims in 2017 in India were killed by licensed guns. The rest were killed by illegal weapons, largely prevalent in the hinterlands.
An American is 12 times more likely to be killed by a firearm than is an Indian, according to an analysis by the group India Spend, based on a database collated by Gun Policy, a global gun watch group. The United States has some of the most lenient. Activists say India should not go the American way. The government even introduced a lighter taser gun for women. The official said such devices will also be used to guard banks, toll plazas and other public places. Even as the new rules make it difficult for average citizens to own guns, they have cleared the way for local manufacturing of guns by private companies, in line with Modi’s push for defense production. In June, Modi allowed 100 percent foreign investment in the defense sector. “This is the green signal we were waiting for,” said Ashok Wadhawan, president of manufacturing at Punj Lloyd, which has a partnership with Israel Weapon Industries. “At first, we will be selling them to the Indian army and the police. It is extremely prestigious for them to hold an Indian rifle instead of an imported rifle.” But the most puzzling move for many is that air guns, blank-firing guns and paintball guns are now classified as weapons that will require a license, which is vexing to sport enthusiasts.