Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has vowed to tighten security to protect Japanese citizens both at home and abroad after a gunman killed scores at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. But exactly how at risk of a mass shooting is Japan?
Statistics show that Japan, known for its strict gun-control laws, is one of the safest countries in the world as far as gun violence is concerned.
According to GunPolicy.org, a website run by the University of Sydney, Japan recorded just six deaths resulting from firearms in 2014, the second-lowest among 34 OECD countries after Iceland, which recorded four.
The United States ranked worst among OECD members, with 33,599 gun deaths the same year. Mexico ranked No. 2 with 13,505 deaths.
In terms of homicides per 100,000 people, Japan was again ranked as the second-safest country with 0.4 homicides, while Iceland registered just 0.32, according to an OECD report titled How’s Life? 2013.
In Japan, ordinary citizens are likely to face even lower chances of being victims of gun-related crimes.
According to the National Police Agency, Japan recorded eight cases of alleged crimes where guns were fired in 2015. All parties involved were believed to be yakuza or members of other crime groups, the agency said. Those cases left a total of one dead and three injured.
In Japan, citizens are banned from possessing, carrying, selling or buying handguns or rifles. Importing gun parts is also prohibited under the Firearm and Sword Control Law.
Only licensed hunters are allowed to own shotguns, andthe screening process is very strict.
Applicants are required to obtain a license from a local government and undergo background checks by police as well as mental and drug tests at hospitals.
The gun license must be renewed every three years, and applicants are required to again undergo the various tests.
Shotgun owners are also required to store their weapons in a specified locker at their home and report its location to police. Ammunition must be kept in a separate locked safe.
While gun-related incidents are rare in Japan, the country is no stranger to mass murder cases.
In December 2007, a man with a shotgun killed two people at a fitness club and injured six others before committing suicide in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.
But perhaps the most prominent mass killing was the 1995 sarin gas attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult on Tokyo’s subway system. That attack killed 13 and injured more than 6,000 passengers.
The cult, using the same deadly nerve gas, killed another seven and injured about 140 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.
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