Gun Control and People Control in Japan

By Richard Griffiths

With the recent acquittal of 31 year old Rodney Peairs in Louisiana of the shooting death of 16 year old Yoshi Hattori, a Japanese exchange student, many Americans and Japanese are now calling for America to reject her "Frontier past" in favor of Japanese style gun control laws.

It is certainly true that Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the industrialized world, and the Japanese people are fortunate to live in one of the safest societies on the planet. The Japanese homicide rate, for example, in 1988 was only 1.2 per 100,000 people while America's was a horrifying 8.4. Handgun Control, Inc. attributes Japan's low homicide rate to their outlawing the civilian ownership of handguns and rifles, and severely controlling shotguns.

Yet few Americans are aware of the horrible loss in personal freedoms the Japanese people have paid for their low crime rate. It is not just the right to own guns the Japanese people have surrendered to their government; they have also given up the right of self-determination, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to privacy. In Japan these freedoms are routinely violated.

The Japanese police, for example, keep dossiers on every single citizen. These dossiers are kept updated by the police through interviews with friends, neighbors and relatives twice a year. If, during the police "home visits," the policeman notices contraband such as Playboymagazine, the magazine will confiscated, the person's employer notified, and the person will receive a black mark on their employee record.

The Japanese National Police Agency wins the applause of the American gun control crowd by keeping close tabs on gun owners, down to counting how many round of shotgun ammunition a licensed owner has in storage. But the police belief that citizens have no privacy rights has implications that would frighten most Americans. The official year-end police report includesstatistics on "Background and Motives for Girls' Sexual Misconduct." ("Out ofcuriosity" accounted for 19.6% of the misconduct, and "liked particular boy" for 18.1%.)

When Japanese citizens are accused by the police of a crime they are expected to confess. According to Amnesty International and the Tokyo Bar Association should a Japanese citizen resist making a confession, the police then often resort to torture. Such heinous police practices, the worst nightmare of any American concerned with civil liberties, are standard operating procedure in Japan.

Not only have the Japanese people lost freedoms most Americans consider to be precious, they have also lost control of their nation's destiny. When the Japanese peasants were forced to surrender their firearms and swords in 1588, they ensured for centuries thereafter the dominance of a sword-bearing Samurai aristocracy.

When the Japanese militarists rearmed in the beginning of the twentieth century the Japanese people, now without any weapons, had no means to thwart the militarists' path to world war.

Last year during a political corruption scandal, the Japanese military made veiled threats to take over if the problem were not fixed. All that stood between Japan and military rule was the good judgment of the military.

So if the Japanese cannot understand many Americans' love of firearms, it is due to Japan's failure to understand and protect the principles of freedom enshrined in our entire American Bill of Rights. And if the Japanese people recently paid a tragic price with the death of Yoshihiro Hattori for the American peoples' love of firearms, it is important to remember that we the American people in the recent past have a paid a far heavier price in war dead during the Second World War for the failure of the Japanese people to remain armed as a check against militarists and madmen in Japan seizing control of their government.

Richard F. Griffiths is a doctoral student in psychology at Kansas State University. He wrote this article for the Independence Institute, a think tank in Colorado.

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