by Ewa Nowogorski
Yes, it’s no secret that you are not allowed to possess a gun in Japan, and even small pocket knives will warrant severe scolding by police officers if you are caught carrying one around in public. Guns are legal in every state in the USA, so as long as you have a license and no criminal history, getting one is very easy. The right to keep and bear arms in the United States is protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that people have the right to bear arms. While there have been contentious debates on the nature of this right, there was a lack of clear federal court rulings defining the right. But even then, the right is not unlimited. In most states, you are not allowed to carry the gun concealed, and if you have a firearm hidden in your car during a traffic stop, some states require that you disclose this information to the police officer who stopped you.
Recently, Texas has even passed a law that allows people to carry long blades. As of September 1, 2017, it is legal to carry a knife with a blade longer than 5.5 inches in many places in Texas. Though there are exceptions, Texans can now openly carry Jim Bowie knives, Rambo knives, daggers, swords, and yes, even machetes. Texas has always been a state that loves these kinds of weapons, but it may set a precedent for other states to follow in the future.
The liberality of these laws may seem ludicrous when compared to Japan’s gun and knife laws. In 1958, a law was passed that prohibits regular citizens from possessing firearms or swords. The law today is much less strict than back in the day, so it is not impossible to get one’s hand on a weapon, but to acquire a gun, a person in Japan must attend an all-day class, pass a written test, and achieve at least 95% accuracy during a shooting-range test. Then they have to pass a mental-health evaluation, which takes place at a hospital, and pass a background check, in which the government digs into their criminal record and interviews friends and family. They can only buy shotguns and air rifles — no handguns — and every three years they must retake the class and initial exam.
The reason why Japan is so strict with its gun laws is because of their belief that having fewer guns in circulation ultimately decreases the number of human deaths by guns. Most people in Japan are satisfied with the laws, and hope that guns never become legal in their country, which has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.