As I said previously, I do consider BBC’s straight journalism considerably superior to almost any American “news” outlet. Someone pointed out that BBC does lean considerably left, but it is easy to discern their reporting efforts from their features/editorials, so while I respect their journalism, their other work leaves a lot of be desired.
A few days ago, a writer named Harry Low decided it was time to add some spittle-flecked ignorance to the already-vast library of anti-gun loonery that the “journalists” of the world dutifully created in order to advance a global anti-freedom agenda. He penned a piece for BBC Magazine entitled “How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime.” This is hardly a news piece in any way, shape, or form, nor does it explore any new ideas. The author’s only goal with this dull-witted screed was to emphasize one message: GUNZ BAD!
Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?
Now, let’s start with the fact that the gun rate cited in the United States also includes cases of legal self defense as well as suicides. As a matter of fact, two-thirds of the 33,599 deaths via firearms in 2014 – or 21,334 were suicides, according to the CDC.
Do you want to know how many people committed suicide in Japan in 2014? According to the BBC itself, in 2014 on average 70 Japanese people committed suicide every day.
That’s 25,550 people per year, which may be a function of another problem, which I will discuss below.
So comparing deaths by firearm in 2014 and including suicides in the United States, which comprise 63 percent of the deaths being compared is abject inability to analyze data at best, and outright disingenuous manipulation of data at worst.
A country that banned handguns and has incredibly tight controls on all other types of firearms in 2014 saw a higher suicide rate than the United States.
So point one: Harry Law is either a liar or an idiot.
But let’s remove the suicides from the picture. Out of the remaining 12,265 deaths by firearm, 464 were listed as legal intervention. That means a thug got ventilated by a would-be victim, which leaves 11,801 firearm deaths. Now, remember, these are legal interventions which resulted in the death of the violent vermin in question. This does not include incidents in which the gun was merely brandished, or the vermin was only injured. We have no idea how many lives were saved by those acts of bravery, but let’s leave those alone for a bit.
There were also 586 unintentional deaths – or accidents – which leaves 11,215, and there were 270 firearm deaths in which the intent could not be determined. This brings the gun homicide level to 10,945.
Still, Harry Law might say, nearly 11,000 firearm deaths compared to six is a big difference! While Japan in 2014 had a 0.3 gun homicide rate, the United States came in at a whopping 3.43 percent! And of course, Harry Law’s answer to the disparity is the lack of guns.
If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.
There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too – and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.
That’s not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.
The law restricts the number of gun shops. In most of Japan’s 40 or so prefectures there can be no more than three, and you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.
And this is where point two comes in: Harry Law is ignorant on Japanese culture writ large.
The people are comfortable, he says.
There’s no clamor for a relaxation of firearms laws, he says.
And Japanese police officers rarely use guys, he says.
Japanese police officers rarely use guns and put much greater emphasis on martial arts – all are expected to become a black belt in judo. They spend more time practising kendo (fighting with bamboo swords) than learning how to use firearms.
“The response to violence is never violence, it’s always to de-escalate it. Only six shots were fired by Japanese police nationwide [in 2015],” says journalist Anthony Berteaux. “What most Japanese police will do is get huge futons and essentially roll up a person who is being violent or drunk into a little burrito and carry them back to the station to calm them down.”
Now, my juvenile giggling at a perp being turned into a burrito aside, I’m also not a fan of the militarization of police. I’m much more a proponent of effective training, whether with firearms, a baton, or hand-to-hand combat.
That said, what Harry Law wrote demonstrates a remarkable lack of cultural awareness.
First, despite the lack of guns in Japan, the homicide rate actually increased by 6.76 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the World Data Atlas.
But more than that what Harry Law is missing is the fact that the homicide rate writ large in Japan has always been significantly lower than in the United States. Japan saw 697 homicides in 2003 overall, compared with 11,920 firearm deaths in the United States. But while gun ownership has been on the rise since 2003, the gun homicide rates have generally declined.
Gee, maybe there’s something else at play that Harry Law, in his ridiculous zeal to advance a “GUNZ BAD!” message is missing?
In 1988 Dave Kopel wrote an article about Japanese culture that might clear up Harry Law’s confusion a bit.
The Japanese criminal justice system bears more heavily on a suspect than any other system in an industrial democratic nation. One American found this out when he was arrested in Okinawa for possessing marijuana: he was interrogated for days without an attorney, and signed a confession written in Japanese that he could not read. He met his lawyer for the first time at his trial, which took 30 minutes.
Unlike in the United States, where the Miranda rule limits coercive police interrogation techniques, Japanese police and prosecutors may detain a suspect indefinitely until he confesses. (Technically, detentions are only allowed for three days, followed by ten day extensions approved by a judge, but defense attorneys rarely oppose the extension request, for fear of offending the prosecutor.) Bail is denied if it would interfere with interrogation.
Even after interrogation is completed, pretrial detention may continue on a variety of pretexts, such as preventing the defendant from destroying evidence. Criminal defense lawyers are the only people allowed to visit a detained suspect, and those meetings are strictly limited.
Partly as a result of these coercive practices, and partly as a result of the Japanese sense of shame, the confession rate is 95%.
For those few defendants who dare to go to trial, there is no jury. Since judges almost always defer to the prosecutors’ judgment, the trial conviction rate for violent crime is 99.5%.
Of those convicted, 98% receive jail time.
In short, once a Japanese suspect is apprehended, the power of the prosecutor makes it very likely the suspect will go to jail. And the power of the policeman makes it quite likely that a criminal will be apprehended.
The police routinely ask “suspicious” characters to show what is in their purse or sack. In effect, the police can search almost anyone, almost anytime, because courts only rarely exclude evidence seized by the police — even if the police acted illegally.
The most important element of police power, though, is not authority to search, but authority in the community.
Bottom line: The Japanese public has had a historically very different relationship with law enforcement, police have broad powers, including the power to stop, search, and coerce confessions during interrogations. The Japanese culturally respect police officers as much as they respect teachers, and have willingly ceded their rights. I don’t know a whole lot of people in the West, and especially not in the United States, who are willing to scrap their constitutional rights in the way the Japanese have. Additionally, crime rates are generally low because culturally, to commit a crime is to bring shame to one’s family.
And in Japan, culturally, the sense of shame is significant. Shame, honor, and duty are a historic part of Japanese culture. Going to jail carries with it an extraordinary social stigma, which compared to other countries, where prison time gives you street cred, would make more sense in explaining the low crime rates than the presence or absence of firearms. And at the same time, there is a focus on keeping crime statistics low, and violent crimes such as rape go underreported in a society that is apparently still male-dominated and so intent on keeping its image clean, that no autopsies are performed, on even most obvious cases of foul play, and no crime is reported.
The existence of chikan (“perverts”, meaning men groping women in public) is a massive problem and has led to the creation of “women-only” carriages in most major cities. Japanese police are also criticized for failing to take victims of sexual crimes seriously time and again as a result of either chauvinist bias or an inability to investigate such crimes.
What are most disturbing are however arguments that the low crime is partially a result of a police culture that are obsessed with keeping crime statistics low. Former detectives claim that police is unwilling to investigate homicides unless there is a clear suspects and frequently labels unnatural deaths as suicides without performing autopsies. Coincidentally, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
This brings me to point three: Harry Law apparently knows fuckall about Japanese culture, and uses that ignorance to his advantage when pushing a political agenda.
Point four: Harry Law shouldn’t be taken seriously.