A common argument against gun control is, “criminals will find a way to kill.” To adress that, lets turn to an extreme example of gun control: Japan. Japan has probably the most stringent gun control laws in the industrialized world. The Atlantic profiles Japan’s gun laws:
Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country’s infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgoguns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.
The only guns that Japanese citizens can legally buy and use are shotguns and air rifles, and it’s not easy to do.
To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.
Now, based on the argument gun rights advocates make, we would expect Japan’s criminals to rule the streets. Only the criminals, who by definition do not follow laws, would have firearms. So what is Japan’s murder rate and how does it compare to the United States?
In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.
Japan has a population of 127,000,000 people (here’s a link to the CIA World Factbook) while the US has 315,000,000. 12,000 compared to 11. If Japan had our murder rate there would have been 4,800 murders there, not 11.
In case you were wondering what affects Eastern culture had in the case of Japan, lets look to a country with a Western culture population. Australia has seen dramatic deceases in its murder rate after large scale gun control measures passed in 1996. Slate reports:
Violent crime and gun-related deaths did not come to an end in Australia, of course. But as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog pointed out in August, homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. The drop in suicides by gun was even steeper: 65 percent. Studies found a close correlation between the sharp declines and the gun buybacks. Robberies involving a firearm also dropped significantly. Meanwhile, home invasions did not increase, contrary to fears that firearm ownership is needed to deter such crimes. But here’s the most stunning statistic. In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.