Last month, an up-and-coming Japanese pop idol, Mayu Tomita, was attacked by a stalker, who managed to stab her more than 20 times. She was rushed to the hospital with severe injuries, but apparently she will live.
Two weeks ago, singer Christina Grimmie was attacked by a stalker. He shot her in the head. She died.
Even before the horrifying mass shooting in Orlando just a few days after this terrible attack, I felt as if these two events perfectly illustrated the effectiveness of strict gun control laws.
Japan has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, and they appear to be immensely effective. Guns are almost entirely illegal, with only weapons for hunting allowed under the law. However, the process for getting a firearm is incredibly complex and filled with safety provisions.
Prospective gun owners must attend classes on gun safety and pass exams proving they know how to safely use a firearm. The must subject themselves to psychological tests to make sure they aren’t suffering from any obvious mental illness. The police perform background checks that go as far as to interview family and friends.
If they’re approved to have a gun, they then have to properly store it, with a gun safe that is attached to the wall and locked at all times. The gun itself must also be kept with a trigger lock, and unloaded (ammo has to be kept in a separate, locked, safe). And yes, the police will occasionally stop by your home to make sure you’re following these provisions.
The result of such strict rules? Gun violence in Japan is next to nil, as are accidental gun-related deaths and suicides. Japan typically has less than 10 gun-related deaths a year. To any Japanese person, it’s obvious that gun control laws are necessary and extremely effective in what they set out to accomplish. When they look at what gun laws are like in America, they’re reactions are a combination of shock and utter confusion.
I teach English in Japan, and whenever there is a mass shooting back in the states that makes the news here, my students often ask me why. Why is America so violent? And why won’t they pass stricter gun control laws to help combat this epidemic of gun violence?
For a while, I tried to answer diplomatically. Guns are a complex issue in America, I would say. Americans view gun ownership as an essential right. Guns are sometimes used for self-defense, especially in remote areas. Hunting is very popular in America.
These were just some of the defenses I would try to make, not wanting to bash my home country too much. But in the wake of this latest shooting, I’ve stopped trying.
Now, when a student asks me why gun violence is such a problem in America, I tell them the simple truth.
America is a nation run by sociopaths.
(Then I usually have to explain what a sociopath is, which takes some time.)
I honestly don’t know what else to say, I’m at a loss now. You would think, after countless shooting after countless shooting, the American government would step up and do something, no matter what special interest groups like the NRA say. But that’s not the case. America is run by sociopaths who enjoy taking the money from the enablers of killers so much that they don’t care when a club full of people are butchered by a madman. They don’t care when a college is shot to pieces. They don’t even care when a grade school is made into a grave site.
The world has by and large solved the issue of gun violence. The answer is strict legislation that greatly restricts the number of guns that can be legally bought, and enforces those who buy guns to engage in strict safety measures to to keep them as responsibly as possible. It works. Every nation that has done this has seen gun violence plummet, both of the intentional and accidental variety. It turns out that when you make it harder to get guns, and the penalties for having guns more severe, even less criminals end up having guns.
One of the best things about living in Japan is how safe it is. I walk everywhere, even in the middle of the night, even on dark secluded side streets, I know I am safe. Yes, there are outliers and exceptions, and I know that, hypothetically, a madman with a knife could jump out of the shadows and attack me for no reason.
In fact, that has happened in Japan. In 2008, a madman rammed a rented truck into a crowd of people shopping in Akihabara, he then emerged from the vehicle with a knife, and went on a stabbing spree. He managed to kill seven people and wound 10. A similar massacre occurred in 1999, a man plowed his car into a group of people and went on a stabbing spree. He murdered to five people.
Not 50 like in Orlando. Not 23 like in Virginia Tech. Not 26 like in Sandy Hook. Not 14 like in San Bernadino.
Maniacs are all over the world, and if they are intent on hurting people then they probably will, but that doesn’t mean we should make it easier for them to do so. I hope that one day America will wake up to this fact. But I’m not holding my breath.
Because America is run by sociopaths.