National | Regional voices: Chubu

Mother of Japanese boy killed in '92 U.S. shooting hopes her book will promote stricter gun control

Chunichi Shimbun

Mieko Hattori, 70, from Nagoya, whose son, Yoshihiro, 16, was gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1992, is working on a story for children that calls for stricter gun control measures in the United States.

She came up with the idea after meeting a girl who lost her friend in a school shooting in Florida in February.

“If citizens of Japan and the U.S. unite, they can change the gun society,” Hattori says. Twenty-six years have passed since her son, who was studying in Louisiana as a high school student, died on Oct. 18, 1992. He was shot by a man after approaching the wrong house on his way to a Halloween party.

According to Hattori, the story will be titled “Yoshi and Alyssa” after her son and Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, one of 17 shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It starts with a scene of the two meeting in heaven, with Yoshihiro comforting a distressed Alyssa.

In the story, Yoshihiro then asks Alyssa to work together to campaign for stricter gun control in an effort to realize a society that values people’s lives, and Alyssa makes up her mind to become a force for the movement.

In mid-June, Hattori and her husband Masaichi, 70, met Mia Engelbart, 15, a schoolmate and a friend of Alyssa, who was in Tokyo with her Japanese mother during summer vacation.

The couple contacted Engelbart after seeing a video online of her being interviewed by media as a member of the Never Again campaign launched by the students of the high school in the immediate aftermath, calling for prioritization of children’s lives in the gun control debate.

In July, the couple invited Engelbart to their home to meet members of Yoshi no Kai, a group campaigning for stricter gun control in the U.S. Engelbart also made a speech at Nagoya City University.

Engelbart said she wants to become the voice of the people who passed away and called on the United States to learn from Japan where guns are not easily accessible.

“I felt a strong connection with her because what she said was exactly what we think,” Hattori said. “I was also moved by the fact that a quiet girl stood up after her friend’s death to take part in the campaign.”

“It appears that gun control in the U.S. is retrogressing under the current administration, but the campaign is continuing on a citizens’ level,” she said. “Twenty-six years have passed since Yoshihiro’s incident, but movements by young people such as Mia give me great hopes.”

Masaki Hirata, 49, associate professor of American modern history at Nagoya City University who supports Yoshi no Kai, had been suggesting that Hattori write a story for children to convey the significance of gun control to wider generations. Hattori said she started writing to include Engelbart’s experience.

She has written a draft and is polishing it up after receiving advice from Masaichi and other members of the group. She is also writing an English version.

She said she hopes to complete it by the first anniversary of the Parkland shooting next February and send it to Alhadeff’s mother. She also plans to post it on the group’s website.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Oct. 17.