How Japan does gun control

by on January 12, 2013 at 3:39 am in Law | Permalink

Call this optimistic or pessimistic, either way:

“In Japan, no civilian is allowed to have a gun,” he stated simply. “In order to prevent atrocious crimes using firearms, possession of small arms was banned in 1965, with strict penalties for violations of the law. As time has gone on the penalties have increased and every year we try to drive down the number of people owning guns.”

Japan does allow the possession of hunting rifles and air guns (for sporting use), but the restrictions and checks are extremely strict.

And there is this:

Under current laws, if a low-level yakuza is caught with a gun and bullets that match, he’ll be charged with aggravated possession of firearms and will then face an average seven-year prison term. Simply firing a gun carries a penalty of three years to life. And for the “accomplice” reasons above, a yakuza boss may decide a death sentence is more appropriate if his thug miraculously gets released on bail before going to jail.

One mid-level yakuza boss told me, “Having a gun now is like having a time bomb. Do you think any sane person wants to keep one around the house?”

The police are not given a free hand in using guns either. Internal controls make it very difficult for a gun or even a single bullet to fall into the hands of criminals.

“When we go to the firing range, we get an allotted number of bullets, Detective X said. “When we’re done firing, we collect the shells and return the gun. If one shell is missing, the police station goes into a panic.”

The full story is here, courtesy of the ever-excellent Wonkbook.

1 Andrew Smith January 12, 2013 at 3:51 am

So a strict prohibition scheme and a punitive system works?

Who would have guessed?

2 Howl January 12, 2013 at 5:26 am

Certainly worked for all those street drugs we used to have in this country.

3 Millian January 12, 2013 at 6:24 am

“Guns are like drugs, not guns” is a poor argument,

4 John Thacker January 12, 2013 at 9:27 am

However, “Japan has had the same success with drugs as with guns using a similar approach” is, I think, a reasonable argument. If Japan and the US adopt similar Wars on Drugs and Japan’s works but the USA’s does not, then that suggests that the US would also have difficulty replicating Japan’s War on Guns.

5 John Thacker January 12, 2013 at 9:30 am

Indeed, Japan’s drug penalties are harsher than those in the USA. And they’ve made it work.

The complete failure of the US to replicate Japan’s War on Drugs is instructive. Perhaps it is because the US simply hasn’t cracked down on drugs as much as Japan, but I doubt it.

6 Machin Shinn January 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm

The reason Japan’s drug and gun laws work is because they don’t have millions of Blacks. If America wanted to do maximum-damage to Japan during WW2, it would have dropped Black people on Hiroshima rather than the A-bomb.

Proof of this theory:

7 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 10:57 am

“The prohibition of guns is like the prohibition of drugs,” meanwhile, is not a poor argument.

8 John Smith January 13, 2013 at 12:13 am

Singapore executes all drug smugglers. Used to be mandatory death penalty (up until last year) even for smugglers who turn informants for the police.

Works pretty well for us.

9 Eggo January 13, 2013 at 1:33 am

Yup. I’ll just let that speak for itself.

Any takers on the Singapore policy? Anyone?

10 Careless January 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm

So does Indonesia. Oddly enough, my father-in-law gets his drugs (ecstasy, to the best of my knowledge) smuggled to Indonesia from Singapore.

11 Marian Kechlibar January 12, 2013 at 5:45 am

Fixed: In Japan, a geographically isolated archipelago with a native culture so different from the West that it is mostly incomprehensible to us, the system works.

Anything beyond that is speculative and dubious generalization.

Many social institutions can’t simply be carried over from neighbor to neighbor, much less over half of the globe. Look how import of Scandinavian welfare state (still reasonably functional in Scandinavia) failed miserably in Greece.

12 Millian January 12, 2013 at 6:24 am

If it helps, the American obsession with guns is mostly incomprehensible to the rest of the West, too.

13 Ecurb January 12, 2013 at 6:29 am

If it helps, your obsession with slandering Americans doesn’t really affect our policy discussions.

14 Millian January 12, 2013 at 7:07 am

Please indicate the slander. I stated that the rest of us in the West are equally baffled as to the American obsession with guns. Slander requires untruth; I see none. Americans defend their mass gun ownership, even in the face of atrocities, and Europeans don’t get it.

15 Willitts January 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Owning and using firearms is not an “obsession.” It is not deviant behavior. THAT is your slander.

Europe had more than a millennium of weapon disarmament of private citizens which is why our forefathers had the great insight to protect the right to keep and bear arms. Europeans are sheeple.

I’ve owned firearms for more than 30 years, and somehow they have all failed to rob grocery stores, assist suicide, kill my children in accidents, or murder someone.

But by your warped logic, what is women’s obsession with abortion all about?

16 The Original D January 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I’ve owned firearms for more than 30 years…

And that separates you from the vast majority of people in the West. Coming into a forum and blathering on about it suggests an obsession.

No one called it deviant but you. The Japanese are obsessed with manga.

17 Dick King January 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Would you have used the word “obsessed” to describe our attitude towards freedom of expression that led to ?


18 Jan January 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Willits, unfortunately we have not been able to replicate your 30 year experiment with the 300 million guns in this country.

I think it would be fair to call a lot of Americans’ focus on guns an obsession. It doesn’t mean the obsessed are wrong to make guns a huge part of their lives. It’s true that no other country has such a gun-focused populace, so why is it slanderous or surprising that our friends abroad find it strange?

19 The Original D January 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm

@Dick, there’s a difference between obsession and deviance. One can be healthy and another is unhealthy. I would say a lot of libertarians are obsessed with liberty.

And that video you linked to is in the UK, which has no bill of rights.

Obsession with free speech puts you in Julian Assange territory. You would better have linked to secret diplomatic cables.

20 Willitts January 12, 2013 at 10:03 pm


300 million guns with 50 million gun owners, and fewer than 15,000 murders per year, many killed with the same gun or by the same person or not with a gun. Do the math – you’re hysterical with fear about guns.

My experience has been replicated billions of times over more than two centuries.

21 Major January 13, 2013 at 12:37 am

I think it would be fair to call a lot of Americans’ focus on guns an obsession.

Millian said “the American obsession with guns,” implying that Americans in general are obsessed. I see this nonsense a lot from Europeans. They simply have no understanding of the reality of life in the United States. They base their claims on television cop shows and the like. The NRA has about 4 million members. The U.S. population is about 310 million. So even if every NRA member could reasonably be said to be “obsessed with guns,” (which I also think is false), they’re only about 1.3% of the population. Most Americans probably rarely even think about guns. The claim that guns are some kind of national “obsession” is just absurd.

22 Careless January 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm

And that video you linked to is in the UK, which has no bill of rights.

It has two, actually. Some would say three.

23 Urso January 14, 2013 at 10:36 am

I agree with Major entirely. Something that gets lost in all this hyperbole is that the *vast* majority of Americans do not own a gun.

As for England having a “Bill of Rights” (or two, or three), that’s obviously untrue, because those bills can all be overruled by simple majority vote; in other words, by political whim. They are not Bills of Rights in any meaningful sense; titling them as such does not make it true. Otherwise, freedom of gun ownership would be the law of the land in England (well, for Protestants at least — see the English Bill of Rights of 1689).

24 Careless January 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Urso, the American Second Amendment was one vote away from being overturned just a few years ago.

25 Careless January 15, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Parliamentary supremacy is different from having SCOTUS as a final arbiter, but it doesn’t mean “they wrote that down on paper, so that will remain the law forever”

26 dbp January 12, 2013 at 8:50 am

Obsession is a rather loaded term. People who own fire arms, or think law-abiding citizens should be allowed to own them, do not consider themselves obsessed with guns. Rather, they think the people who want a whole citizenry treated like children are the ones obsessed.

27 John Thacker January 12, 2013 at 9:29 am

Then you should look at countries like Mexico and Brazil that have stricter gun control than the USA but higher gun violence. Perhaps you should try to be more familiar with the rest of the Western Hemisphere rather than just calling it incomprehensible.

28 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 10:02 am

Without going into endless comparisons I ask a simple question: “If USA did indeed adopt stricter gun control policies do you honestly think gun violence would go down or not?” Screw Brazil, Japan and all the extrapolations.

Note that even if gun violence did go down one may have other valid reasons to not want stricter gun control. That’s OK.

29 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 10:34 am


On the academic question of violence and firearm prohibitions, I am under the impression that various academics have been at it for decades with no end in sight.

30 John Thacker January 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

“If USA did indeed adopt stricter gun control policies do you honestly think gun violence would go down or not?”

I do not. I admit that some of my reasoning is based on extrapolations from other countries, including the failure of gun violence to go down in the UK after the stricter gun control policies following Dunblane (while, at the same time, gun violence went down in the US simultaneously with looser gun control policies.)

The USA has had high levels of violence for hundreds of years; there have been the same regional difference in levels of violence between parts of the country (see David Hackett Fischer or Nisbett and Cohen). Thankfully, the last twenty years have seen a steady decline in violence, something that has been unaccompanied with stricter gun control, and for which people have proposed many explanations, such as the disuse of leaded gasoline. Despite that, people focus on rare events rather than the overall trend, and focus on nearly pointless interventions rather than things that would actually do much more to affect violence (such as reforming the war on drugs.)

31 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 11:52 am


You are right about the steady decline in gun violence. Yet people get more and more worked up about guns. I think the reason is people do not care about all gun violence equally. Has the mass-killer / accidental death / domestic violence segment of gun violence gone down as significantly as the total decline? I think one kid killed in an accidental discharge raises a lot more uproar than ten junkies dying in a drive by. And rightly so.

If stricter gun control did come in, I suspect the sort of violence that would decline is the one people care about most. Maybe that explains the irony of higher agitation in response to a lower total violence?

32 Careless January 13, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Rahul, your last post had me wondering how many of those things people hear about, so I was looking over Chicago crime suspects recently arrested (I had heard of few of them, and I live here). I think my “favorite” was

“A woman stabbed her mother to death over a $40 debt this weekend following a dispute over the money, prosecutors said… Angela Welch, 55, was stabbed Saturday in the home Angela Welch had let Lonika Welch, fiance and their 2-year-old girl move into recently after the home they were in fell into foreclosure… the Cook County medical examiner’s office determined she died of four stab wounds, including two to the back…Assistant Cook County Public Defender Marijane Placek said in court that the killing was a case of self-defense”

We need a term for the opposite of a Darwin Award for someone whose reproduction got them killed in a really stupid way.

33 Major January 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm

If it helps, the American obsession with guns is mostly incomprehensible to the rest of the West, too.

I don’t think Americans are “obsessed” with guns, and I don’t think “the rest of the West” is unable to understand why Americans treat guns very differently than they do. They just don’t really try to understand it. It arises from America’s particular combination of history and geography and values and political system. It’s easier to just make stupid, dismissive statements like “the American obsession with guns.”

34 J1 January 12, 2013 at 7:09 pm

A lot of the American obsession with guns involves the fact that gun ownership is an enumerated constitutional right, something unheard of pretty much anywhere else in the world, I suspect most Europeans (I’m assuming that’s what you mean by “the West”) wouldn’t look favorably upon restriction of enumerated rights they had; this is just isn’t one of them.

The US also has a much higher crime rate than Europe or Japan, due to issues that don’t exist in those countries and wouldn’t go away even if all guns were confiscated. There’s also a philosophy that one has the right to defend oneself from criminals (a basic human right in my view), which in many cases requires firearms.

Finally, while the American obsession with guns is incomprehensible to you, I question you’re “to the rest of the West” generalization. As with the death penalty, I suspect if the issue were to be put before the voters, you’d be surprised.

35 FJester January 13, 2013 at 6:20 pm

due to issues that don’t exist in those countries

Such as what, exactly? I keep hearing people say that the US is different but nobody ever lists why. I hear the same argument on everything from gun rights to universal healthcare to adoption of the metric system. This leads me to believe that the statement is a bit of a cop out. Not being an American, would you care to enlighten me (at least w.r.t. gun rights and crime)?

36 Ray Lopez January 12, 2013 at 6:30 am

The UK –whose culture is closer to the USA’s–also has very strict gun control, as reported by the Economist. Criminal gangs manufacture their own bullets, since they are so hard to obtain. Gun deaths are way down, per capita, even the violence rates per capita are about the same or even higher in the UK> As for the Greek welfare state, you need to study your history more: Google Ottoman empire and Byzantium. Client-ism here runs deeper than in Sweden. What sunk the Greeks was an aggravated form of what sunk the USA: too much cheap debt and consumerism. Remember this if nothing else: “Guns kill people”.

37 dearieme January 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

The strict gun control in Britain concerns pistols. It’s pretty straightforward to get a shotgun certificate. Rifle licences are harder to get but not all that difficult. Britain’s rate of gun deaths was far lower than the USA’s in the many decades before the present strict British laws were introduced, so it is ingenuous, or worse, to attribute our low rates of gun deaths to the present laws. Amazingly, our criminals seem to find it far from difficult to get hold of pistols, Eastern Europe (it is said) providing ample supplies.

Declaration of interest: I sold my rifle and ammunition, and let my licence lapse, many years before the present laws came in. I wish I hadn’t but am not inclined to get a new rifle licence. If pistol licences were available I would be tempted to buy one and ensure that my wife and I took lessons. Posting a photocopy of such a licence on our garden gate might well be cheaper and more effective than buying a burglar alarm.

38 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 10:08 am

If you really mean what you write why not just post a dummy photocopy? The average Brit. burglar has the time and ability to verify firearm license authenticity?

39 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 10:59 am


A dummy photocopy would likely work as well, yes.

40 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 10:36 am

It is disingenuous to cite changes in gun murder rates only. Gun rights people frequently cite substitution – using a knife instead of a gun, for instance – which occurs after gun bans.

The overall rate of homicide in the UK trended up long after the gun ban, and has only recently fallen.

41 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 11:57 am

Knives sound a lot more inefficient. Especially at the sort of gun murders people care about most.

One school-shooter does more for the anti-gun sentiment than hundreds of other gun murders. And it is really hard to execute a mass-killing with a knife.

42 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm

My post was in response to a statistical argument.

Your response is a non sequitur.

43 dearieme January 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I can’t post a pistol licence because they don’t exist. My point was that if they did …..

I suppose I could by an illegal pistol and post up a photo of it, but then I’d find myself in chokey.

44 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm


(a) Post a rifle license? Your post seems to say those still exist….

(b) You don’t need to buy a thingy to post a photo of it.

45 F. Lynx Pardinus January 12, 2013 at 7:51 am

“with a native culture so different from the West that it is mostly incomprehensible to us”

Meh, I liked this Cracked article.
“Japan does have its eccentric side, but at the end of the day (and especially outside of Tokyo), it’s pretty normal and boring.”

46 eggo January 12, 2013 at 8:20 am

“Because if you step off the plane armed with nothing but what the Internet teaches you about this country, chances are you will be arrested before you make it out of the airport.”

Hilarious, thanks for linking it. If I ever end up visiting the country, I’d like to visit fishing villages in Hokkaido, or one of their many wonderful national parks.

But I think it’s important to remember that while the country might be “normal and boring”, it is still a very, very different culture that has almost no overlap with ours. I suspect this is even more true outside of the relatively international major cities.

47 Taeyoung January 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

One salient difference here, though, is that it’s a much more orderly nation than the US. I’ve seen people at deserted intersections waiting for the crossing light to change. People sort their trash obsessively. They instinctively queue. When the government asked companies and ordinary individuals to reduce their electricity consumption in various ways after Fukushima, they did.

Their greater average propensity to obey rules and laws — even stupid ones — may mean that they have a higher proportion of inefficient and troublesome rules than we have, but it does mean that when they attempt something like gun control, or drug control, it’s going to work a lot better than here. The considerably lower rate of violence overall, though, means that gun control is also eking out only tiny, tiny marginal gains in public safety. They’d probably be better off than us even if we had 100% effective gun control and they didn’t restrict firearms at all.

48 NK January 12, 2013 at 8:24 am

1. I exercise my the right to own weapons. I don’t *care* if something “works” in Japan or not.
2. What does “works” even mean?
3. What always “works” is market forces.
4. Everybody – except certain clueless commenters – who has some idea and understanding about East Asia knows that the idiotic laws presented here make gansters buy guns but not the ammo (a shocker that apparently did not occur to some).
There’s more but I have to board my flight.

49 BC January 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm

If gun control was working so well, then why, almost 50 years after they started banning guns, are they still increasing penalties and exerting great effort “every year…to drive down the number of people owning guns”?

Also, from the article, Detective X claims, “Japan is basically a place where only yakuza and cops have guns.” So, apparently, what admittedly may sound like a mere slogan, “If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns,” has at least some merit. Econometrics, it would seem, is not the only domain in which one encounters selection bias.

Finally, this:

“Then the former officer waxed a little nostalgic. ‘Because of all the paperwork, in the old days sometimes we didn’t even take guns with us on raids of yakuza offices. I almost got my head blown off once because of that. … The guy had his gun in the dresser next to his futon. After that I made sure we carried guns with us on all our raids.’ ”

So, the police officer’s response to gun violence, almost getting his head blown off, was not to decrease the frequency with which police officers carried guns on raids, which would have reduced the number of guns present in those raids. Instead, the police decided that the *composition* of gun users, law-abiding vs. criminal, was more important than the gross number of guns. Thus, they “made sure [they] carried guns with [them] on all [their] raids,” i.e., increased the proportion of law-abiding gun users, even if doing so increased the overall number of guns in a given environment.

50 Glen Raphael January 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Japan’s violent death rate – homicides plus suicides – is far higher than the rate in the US. Is that a tradeoff we want to make? Fewer gun deaths but more total deaths?

51 Jeff Morgan January 13, 2013 at 4:20 am

Can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic… you might actually think suicide rates are determined by gun policy.

52 handworn January 13, 2013 at 10:11 am

It doesn’t. Japan’s homicide rate began going down about 1955-56, with no particular increase in its reduction rate around 1965.

Looks to me as though the gun laws were a concomitant result of whatever caused the reduction in homicide.

53 eggo January 12, 2013 at 4:02 am

“Sometimes, police officers even go to the neighborhoods where a gun owner lives and interview neighbors”
Anyone willing to live in a culture like that should move to one.

54 Firionel January 12, 2013 at 4:10 am

Just tweak the sentence slightly and it applies to some other place (“Sometimes, police officers go to the neighborhoods where a muslim lives and talk to the neighbors” – New York, perhaps?).

In every society there are behaviours which are strongly frowned upon though technically legal. And if you are going to pick one you could probably do worse than possession of firearms…

55 eggo January 12, 2013 at 4:22 am

And I think the general consensus of most decent people is that it is equally unacceptable for the police to be doing that. Or randomly searching people on suspicion of being Black In Public, for that matter.

I think Tyler should have coupled this post with a few choice facts about the Japanese criminal justice system. The reasons for their near-100% conviction ratio, and the recent string of disturbing corruption cases (such as the killing of Takashi Saito) might add some context to this discussion.

56 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 9:40 am

It depends. If you accept that owning a gun is a privilege granted to a select few and not a right then the part about police snooping on you is not that odd.

Say, you had a Raytheon or Los Alamos job that required a high level Security Clearance, the cops snooping on you is a part of the background check. And it isn’t a one time thing either.

Think of it just as a price you pay for the privilege.

57 Steven Kopits January 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Owning a gun is not a privilege, it’s a right. Hence the 2nd Amendment.

Habeas corpus is not a privilege, either. It’s also a right. Or perhaps, that too, is a privilege in your mind?

58 Sbard January 12, 2013 at 8:17 pm

The Japanese seem to believe that owning a gun is a privilege and they have nothing resembling a second amendment (though they do have a history of laws that tried to disarm the samurai).

59 BC January 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Right on point. I would classify neither practicing the Islamic faith nor owning a gun as behaviors that are “strongly frowned upon though technically legal”.

In the wake of 9/11, our then President spoke out against racial profiling, standing up against some of the voices in his own party. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, we have heard similar dubious attempts to connect various groups to the shootings, from video game players to people that don’t pray in school. The loudest voices though are the ones calling for some sort of “gun profiling”, stripping away rights of the 47% that own guns, who had no more role in the Newtown shootings than the average Muslim had in the 9/11 attacks. We shall see whether our current President will similarly resist these calls, but early indications don’t seem very encouraging.

60 handworn January 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

In what neighborhood of NYC are there definitely no Muslims?

But I don’t think it’s comparable; gun ownership is not like a religion, the way LaPierre acts notwithstanding.

61 Jan January 12, 2013 at 4:57 am

Do beat cops in Japan not carry firearms, as in the UK?

62 Jan January 12, 2013 at 5:11 am

Whoops, I didn’t read closely enough. I’d guess cops don’t usually carry, as it wasn’t even common practice to have guns on yakuza busts in the past, though the quote below suggests police pack guns more often now.

Because of all the paperwork, in the old days sometimes we didn’t even take guns with us on raids of yakuza offices. I almost got my head blown off once because of that. … The guy had his gun in the dresser next to his futon. After that I made sure we carried guns with us on all our raids.

63 DK January 12, 2013 at 5:36 am

I think they can, but generally do not. The article suggests it is a massive hassle to carry a firearm with you. Anyone familiar with Japanese paperwork will know what I mean.

The wiki actually breaks it down:

64 Chip January 12, 2013 at 4:59 am

Japan doesn’t have low gun crime because of gun control. They have low crime generally because of culture.

Their robbery rate is a smidge over 1 per 100,000 people whereas Canada’s is over 90.

65 Jan January 12, 2013 at 5:12 am

I’ve read that the use of illicit drugs is also extremely low in Japan.

66 Watoosh January 12, 2013 at 6:46 am

And the penalties for drugs (even mild ones like marijuana) are much more severe than in most Western countries. Like it or not, that has to be a causal factor in reducing drug use.

Back to the issue at hand, anyone who thinks Japan’s gun control is irrelevant is out of their minds. Of course a 100% ban on firearms works if it can be enforced as effectively as Japan does. As a thought experiment, let’s say Japan lifted the ban on the sale and possession of firearms for a month. Can anyone honestly claim that gun violence (and violence in general) would remain the same (or even decrease) for that month?

And yes, it’s also a cultural issue. A culture that’s optimized for hierarchical decisionmaking, rule of law and conformity as opposed to being more diverse and anti-authoritarian is much more likely to sustain an effective ban on guns, at least until a major cultural shift happens in the younger generations. I doubt anything like that could be implemented in the USA, even if the SCOTUS were packed with liberal activists who disregarded the 2nd Amendment altogether.

Culture and legislation aren’t separate, they influence one another. Japan cannot teach America much in the way of gun laws when there are so many people who, for better or worse, regard the right to bear arms as sacrosanct. Until then, outside very slight and subtle gun control, focusing on things like mental health and poverty is the only way America can reduce gun violence.

67 The Anti-Gnostic January 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

“Rule of law” in the Anglosphere is a very different concept than in the sense you are using it here. Historically and not so long ago, the Japanese regarded their monarch as a deity. Rex lex is how they thought, and probably still think, about law. The fact that they replaced their god-king with a parliament is superficial.

In the English tradition, rule of law means lex rex. An armed populace follows rather naturally from this paradigm: every man a king and every home a castle. This attitude runs very deep in the American psyche, hence the efforts of our rulers on making a new people, sadly demonstrated by your own ambiguity on this concept. You do mention the very good issues of mental health and poverty, but we are deeply and irrevocably divided over the solutions.

For my part, I own a gun not because I delude myself in the belief that I can overthrow a nuclear-armed government if necessary, but because I know our society has lots of crazy, violent people in it and the police are just there to zip up bodybags. But on the former point, I do want government actors, and even the democratic majority, thinking long and hard before doing anything really draconian. Like Jim Crow laws, and you can bet the many black and Jewish gun owners out there are thinking the same thing. I’m sure the Middle Eastern Christians would like to have more guns right now.

Obama is throwing a sop to his NYT/NPR demographic. I think the most the decorative Joe Biden will come up with is a ban on high-capacity magazines and maybe a prospective ban on ‘assault rifles.’ Everybody knows once legislative debate starts gun sales head into the stratosphere (they’re already through the roof). The horse has left the barn.

68 a*dam January 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Here is one Jewish gun owner agreeing with you, and with BC by the way.

69 Mrwiizrd January 15, 2013 at 1:02 am

I have a hard time understanding why overthrowing our nuclear weapon wielding government with small arms is so easily dismissed as looney talk.

Our government hasn’t used nuclear weapons on the soil of our worst enemies for over 50 years so it would seem extremely unlikely that they’d be used against american citizens on our home soil even if the current regimes very existence was threatened.

In addition, both the Viet cong and the Taliban have done pretty well for themselves against our armies using primarily small arms.

Now, if you said that the actual likelihood of such an uprising occurring is absurdly laughable, I would probably agree. But it doesn’t change my mind that having an armed populace as a check of government tyranny couldn’t possibly work because of disparities in armaments. I think it very well could, it’s just extremely unlikely.

70 handworn January 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

“As a thought experiment, let’s say Japan lifted the ban on the sale and possession of firearms for a month. Can anyone honestly claim that gun violence (and violence in general) would remain the same (or even decrease) for that month?”

Of course I can. Homicidal impulses don’t vary according to weapon availability. Examine the link I supplied above (in response to Andrew Smith) and you’ll see there’s no correlation between homicide rates and gun laws pretty much anywhere. Why did Japan’s homicide rate begin declining a decade before their gun laws and not drop even more sharply when they were passed? What occurred in 1905 to make America’s homicide rate rise sharply? How about Argentina in 1995? Nothing I know of.

Unless we’re going to say that a single gun homicide is worse than a single homicide by any other method, gun control is a red herring next to the cultural or environmental things (like the leaded-gasoline argument) that really matter, ’cause the numbers of murders overall don’t seem to be affected by gun laws.

71 Millian January 12, 2013 at 6:26 am

Is it your contention that gun control would NOT reduce gun crime?

72 tagon January 12, 2013 at 6:32 am

He’s not saying anything of the sort. What he IS saying is that this factoid is clearly irrelevant to any discussion of American crime policy.
And you’re just baiting.

73 Millian January 12, 2013 at 7:12 am

“Japan doesn’t have low gun crime because of gun control”

Now, call me a logician, but that looks a lot like denying a role for gun control in determining the numbers of gun crimes. Evidently, across rich countries, that’s absurd. America is exceptional in its proportion of gun crimes (and gun deaths).

If you choose to believe in “culture” to justify non-action, you need to prove that guns themselves don’t intensify a culture of violence and crime.

As for the accusation of baiting, I am simply seeking an argument. They are very different concepts: I am writing in good faith and expressing sincere beliefs.

74 tagon January 12, 2013 at 7:20 am

If you were really arguing in good faith, you’d do more than reply with snide one-liners and insults to every comment you disagree with. The string below is an good example of why it’s not worth interacting with you.

75 Millian January 12, 2013 at 7:28 am

Sadly, one line is often enough to refute many arguments in favour of guns, such as the idea that “culture” is totally independent of the law. I see no insults, merely inconveniently-convincing arguments.

76 tagon January 12, 2013 at 7:58 am

It’s more that reasonable Americans just stop talking to you when you deliberately set out to antagonize and insult them. You may have noticed that, while (most) people in the US are generally polite, they have a very quick “not worth my time” trigger when people are rude or obstinate.

77 Willitts January 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm

America is exceptional in the proportion of blacks and Hispanics. It is a sorry fact that blacks who represent only 14% of our population commit 52% of our murders. That is a murder rate ten times higher than non-Hispanic whites. Take a look at the demographics of the US cities with the highest crime rates. Then look at what political party controls the cities. Then look at their gun control policies relative to low crime cities. Open your eyes and engage your brain.

While it is also true that only a small percentage of blacks in America commit murder, there is no question that our relatively high murder rate has a strong racial component to it that our tender sensibilities are unwilling to admit. 95% of murder victims in the US are the same race as their killer.

What’s remarkable about the murders in CT is how infrequently they occur. The impact on US murder statistics of that horrendous incident was negligible. Yet you want to remove the rights of 50 million law abiding gun owners because of it?

It is hard to do the calculations because the BJS statistics include Hispanics among whites, but I would venture to say the white homicide rate in the US is on par with most of Europe. And if it were higher, I would freely admit that access to guns is a contributing factor, but I would also contend that the rights of the many cannot be infringed for the abuses of a few.

78 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm


>>>The impact on US murder statistics of that horrendous incident was negligible. <<<

That's exactly the point. People don't weigh all gun casualties equally. The question to ask is not how much a little gun control will bring down total murder stats, but only the categories of murders that people care most about i.e. mass killings / kids / accidental discharges etc.

Whether people are rational in having this skewed response to various murder types is another matter.

79 Willitts January 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm


While elected representatives or even the electorate at large may desire policies that are based on an irrational analysis, our courts apply balancing tests in weighing the costs imposed on the minority versus the benefits gained by the majority. Banning so-called assault rifles would impose substantial costs on millions of Americans without a significant impact on crime.

It may be true that people are more shocked by the murder of 20 white school children in CT by one lunatic in one incident than the record high number of blacks killed in Oakland, CA by hundreds of different perpetrators in hundreds of incidents. But that underscores the irrationality of the proposed laws and the political opportunism involved with it. A rational society would wonder why so many blacks are killing so many blacks in Oakland despite strict gun control laws. You see, I actually care about black people dying, and the tool used to kill them doesn’t concern me. The tools aren’t the problem, as evidenced by areas with high gun ownership and low homicide rates.

80 somaguy January 12, 2013 at 5:45 pm

“America is exceptional in its proportion of gun crimes (and gun deaths).”

Control for gang-related violence and this is no longer true.

81 John Smith January 13, 2013 at 12:32 am

I agree. Speaking as a Singaporean who favours gun control, you are a idiot and full of crap. People should indeed ignore you. If you want your views to be respected, don’t purposely misrepresent others and evade issues.

82 Major January 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Is it your contention that gun control would NOT reduce gun crime?

I think overall crime rates are more important than gun crime specifically. The evidence that gun control has a large effect on overall crime is weak.

83 Statistician January 12, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Yep. Both the CDC and the National Academy of Science have debunked any such idea.

84 Andrew' January 13, 2013 at 9:27 am

“Is it your contention that gun control would NOT reduce gun crime?”

I don’t know, do you consider armed people raiding houses of otherwise innocent people to be a crime?

85 handworn January 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Is it your contention that any given homicide is worse if committed with a gun than by other methods?

86 Jan January 12, 2013 at 7:26 am

If you read the article, that statement doesn’t make sense.

Yakuza, who have no problem bucking cultural norms–they are gangsters after all–have modified their behavior to comply with the gun laws. When you get hardened criminals scared enough of the consequences to ditch most of their guns it seems to make a very strong case for gun control.

87 NAME REDACTED January 12, 2013 at 7:47 am

Gang members don’t need guns if their victims are disarmed. They can bring 4 or 5 tough guys to you.
As a private, non-gang citizen /YOU/ need a gun to help you deal with criminals.

88 Damien January 12, 2013 at 9:18 am

Which only means that the 4/5 tough guys will be packing and that you’ll be dead before you can reach for your gun. If a gang wants you dead, they’ll get you gun or no gun.

89 tagon January 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

The gang doesn’t want you dead, just like bullies don’t want a fight. They want to pick up that protection money without any risk. Which is why the current situation works out nicely for them

And there are enough examples of jewelry store owners fending off good-sized gangs in this country that your absolute statement just doesn’t hold water.

90 tagon January 12, 2013 at 7:49 am

I would contend that the Yakuza actually exemplify certain cultural norms, much as the Italian mafia does.

It’s simple game theory. You don’t need guns to extort money from unarmed shopkeepers, or beat people failing to repay a 10%/week loan. Lack of guns just makes it easier for them to keep their ‘business’ quiet and low-cost.

91 Jan January 12, 2013 at 10:11 am

I’m pretty sure yakuza would prefer to have the gun option in Japan, if only the consequences weren’t so severe–they would make sure they had more and better guns. And yes they may exemplify certain subcultural norms, but not those of Japanese society at large. They are only a small segment of the population and they aren’t well regarded.

I disagree that the possibility of a shopkeeper having a gun significantly deters mafia from doing what they do. They can always find ways to intimidate. The movies I’ve seen indicate they threaten not so much with direct violence on the owner, but family members or through other non-physical methods where a gun isn’t going to help. Yes, movies, but they seem like pretty good ideas to me, were I to try to entice someone to participate in my “protection” racket.

92 Steven Kopits January 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm

How many people does the US mafia kill? I can’t remember the last time I heard about a NY/NJ hit. During the late 1980s, when I was in graduate school in NY, we’d have a couple of hits per year. I recall one in Greenwich Village and another in a cab outside Penn Station.

But it wasn’t large numbers, even allowing for the weaponry these guys must have had.

In 1979, for example, (which appears to have been a bad year) there appear to have been about 20 mob hits in NY, versus 2,092 homicides in the New York metro area. So a well-armed mafia would be responsible for something like 1% of killings. They’re not statistically important in the US, even if the capture the headlines and the popular imagination. The number of guns, and the type of guns the US mafia had, did not materially influence the overall murder rate, even in a town with a heavy mob presence like New York.

On the other hand, the late ’80s saw the depths of the crack cocaine epidemic. Lots and lots of killings then–virtually all of it in black and Latino neighborhoods, as far as NY was concerned. There were 2,600 murders in metro New York in 1990 (versus 744 in 2012).

I’d also note that around 1980, Little Italy was regarded as the safest neighborhood in Manhattan. Only the mafia was allowed to kill people there.

93 chuck martel January 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Of the 2,092 homicides in the NY metro area in 1979, in how many cases do you suppose the killer and the departed knew one another or were involved in some type of transaction? Why would anyone care if two people disagreed on something emphatically enough to fire bullets at one another? And why is it OK for the state to use violence, say at the Branch Davidian “compound”? Interpersonal violence has been a fact of life as long as humans have roamed the earth, it reinforces good behavior and penalizes bad. If some jerk lets his pitbull crap on my lawn and won’t pick it up, I demand the right to work him over with my cane.

94 Bill January 12, 2013 at 9:26 am


When you hear the NRA argue that it is video games which cause violent gun crimes,

Ask yourself:

Do the Japanese watch violent video games.

95 DocMerlin January 12, 2013 at 10:49 am

They are not nearly as popular in Japan as they are in the US. (relative to other games)

96 Bill January 12, 2013 at 11:36 am


That’s incorrect and not supported by the evidence.

If you look at the data comparing video game spending and violence across nations, (charts here and study referenced here:

Conclusions summarized as follows:

“So, what have we learned? That video game consumption, based on international data, does not seem to correlate at all with an increase in gun violence. That countries where video games are popular also tend to be some of the world’s safest (probably because these countries are stable and developed, not because they have video games). And we also have learned, once again, that America’s rate of firearm-related homicides is extremely high for the developed world.”

97 eggo January 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Oh, I see you’ve gone from harping about “violent video games vs violence” to just “video games vs GUN violence” now that someone has called you out on your nonsense… Pathetic.

And yes, go look at the video game collection of the average Japanese gamer. Their most popular series are RPGs where cartoony characters with funny hair fight bloodless battles with silly weapons. Rather different than the “Call of Brotherhood Duty XII: Doom Nukem at Omaha” titles popular here.

I’m not saying that violent video games have anything to do with violence, but you can’t even make a coherent argument and stick with it. You’re just trolling.

98 Bill January 12, 2013 at 7:07 pm


Please read the article and then google video game violence studies. If you want to do market research on game consumption in Japan, you might want to look also at the export statistics of the manufacturers. But, first read the article above.

99 Bill January 12, 2013 at 7:13 pm

There is a similar Time magazine article making the same point. And, by the way, please provide the data supporting your claim about Japanese youth not consuming the same amount of violent video product.

100 Bill January 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm

eggo, Since your revered sources may include Fox News, here is a link for an interview discussing Japanese violent video game consumption, including games that are not sold in the US because of their violence and the similarities: Maybe if you don’t read, or have sources, you will view this.

101 Bill January 12, 2013 at 8:05 pm

eggo, Since you have not proved a response to my argument, I will also point out the same comparison made in a recent Psychology Today article:

‘But research is clearly lacking on a direct causal relationship between violent video games and youth violence. Interestingly, the US has the highest homicide rate in the world. But, as Fareed Zakaria noted in The Washington Post, the Japanese are avid video game players and have a homicide rate close to zero. He argues that the difference is the incredibly strict restrictions on firearms. In fact, the rate of video game use of all kinds is actually decreasing in the United States, and many of the top selling games are decidedly non-violent. (Does the NRA want to take on Super-Mario Brothers as etiologic for mass shootings?) Furthermore, as Mr. Zakaria suggests, many comparable nations have comparable consumption of video game and violent media, but low homicide rates. The Japanese, he notes, are avid video game players, and have a homicide rate close to zero.”

Am still waiting for your data on Japan being different in consumption of violent video games.

102 maguro January 12, 2013 at 8:09 pm

So how does Mr. Zakaria explain the extremely low homicide rate of Japanese-Americans?

103 Bill January 12, 2013 at 8:47 pm

magaro, Do you have statistics comparing gun US homicide rates for Japanese Americans v. gun homicide rates for Japanese citizens. I would be interested in seeing the statistics you have. If guns are unavailable in Japan, then let’s start with 0 for Japan; what is Japanese American gun homicide it in the US? Or, don’t you know?

104 Careless January 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Bill is, at best, playing games with the word “violent”, substituting a different definition for the implied “FPS or third person GTA style”. His post responding to DocMerlin was simply wrong at the beginning, probably because he ignored the parenthetical, and then irrelevant after that.

Bill, no one here is telling you that video games cause violence. They’ve pointed out that Japanese gaming tastes differ substantially from non-Japanese tastes, and that makes comparisons in this subject pretty pointless when people are talking about American games.

105 Apologies For Any Misformatting January 12, 2013 at 5:39 am

I thought I remembered this article. The “lack of legal constraints” he speaks of include search warrants granted on hearsay, lack of any exclusionary rule on illegally gathered evidence, and 28 day detention upon arrest with little access to counsel.

David Kopel, Japanese Gun Control, (Asia-Pacific Law Review 26 (1993))

“Japan’s gun control does play an important role in the low Japanese crime rate, but not because of some simple relation between gun density and crime. Japan’s gun control is one inseparable part of a vast mosaic of social control. Gun control underscores the pervasive cultural theme that the individual is subordinate to society and to the Government. The same theme is reflected in the absence of protection against Government searches and prosecutions. The police are the most powerful on earth, partly because of the lack of legal constraints and particularly because of their social authority.

Powerful social authorities, beginning with the father and reaching up to the state, create a strict climate for obeying both the criminal laws and the gun control laws. The voluntary disarmament of the Japanese Government reinforces this climate. Ethnic homogeneity and economic equality remove some of the causes of criminality.

Simply put, the Japanese are among the most law-abiding people on earth, and far more law-abiding than Americans. America’s non-gun robbery rate is over 70 times Japan’s, an indication that something more significant than gun policy is involved in the differing crime rates between the two nations.[129] Neither Japanese nor American prisoners have guns, but homicide by prisoners and attacks on guards occur frequently in American prisons, and almost never in Japanese prisons.[130] Another indication that social standards matter more than gun laws is that Japanese-Americans, who have access to firearms, have a lower violent crime rate than do Japanese in Japan.”

106 Millian January 12, 2013 at 6:31 am

In some respects, the individual should be subordinate to society. The ability to shoot many members of that society seems like a good example.

As for “ethnic homogeneity”, should we be amending the NRA’s slogan to read “Guns don’t kill people, minorities do”? I guess that has always been implicit.

Regardless of the motivation for robbery, if you could substitute X non-armed robberies in place of X armed robberies, why would you not do so?

107 Apologies For Any Misformatting January 12, 2013 at 6:34 am

I notice you entirely dodge the question of unrestrained police power, and don’t hesitate to make baseless accusations of racism right out of the gate.

I’ll give your argument the benefit of the doubt and assume this says more about the quality of your character than about the quality of your position.

108 Millian January 12, 2013 at 7:18 am

I agree that authoritarian police power is bad. I have no desire to make facetious arguments when I agree with somebody. I also believe that authoritarian private power is bad.

The role of guns in maintaining American slave society and the subsequent Jim Crow society challenges your “baseless” claim. Guns have been used throughout American history to intensify authoritarian private power against the rule of law, whether among the KKK or street gangs. Of course, most people who own guns don’t think that way, but we all know that the most vote-winning arguments on the right of American politics have resorted to racial allusions (state’s rights, welfare queens, Willie Horton, Kenyan anti-colonialism).

109 Apologies For Any Misformatting January 12, 2013 at 7:43 am

The role of authoritarian police power and a generally authoritarian society is an essential element to the Japanese experience with banning guns. You can’t simply agree that “authoritarianism is bad” and proceed to ignore how it affects their ability to make and enforce laws that would be impossible in the US.

As for “private power against the rule of law”, I believe Condoleezza Rice had some choice words on that subject.

You may also be forgetting that Jim Crow society mostly leveraged control of state power to maintain white domination, as exemplified by the frequent complicity of judges and the police in lynchings. Private violence and terrorism, though horrific and vicious, was virtually ineffective at maintaining the status quo as local governments gradually lost the ability to maintain segregationist policies.

The 1963 Birmingham church bombing (and the resulting public backlash) is an excellent example of private violence failing to substitute for state power to maintain group dominance.

110 Xmas January 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

You do realize that gun control laws have been mostly aimed at disarming the minority in this country, right? The modern gun control movement was a reaction to armed Black Panthers entering the California State Assembly in protest of police abuse.

The main thing that separates the US from other Western countries is our deeply held belief that the State and its agents are just mere mortals, full of their own prejudices, fears and hates. The right to bear arms comes from this understanding, that men in power can be cruel, capricious and murderous and we have the right to defend ourselves from them.

You may believe that this is impossible in modern America. However, a few million people that believe in “No Snitchin'”, more than a few very vocal inner city activists, and the family and friend of Amadou Diallo would all disagree with you.

111 lfkdjaslkf January 12, 2013 at 6:39 am

We certainly should, but we won’t. White rates of violent crime are comparable to third world hellholes like… New Zealand and Finland. American gun crime is driven very, very heavily by urban minority crime via handguns. Liberals of course… focus their attention on white rednecks with ridiculous toys.

112 Jan January 12, 2013 at 7:34 am

That assault weapon issue is something to be addressed, but is not the main problem. The urban minorities get their guns somewhere. It seems that improved background checks and gun tracking would improve things. The article talks about authorities’ attention latent firearms. Do we have any idea how many urban murders are committed with guns that filter down, maybe from someone’s white grandpa who passed away and didn’t think what might happen to the 3 guns he kept out in the garage? Serious question.

113 eggo January 12, 2013 at 8:02 am

Agreed, except for the part about the “assault weapon issue”.

But it is very difficult to negotiate such tracking when many of the people involved in pushing it are openly opposed to civilian gun ownership in any form. If our opponents were moderate, we could afford to be as well.

Why would I wish to allow a group dedicated to banning handguns to push through a handgun registry? Especially given the recent example from England. If any progress is to be made, such individuals and groups need to be sidelined from the debate entirely.

114 Willitts January 12, 2013 at 12:51 pm

“As for “ethnic homogeneity”, should we be amending the NRA’s slogan to read “Guns don’t kill people, minorities do”? I guess that has always been Implicit”

What you infer as racism is what the rest of us reason is reality. And that is the problem – you care more about playing the race card than saving the lives of 7000 blacks in America who are murdered by blacks each year. You are more enamored with your liberal philosophy than the lives of humans. You are dancing on the graves of children in CT. They are nothing but a political trump card you want to throw down.

115 Ray Lopez January 12, 2013 at 6:37 am

Grist for you gun nut advocates: ripped from today’s headlines, read how in Japan there *can* be murder even without guns, go here: (Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 – 17 Japanese bikers, armed with metal bats, beat a man to death in a restaurant in a case of mistaken identity).

116 Ecurb January 12, 2013 at 6:48 am

What a sad case. But it gos to show that the majority of violent crime in all countries is committed by (relatively) young men. Population aging and related demographic trends are common explanations for the global decrease in violence over the last few decades, and it’s no surprise Japan would benefit from this.

117 Bill January 12, 2013 at 8:52 am


How many people at a time, do you guess, that a single person could kill with a baseball bat before being subdued?

Any guess>>

Baseball bats don’t kill people, people do,

But, how many depends on the size of your clip.

118 TMC January 12, 2013 at 5:12 pm

In a grade school? In the 20 min that it took police to show up? Probably a hell of a lot. Dozens easy.

119 Amakudari January 12, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Eh, if it regularly takes cops 20 minutes to show up, a lot of that problem lies with the police. Roppongi’s seedy nightclubs are right next to the police department for the Azabu area, so max it’s a 5-minute walk, less if they have some guys on patrol (and they do):

The problem is that the assault took 2 minutes. However, of course, it also took 10–17 guys. That’s a lot of manpower needed for a single hit, and they’re all looking at serious jail time because all you need is one snitch.

FWIW, though, the reason they used bats is because it carries a lesser sentence than if they had used a gun or knife, stupid as that is.

120 Willitts January 13, 2013 at 1:11 am

When seconds count, cops are just minutes away.

121 Jon Diesel January 12, 2013 at 8:45 am

Banning guns in the US under a policy like Japan’s will motivate more than drug smuggling across the border from Mexico.

122 Bill January 12, 2013 at 9:13 am

You can be an empircist about this:

when there was a previous assault weapons ban, was there a serious flow across the boarders? What I remember was that it was easy to arrest drug dealers and criminals for simply possessing the gun without waiting for them to use or threaten to use it.

123 Frank Youell January 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm

“when there was a previous assault weapons ban, was there a serious flow across the boarders?”

Actually, no. However, there never was an assault weapons ban. There were some minor restrictions. I purchased weapons back then and had some occasion to study the rules. The limits were minor and modest at best. When the 1994 law expired in 2004, I gave some consideration to buying new weapons without the prior restrictions. There was no substantive reason to do so.

124 Statistician January 12, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Sure, let’s be empirical. Both the CDC and the NAS have refuted any notion that gun control reduces violent crime or homicide rates. Your move.

125 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 10:13 am

That’s fine. If the net result is lower total guns and violence why does it matter if the fewer guns that are there are smuggled and not legitimately bought?

Maybe most of Japans yakuza guns are smuggled in too. So what?

126 Bill January 12, 2013 at 8:49 am

The Japanese need these strict gun control laws,

You know,

Because they have and make

Those violent video games.

127 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 9:45 am

It’s unfortunate that Tyler allows his own intellectual rigor and honesty to fall by the wayside when an issue really catches his fancy.

128 Claudia January 12, 2013 at 10:05 am

I am puzzled why gun control is often discussed as an all or nothing issue. I agree the Japanese case is near irrelevant for our current state. The right to bear arms is fundamental to our history and culture. Of course the rest of the world might find this puzzling. I could go on and on about what I find puzzling in German culture. Now freedom of speech is also a fundamental American right. I would argue even more broadly prized than bearing arms. But is freedom of speech limitless? No. Libel is off limits, hate speech gets you in trouble, harassment has bounds. Freedom of speech is not an all or nothing, why should bearing arms be? There is a vast difference between removing high performance guns from the market and following the Japanese example. I understand this is all very complicated, but the way we talk on the extremes is not encouraging.

129 eggo January 12, 2013 at 10:19 am

The major anti-gun organizations in this country believe (and have repeatedly stated) that DC v. Heller was wrongly decided, and that there is no right to bear arms in the Constitution.

To use the speech parallel, image an organization that believed the First Amendment applied only to newspapers, due to the reference to “freedom of the press”. The presence of that organization in public discourse would certainly polarize debate, and lead to nothing being accomplished.

Secondly, “removing high performance guns from the market” in the current context refers to almost all modern firearms, which is clearly against both the letter and spirit of the constitution. It is certainly not comparable to the minor and longstanding exceptions of libel and harassment. Both of which, it is important to remember, are strictly limited in the US; it is harder to prove libel and slander in this country than any other in the world, and we are (rightly) proud of this.

As a final quibble, “hate speech” cannot get you in legal trouble in this country, thanks to a stalwart defense of the first amendment against such “creeping exceptions”.

130 Claudia January 12, 2013 at 10:38 am

Did I miss your response to my main concern that this debate has a weird all-or-nothing vibe too it? Let’s see you told me you have to be extreme because the mythical other side is too. Then you went on to complain about my gun terminology. I grew up with a dusty shot gun in the pantry, never saw it loaded or fired so I am not the right one to say what kind of gun is the cut off. I was trying to be descriptive not precise. And then because I can’t remember all the bright lines of speech I am reprimanded. I am economist and not a lawyer. I try to keep a pretty civil tone, so I don’t always remember what’s legally wrong versus morally wrong versus counterproductive. Yes, of course there are hearty debates over the limits of free speech…I remember a lot of discussion about flag burning…my point was there limits to free speech. Maybe libel is not like an assault weapon ban, but a nasty word is not like a bullet to the brain either. Now would you like to explain why there are no limits and no reason to discuss limits to bearing arms? I am not pushing a view here, but am curious why we can’t discuss on the margin instead of the fringes.

131 maguro January 12, 2013 at 10:47 am

The reason for the “all or nothing vibe” is that this post concerns Japan, which has a complete ban on private handgun ownership. Discussing incremental gun control measures like national registration or banning magazines over 10 rounds doesn’t seem particularly relevant to the topic at hand.

132 Claudia January 12, 2013 at 10:58 am

Oh this post is just about Japan? Funny, I thought Wonkbook ran in the US. I made it clear in my first comment that I was annoyed by the article. I am not going to apologize for slightly off topic commenting here … I think we should all be allowed a few of those. But I agree we were not set up for a moderate conversation.

133 eggo January 12, 2013 at 11:15 am

Well that escalated fast… I certainly didn’t mean my response to sound rude. But trying not to be verbose may have made my sound terse. So here’s a wall of text in apology.

The “mythical” other side includes the Brady Campaign and the Violence Policy Center. I won’t go posting dozens of hyperlinks on Tyler’s blog, but if you want to trade emails I can link you their position papers and amicus briefs for Heller, which are quite clear on the matter. They disagree entirely with your statement that “The right to bear arms is fundamental to our history and culture”, and thus it is very difficult to discuss policy with them “on the margin”, as it were. (Like talking to Ron Paul about what our inflation target should be! :D)

I’m not complaining about your gun terminology, and I certainly wasn’t ‘reprimanding’ you for not being a 1st amendment lawyer (neither am I). Otherwise I would have used a word stronger than “quibble” to state my disagreement with your parallels.

I assumed we were dealing only with matters of criminal speech, since we are, after all talking about gun laws that would send people to prison. This particular fact gets to the heart of the matter, as many of these proposed laws–often quite vague–would send me or people like me to prison for the crime of owning a piece of plastic that you can shove one too many metal things into. We tend to get a little touchy about this.

I believe, as do many activists of all stripes, that taking a hard line is essential. Your reference to flag-burning is a good example. I don’t care if I can’t burn a flag… but I DO care what other laws the precedent of criminalizing flag-burning might be used to justify. I feel the same way about 11 round magazines (except I own, use, and like those, actually).

As for “not like a bullet to the brain”, a better comparison would be the 4th amendment (which Japan also does not have). We frequently fail to convict murderers because the police gathered evidence illegally, or couldn’t get a warrant because they lacked probable cause. The right against unreasonable search and seizure kills people, yet many good people fight against attempts to weaken it.

134 Claudia January 12, 2013 at 11:54 am

I did not think your response was rude, but I do appreciate the your further response to my polarization complaint. Personally, I think the pro-gun lobby has a tough row to hoe here. The images from these mass killings are upsetting and very much in the present, albeit rare, and the justification for the right to bear arms is in the distant, almost unimaginable past. As Alexei points out below, in the spirit of this right, the common people need to have access to comparable guns that members of military do. That was essential to our country’s birth. And I can see how a massive gun registry (which is technically possible) could run against the spirit of self defense. It’s not hard to see how the anti-gun lobby says the original justification is as outdated and as full of fear mongering as our country’s early views on slavery. (I am not arguing that.) I think it would behoove the pro-gun lobby to stay on the margin (and not the extreme) and take steps to assure that guns are in the hands of responsible owners (whatever that might mean) or give us a major history lesson on the benefits of this right. I understand dynamic games and path dependence, but there’s something about slippery slope arguments that usually don’t resonate with me.

135 steve January 12, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Maximalist positions are the norm on the net. I have guns. I could own 1,000 guns and have 500,000 rounds of ammunition, but if I had to register some of those guns, or maybe limit the size of my magazines, I would then be expected to claim my right to bear arms has been infringed, while owning more arms than the average police station. Every other right has limitations or regulations of some sort, but suggesting that gun rights also have limits brings out the maximalist arguments.

The recent tragedies will have minimal if any effects on our laws. Americans will still own nearly 300 million guns. No one at the extremes will have their way in the argument. We may get some slight modifications (unlikely I think) that will still leave people able to own as many guns and as much ammunition as the want. They will still have the right to bear arms.


136 ad*m January 12, 2013 at 10:29 pm

I cannot reply below, but thanks for the respectful attitudes on both sides on display here. An example for all of us, and I am serious, not snarky.

137 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 10:30 am

The NRA, and other similar organizations, are in actuality not opposed to reasonable regulation of firearms. In reference to your free speech analogy:

It is illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater = It is illegal to discharge a weapon in public in cities

It is illegal to libel and harass and threaten a non public person = It is illegal to brandish a weapon

Hate speech is actually not illegal at all in the US

138 Careless January 13, 2013 at 7:22 pm

yes, I’m not sure where she sees the “none” side. We have lots and lots of laws restricting firearm ownership and use. Entire classes of weapons are almost entirely banned.

The NRA isn’t trying to make it fully legal to own machine guns again, or lift the ban on assault rifles.

139 Brian Gaerity January 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

Agreed. Would like to see more discussion about the dividing line between allowed and prohibited weapons and accessories (e.g., high capacity clips). We have a dividing line now; the debate we should be having is what specifically makes a weapon so powerful that it compels greater restrictions on sale and use (“assault weapon” is too vague and symbolic to be useful). There seems to be a significant amount of discomfort with the status quo, even among gun owners, so the discussion really shouldn’t be that polarizing if we, per Claudia’s suggestion, don’t immediately run for the extremes.

In particular, I would like to hear what gun rights advocates have to say about the dividing line. For example, if you’re okay with the restrictions on automatic weapons, why shouldn’t high-powered, rapid-fire semi-automatics be more tightly restricted? Or, if you think the status quo is too restrictive, where would you draw the line, and why?

To me, this is the key question. Because somewhere between all-out ban and absolutely no restrictions is where we need to end up, unless we’re going to repeal or extend the 2nd Amendment.

140 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 11:25 am


I agree that this is where the debate should be occur.

Regarding which weapons and accessories should be banned, I would like to define terms first.

Assault rifle (AR): Standard rifle carried by all armed forces and many police forces. Designed to wound, not to kill. Good for mass shootings, good for home defense. Not ideal for either.

Fully automatic assault rifle (FAAR): Many armed forces don’t use them (US Army included). FAAR are inaccurate when used beyond 20m. Not useful for mass shootings, home defense, or much of anything aside from making a lot of noise.

Machine gun (MG): Stationary weapon used by all militaries. Always full auto. Extremely effective in mass shootings, completely useless for self defense. Many models require more than one individual for optimal operation.

In my opinion, FAAR bans, as currently in place in the US, are purely for signaling purposes. FAAR have no useful application.

MG bans are a good idea.

AR bans are where the rubber meets the road in the current debate. Mass shooters use them because they look cool, not because they are the best “tool for the job,” so to speak. Note that the two worst mass shootings in history (Australia & Norway) both used AR’s. Shotguns and pistols are both more efficient killers (AR’s are not designed to kill) and are both better suited for home defense, personal defense, criminal activity, and mass shootings.

Thus, I would say that AR bans are also about signaling. AR bans should have zero impact on crime (they are too expensive and difficult to conceal for virtually all common criminal use) and mass shootings alike (they are not the best tool for the job despite their popularity).

I do think that AR bans continue the slippery slope towards further firearm restrictions, I do think that the 2nd Amendment should permit citizens to own the most common rifle carried by the military (the Supreme Court disagrees), and I do think that many hobbyists enjoy using their AR’s. Because there is zero or near zero upside, and in my opinion much downside, I am opposed to AR bans.

141 So Much for Subtlety January 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Alexei Sadeski

Regarding which weapons and accessories should be banned, I would like to define terms first.

Assault rifle (AR): Standard rifle carried by all armed forces and many police forces. Designed to wound, not to kill. Good for mass shootings, good for home defense. Not ideal for either.

Actually there is no assault rifle in the world designed to wound, not kill. Nor is this a particularly useful way to define an assault rifle. The US was late to adopt the assault rifle, but that does not mean the weapons the Army used before the M-16 were assault rifles.

Fully automatic assault rifle (FAAR): Many armed forces don’t use them (US Army included). FAAR are inaccurate when used beyond 20m. Not useful for mass shootings, home defense, or much of anything aside from making a lot of noise.

See, this is where there is a problem. If you are going to define things, you need to define them properly. The M-16 and the M-4 that is replacing it both have full automatic options. So the US does use them. So does the AK-47, the AK-74 and all their derivatives. Which is to say virtually every Army in the world uses an assault rifle that has a single shot option or a fully automatic option. Sometimes they have a short burst option too.

As for accuracy, even the AK-47 is reasonably accurate out to 2-300 meters. The M-16 more so. 20 meters is something you might expect from a particularly poor pistol, maybe from the Eighteenth century. It is certainly not something you would get from a modern firearm.

Machine gun (MG): Stationary weapon used by all militaries. Always full auto. Extremely effective in mass shootings, completely useless for self defense. Many models require more than one individual for optimal operation.

Except one has never been used in a non-military mass shooting. So not really all that effective if never chosen. Also you have no mentioned they are illegal for private ownership except in special circumstances and have been since 1934 or so.

Mass shooters use them because they look cool, not because they are the best “tool for the job,” so to speak. Note that the two worst mass shootings in history (Australia & Norway) both used AR’s. Shotguns and pistols are both more efficient killers (AR’s are not designed to kill) and are both better suited for home defense, personal defense, criminal activity, and mass shootings.

Assault Rifles are most definitely designed to kill. That is their point. Given that two of the worst mass shootings in history used them, you might have assumed that. Shotguns and pistols are great if you can get close. But if you want a proper mass killing, there is no substitute for an assault rifle. I read an interesting account once about the effect of AK-47s in India’s Punjab during the Sikh trouble they had. The problem was that an teenage boy could pick up an AK-47, spray a room in about two seconds, and kill everyone there. This is what they are designed to do and they do it well.

AR bans should have zero impact on crime (they are too expensive and difficult to conceal for virtually all common criminal use) and mass shootings alike (they are not the best tool for the job despite their popularity).

That is true. Not because they are not useless for mass shootings, they are not, but because they are useless for most crimes and mass shootings are so rare.

142 Alexei Sadeski January 13, 2013 at 12:50 am


-The M16A2 and M16A4, as used by the US Army for decades now, are NOT fully automatic.

-Fully automatic assault rifles are NOT accurate at over 20m when in full auto mode. Ask anyone who trains with them.

-NATO assault rifles, designed at the height of Cold War, were intended to wound Soviet soldiers, thus overwhelming the USSR’s support system with maimed men who couldn’t simply be left on the battlefield: “U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara presented wounding ability as a reason for adoption of the M16 over the M14 as a question of battlefield efficiency – that it is better to wound an adversary than kill him, as wounded must be tended to by their comrades, taking them out of the fight and demoralising them in the process.[19]”

-Mass shootings happen at point blanc range. Pistols, being easier to conceal and which reliably cause more damage upon impact than AR’s (mushrooming pistol rounds vs clean passing FMJ), are the “superior” weapon in this disgusting “scenario.” Carrying an AR15 into a school will elicit far more attention than walking in with two pistols in your pockets.

143 So Much for Subtlety January 13, 2013 at 2:45 am

Alexei, the M16A2 and the M16A4 certainly are fully automatic – if you switch the little lever over to the fully automatic setting. You may be confused because civilian versions of the gun are only allowed to be semi-automatic. But military ones certainly are. So for instance the very first line of the Wikipedia article on the M-16 goes:

The M16 rifle, officially designated Rifle, Caliber 5.56 mm, M16, is the United States military version of the AR-15 rifle. The rifle was adapted for semi-automatic, three-round burst, and full-automatic fire.

The very first line of the Wikipedia article you quote says:

An assault rifle is a selective fire (selectable among either fully automatic, burst-capable, or, sometimes, semi-automatic modes of operation) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.

By definition an assault rifle is capable of fully automatic fire.

Accuracy in a weapon is determined by many things such as the length of the barrel, the quality of the machining and so on. But nothing, absolutely nothing, makes an Assault Rifle on fully automatic mode less accurate than on semi-automatic. Well, the barrel climbs and conscripts sometimes have trouble controlling the rifle, but nothing fundamental to the gun. Again, the Assault Rifle was adopted because various Armies determined most combat takes place at less than 300 meters and so a proper rifle was not needed. That is 300, not 30.

It is against international law to produce a weapon that wounds. The M-16 was certainly not designed to wound. What they found was that the smaller bullet it uses fragments on hitting people causing horrific wounds. Like a dum dum bullet really. But those wounds reliably kill. The person who wrote that seems to have confused what gun experts call wounding ability – that is, the tendency to blow massive holes in other people – with an intent to wound. The smaller round was adopted solely because soldiers could carry a lot more of them. No other reason.

And as you can imagine, Soviet soldiers were unlikely to waste much time on wounded comrades anyway.

Some mass shootings happen at point blank range. Not all. Certainly pistols are easier to conceal. It is not true that pistol rounds cause more damage – but it depends on the pistol in question. Pistol rounds have no inherent tendency to mushroom – unlike the M-16 round. In most mass killings, I doubt anyone cares if they attract attention or not. That may be the purpose.

144 Alexei Sadeski January 13, 2013 at 5:58 am

-M16A2/M16A4 not full auto:

-Show me a mass shooting which used both an assault rifle and didn’t happen at point blanc.

145 John Smith January 13, 2013 at 12:42 am

Man, if you don’t even get that ARs are designed to kill, you shouldn’t really be discussing this issue at all.

146 Alexei Sadeski January 13, 2013 at 12:51 am

It is a well documented fact:

“U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara presented wounding ability as a reason for adoption of the M16 over the M14 as a question of battlefield efficiency – that it is better to wound an adversary than kill him, as wounded must be tended to by their comrades, taking them out of the fight and demoralising them in the process.[19]”

147 eggo January 12, 2013 at 11:27 am

We argue that such “high-powered, rapid-fire semi-automatics” are used in only a very small percentage of murders in this country, and that regulating them will have no effect whatsoever on the crime rate.

But if you want more reasons than “it won’t do anything”, we could talk for hours. I don’t want to take up too much space with off-topic comments, but I would like to point out that the current definition of “assault weapon” includes almost every modern firearm, from handguns to rifles to shotguns. And “high-powered” is an utterly meaningless term without definition, despite the fact that you are seeking to make judgements about specific design factors. (Do you mean muzzle energy?)

The fact remains that auto-loading rifles are a personal firearm suitable for individual use and protection, and as such definitely covered under the second amendment. Nuclear bombs and machine guns are not personal arms. That is the typical distinction.

Finally, why should any “in between” state be mandated by the national government? The states have a great deal of power to regulate firearms, and should continue to do so without interference from crusading senators from California and New York.

148 Willitts January 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Your analogy is flawed.

Every mouth is capable of uttering slander, and every hand is capable of writing libel, yet we don’t ban mouths, hands, or the instruments that transmit unlawful voices and thoughts.

My guns never did any harm that I’m aware of, unless you are concerned about paper targets.

149 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm

While I see your point, the law does get written in a way that preempts harm often, right?

If I store say Semtex / RDX it’ll probably do as little harm as your guns if I never use it at all? Yet law forbids it? I’m only exxagarating to make the point that the law does ban some “mouths”.

150 Willitts January 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm

If you’re going to reduce the argument to the absurd, why mot say nuclear weapons?

Obviously neither I nor the NRA has a position against unrestricted possession and use of high explosives. If you find an NRA policy on the matter, I’d be interested to see it.

Automatic weapons have been banned for private use except for those with a class III license for about a century, and the NRA isn’t working to loosen that restriction and neither am I.

So you appear to be moving the bounds of absurdity closer and closer to a ban on weapons that millions of law abiding Americans own, that are used in a minuscule number of crimes, and are not stopped by gun control laws. I own both an AK-47 and an AR-15 which have killed fewer people than mother’s milk for the past few decades.

A man with homemade high explosives destroyed a building in Oklahoma City, killing hundreds of people. We are not banning fertilizer and rental trucks, because we understand the senselessness and infeasibility of such a law. But we allow admitted and unrepentant terrorists to teach education in our universities. Go figure.

151 Claudia January 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I actually think it is a pretty even-handed comparison on a high level, but of course, it is not apples to apples in the details. My point is guns are not special. The right to bear arms is a right and just like other rights it has limits. Freedom of speech another fundamental right (I would argue one more generally valued and understood) has limits too. And these limits come up for debate time and again. No we cannot map the limits of one right directly to the limits of another right. That was not the intent of my comment. Just because I can’t libel someone doesn’t mean I am bereft of free speech. Would tighter gun controls strip someone of their right to bear arms? I kind of doubt it, though Rahul’s question is an important one: would it be a net benefit to society.

152 Willitts January 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm

You’ll find no disagreement with me on limits for the possession and use of weapons. But you made a rather sweeping generalization about the NTA opposing even reasonable gun control.

The whole point the NRA raises time and again is that the people who want “reasonable” gun control propose unreasonable solutions to problems and nonproblems. For example, why should I register my gun? If your argument is so that the state can track my gun if it is stolen, then a less onerous law would simply require me to report if my guns are stolen.

Most of the people who want gun control desire nothing less than outright bans. The people who oppose gun control would accept reasonable restrictions, but we can’t trust the former group. There is no symmetry in your claim of polarization. The NRA likely wouldn’t exist if our right to keep and bear arms wasn’t under constant attack. We have to fight a continuing barage of lies and material misrepresentations by the anti-gun paranoids. You can’t reason with ignorant and unreasonable people.

153 Claudia January 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

It was not my intent to disparage the NRA … my original point was how futile and unrealistic a discussion of outright bans versus open access is. I am actually rather undecided on this issue, but I have to admit I find the current gun rights mesage a bit hard to digest. And I have access to it … an advocate was ‘yelling’ at me over the holidays who I know to be a very reasonable person. But I just don’t get it. To be fair the gun control advocates also sound too assured and both sides badly malign the mental health component.

To add some reading the WaPo has two articles related to this topic today. The NRA history:

And CAP’s gun control proposal:

Not promoting the views in the two articles, just putting them out here.

154 Willitts January 14, 2013 at 3:17 am

Heavy gun sales and shelves empty of 9mm and .223 were not the doing of NRA propaganda. It was millions of Americans reacting to the anti-gun nuts including the president.

Obama is the best gun salesman in the country.

155 Claudia January 12, 2013 at 10:52 am

Hate speech is legally protected, but it can get you in trouble. It is not generally condoned and there are plenty of businesses, politicians, citizens who have been reprimanded by economic and social forces. And as my lame google searching shows this area has been one of legal debate for some time:

I take your point that there are restrictions on the right to bear arms, but the lead article of the post and some comments that follow have a zero-one feel to it.

156 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

Hate speech as a public performance does have downsides, and yes its’ legality has been rigorously debated. Perhaps assault weapon bans are a decent analogue, as they are also rigorously debated – and are / have been in effect in various times and places around the US.

And just as the ACLU is opposed to hate speech restrictions, the NRA is opposed to assault weapon bans.

Meanwhile, many gun rights opponents are in fact opposed to almost all gun rights. NYC, Chicago, and DC have de facto bans on almost all guns, after all. The “all or nothing” voices come almost entirely from the anti-gun side, to my opinion…

157 Steven Kopits January 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Well, let’s compare New York and Chicago. Chicago has a murder rate many times higher. Why? New York has stop-and-frisk. Chicago doesn’t.

You don’t have to prevent people from owning guns; just prevent them from carrying them in the street. That’s the biggest bang for the buck, so to speak.

But it involves clear racial, sex-based, and aged-based profiling: young, Latino and black men. So you could reduce the gun death rate very easily–as long as you accept that it involves racial profiling. It has saved many lives in New York–primarily those of young black and Latino men!

But I’m not sure I’ve heard the President say anything to this effect.

158 Rahul January 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I have to disagree with you Claudia about the zero-one feel. Maybe some comments but that’s not the overall tone I heard.

My question is, even at the margin, is the expected response clear? Let’s say USA had stricter gun-control that somehow removed the top 10% of the “highest performance guns” off the streets; how much of a percent reduction in gun-deaths would you expect to see (controlling for the baseline trend)?

Is there consensus even among the experts on that point? I don’t know but I’d like to.

159 maguro January 12, 2013 at 11:13 am

I think that a Japanese-style national gun ban could reduce crime in the US, but only in conjunction with some pretty vigorous police-state activity that most of the commenters here would probably find distasteful. Just banning legal gun ownership and leaving everything else the same would not do it. A gun ban coupled with a national version of NYC’s “stop and frisk” policy would probably reduce crime noticeably, though certainly not to Japanese levels. But at the cost of making everyone less free.

160 Amakudari January 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm

And it’s worth noting that you would absolutely need a massively expanded police state for this in the US, while Japan’s “police state” is considerably smaller even it contains some distasteful elements. Cops here don’t have cars, guns or tasers, and Japan’s widely scorned 99% conviction rate is a product of marginal cases never seeing trial and a weird plea bargaining system where for an apology you get a slap on the wrist. There’s no Fourth Amendment, but heck, you’re not going to prison anyway. Even with that minimal enforcement, Japan barely needs to enforce gun bans because people don’t want guns.

In the US, there are 300 million guns, a 7500-mile land border with gun-owning countries on both sides, a rich history of gun ownership, and some very determined criminal enterprises. The happy prohibition some absolutists on gun control imagine would likely be a disaster.

161 Andrew' January 12, 2013 at 11:36 am

Bootleggers and Baptists?

162 Derek January 12, 2013 at 11:48 am

What this tells me is that the japanese want no guns. A much better and enlightening situation for examination would be the Canadian experience where an incident created political movement for a long fun registry. Hand guns were already limited. There were a few interesting results. Little effect on crime, except that it criminalized otherwise law abiding citizens. It was ignored our circumvented; sales of plastic pipe and caps and desiccant went up. And more interesting, the political party that implemented the law is bordering on political irrelevance and the law was overturned last year.

Anyone suggesting such a thing for the us is delusional. The law would be ignored, the drafters hounded from office. It would be an act of aggression against a large proportion of the population and would elicit an appropriate reaction.

163 Andrew' January 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Rice is a pretty good dessicant. Perhaps two birds with one stone.

164 Allan Walstad January 12, 2013 at 11:59 am

And in other news, the Martian government recently….

165 John Phillips January 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm

It’s a little easier to control entry and exit on islands, particularly small/medium sized ones.

166 Kai Arzheimer January 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Comparing the US with the UK, Japan, or even Brazil is certainly instructive. For a more systematic comparison, however, one should look at the other OECD countries. The US are clearly an outlier both in terms of gun ownership and gun-related homicide rates. If gun ownership in the states came down to the OECD median level, about 8000 lives per year would be spared

But even if licencing rules were introduced, the real problem would be the existing stock of weapons out there. In a society where so many people are armed, it may be very (individually) rational for the good guys to buy weapons, too. Enter collective action problems.

167 Alexei Sadeski January 12, 2013 at 3:10 pm

That’s simply not true.

168 Kai Arzheimer January 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Please see my response to Major below

169 Major January 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Your comparison is between gun ownership and *gun* homicides, not total homicides. You ignore the possibility of substituting other ways of killing people for killing them with guns. Therefore, your analysis tells us nothing about the number of lives that would be spared if gun ownership in the U.S. were lower.

From the evidence I have seen, there is little or no correlation between gun ownership rates and total homicide rates, and little or no evidence that higher ownership rates *cause* higher homicide rates. Even if there were a correlation, the causation could run the other way.

170 Kai Arzheimer January 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I have made the dataset available for re-analysis here:
Total number of homicides is included as a variable. From what I can see, there is very little evidence that supports the substitution hypothesis.
Re causation/correlation: agreed; correlation (almost) never implies causation. One would have to look at countries with high ownership/high homicide rates that imposed and enforced stricter rules. There are, however, no examples for that in the OECD world, as other countries always had lower ownership rates.

171 Major January 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I have made the dataset available for re-analysis here … Total number of homicides is included as a variable. From what I can see, there is very little evidence that supports the substitution hypothesis

Well, I’m not doing your work for you. What’s the relationship between gun ownership rates and total homicide rates? If there’s no substitution of other weapons for guns, it should be the same as the relationship between gun ownership rates and gun homicide rates.

But rather than do this kind of ad hoc analysis with limited data, I suggest you look at reviews of the published research on guns and violence. I think you’ll find that there is no clear relationship between gun ownership, gun laws and violence. See my comment elsewhere about the review by the NRC.

172 Careless January 13, 2013 at 7:44 pm

So the claim is that it would reduce gun homicides by about 80%, but we’d still have a much, much higher murder rate than these other countries from other causes?That’s absurd.

173 Peter Schaeffer January 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

It’s perhaps worth noting that Japan’s overall incidence of violent death is higher than the U.S. Apparently the general absence of guns doesn’t prevent the Japanese from dying. The key difference is that most violent deaths in Japan are suicides, not homicides. That’s true in the U.S. as well. However, the ratio is lower in the U.S. versus Japan.

174 TMC January 12, 2013 at 5:28 pm

While true Peter, the issue is not really saving lives. It’s banning guns.

175 Amakudari January 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm

I agree with your general point that banning guns doesn’t seem to do much in Japan, although I should point out that the US still leads in deaths from all injuries (thanks to our penchant for cars, ladders, dangerous chemicals, etc.):

Japan, where I live, leads in intentional injuries. In any case, homicide, workplace accidents, automobile deaths, suicide, etc. aren’t necessarily correlated. Banning guns has some effect on suicide (of the passion variety), but it’s so gosh darn easy to step in front of a train in Japan or overdose it can’t be much.

But as far as I can tell, the biggest effect from banning guns is limiting violence within the yakuza, which rarely spills into to general society anyway. People here don’t commit crimes against each other, generally, guns or no. They also rarely use drugs, use bad language, litter or take lost wallets or phones anywhere but the lost and found. Some here are happy to attribute it to negatives like submission to the State, but in my experience it’s just a very uniform culture that emphasizes politeness and personal dignity, in much the same way that I was brought up in the US. The difference versus the US is that everyone here is raised that way, so Japan is like an entire country with the crime (and ennui) you’d find in a genteel suburban community, just taken to the extreme. Introducing guns would change things a bit, but I agree that you can’t attribute very much to gun ownership here, positives or negatives.

176 Major January 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

The National Research Council (part of the National Academies of Science) conducted a comprehensive investigation of the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence in 2004. Its findings were published in the report Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. The report found no clear evidence that gun ownership causes violence or that gun control prevents it. The executive summary states:

In summary, the committee concludes that existing research studies and data include a wealth of descriptive information on homicide, suicide, and firearms, but, because of the limitations of existing data and methods, do not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide.

In the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling in 2008, even the dissenting justices agreed that the evidence is simply inconclusive.

177 Ray Lopez January 12, 2013 at 7:12 pm

You need to update your references–this study is dated. See the below: it shows guns kill, and banning guns will decrease the amount of violence committed by guns. It really is that simple. Now if a nut wants to kill himself by jumping off a bridge, they can do so, see below. But they won’t be using a gun. And if a nut wants to kill schoolchildren with a knife or baseball bat, they can do so; but they won’t be using a gun. An analogy: if we allowed hand grenades to be bought and used legally in the USA, then bank robbers would use them when committing holdups, and we’d have shrapnel blasts all the time. Like BTW they do have in developing countries (very common to read about grenades used in attacks) and even here in Greece (bank robbers routinely use grenades). Got it? People don’t kill people when using guns–guns kill people.

Gun bans can have an impact. In 1991, 15 years after Washington, D.C. banned handguns, researchers from the University of Maryland conducted a study to assess the impact of the ban. They tracked homicides and suicides in the district from 1968 to 1987 and found that homicides by firearm fell by 25 percent and suicides committed with firearms dropped by 23 percent. Murders and suicides committed by other means neither rose nor fell—in other words, people didn’t use other methods to commit an act they already wanted to commit. And there was no similar reduction found in the adjacent metropolitan areas in Maryland and Virginia. The D.C. gun restriction was repealed in 2008 after the U.S. Supreme Court found such ordinances unconstitutional.

178 Major January 12, 2013 at 7:49 pm

See the below: it shows guns kill, and banning guns will decrease the amount of violence committed by guns.

Your citation is an opinion piece in a magazine, not a study, and it doesn’t “show” any causal relationship between gun bans and violence. It cites a couple of studies of marginal relevance to the question, neither of which show anything about causation either. The NRC study is a comprehensive review of the published literature in the field. As far as I’m aware, it’s the most comprehensive study of the question that has ever been conducted. The idea that a magazine op-ed refutes the NRC conclusion is laughable. You’re doing what gun control proponents routinely do — cherry-picking isolated facts and numbers that, superficially at least, seem to support your position and ignoring evidence and analysis that contradicts your position.

179 ad*m January 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Not sure whether you are aware you are handpicking data here, but this graph certainly contradicts your numbers:

180 Ray Lopez January 13, 2013 at 9:48 am

Yes but you are not reading the article. The point is: murder rates did not go down or up, but the use of handguns to commit murders did go down. Again, it comes down to this: would you rather face a crazy man with an assault gun, or, a crazy man with a knife? Both can kill you. But I know what most people would rather choose.

181 Major January 13, 2013 at 2:28 pm

The point is: murder rates did not go down or up, but the use of handguns to commit murders did go down. Again, it comes down to this: would you rather face a crazy man with an assault gun, or, a crazy man with a knife? Both can kill you. But I know what most people would rather choose.

Huh? If handgun murders went down but total murders did not, it just means other weapons were being substituted for handguns. I’m not sure why you think being stabbed or bludgeoned to death is any better than being killed with a bullet.

182 Careless January 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Apparently, according to your source, it wouldn’t matter which I was facing.

183 chuck martel January 12, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Cops kill unarmed people every day but you never hear about any effort to disarm those guys.

184 Apologies For Any Misformatting January 13, 2013 at 1:46 am

Just want to congratulate people on a very productive and generally respectful thread. Even where people disagreed, the debate was of a much higher quality than the ones in the last gun-related thread.

I wonder if Tyler even bothers following these, though, or if he just tosses out the bait and walks off.

185 homeandhosed January 13, 2013 at 3:37 am

As a non US reader who has listened very carefully to the debate on this site and elsewhere I have to say I find the pro-gun arguments are not compelling. However, I think a pro-alcohol argument would seem similarly weak from a logical (cost/benefit) perspective. But should/will alcohol be banned in Western democracies? I think the answer is self evidently no. The reality is that guns have reached a level of ubiquity in the US that makes a prohibition style stance unrealistic. Therefore comparisons of the merits of a Japanese/UK/Australian legislative approach in the US are not valid. I think the gun harm minimisation lobby needs to acknowledge this and think more innovatively about how to further their agenda. You simply cannot convince enough of your fellow countrymen that “bans” are an option.

186 Ray Lopez January 13, 2013 at 9:54 am

How to ‘ban’ alcohol? Easy–tax it, have strict “drink and drive” laws, and don’t glorify it. All of these are being done. Compare and contrast with guns. Now I don’t favor a US Constitutional Amendment against guns, since, like with alcohol, it won’t work and is a diminution of freedom, but some severe taxes, and some severe penalties for gun use would be welcome. Speaking as a Libertarian. After all, in a ‘free city’ I can see how the citizens would vote for a “no guns zone”. If you want to own guns, you can move to a city that encourages everybody to be armed. Same as in the USA. The laws should allow a District of Columbia type ban to all cities that want it.

187 homeandhosed January 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Yes, those are the lines along which I think meaningful, albeit incremental, change has the greatest chance of occuring.

188 The Other Jim January 13, 2013 at 8:57 am

Japan might as well be on Mars as far as cultural comparisons to the US.

But I like the idea of putting criminals in prison and keeping them there. The US might try that some day. Although I suppose it would be deemed racist.

189 chuck martel January 13, 2013 at 9:35 am

The US is trying it, as in this instance. A 225 year prison sentence would be keeping them there.

190 Andrew' January 13, 2013 at 9:45 am

Let’s send them to Japan.

191 chuck martel January 13, 2013 at 9:37 am
192 8 January 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

Most anti-gun people do not even understand the basics about guns. It’s like listening to a fundamentalist complain about hardcore pornography and come to find out, they’re talking about Playboy centerfolds from the 1950s. When you hear that, and know the difference, your thought is that your opponents are either ignorant of have a hidden agenda. Most anti-gun groups do have a hidden, or in some cases not so hidden, agenda: ban all guns. Most average people, who don’t own or learn about guns, are ignorant about the issues. They hear assault weapon and think it is some type of powerful weapon, when it isn’t. Far more powerful weapons are legal and will still be legal. They hear “reasonable gun control” and think this means laws that reduce crime or violence; it doesn’t. It means laws that people will accept. Such as in the 1970s, bans on smoking would have been unreasonable, so anti-smoking campaigners started with reasonable laws.

Thus the debate is polarized because on one side is the ban all guns side, powered by an ignorant public, and on the other are gun owners and gun-rights advocates who would accept reasonable restrictions if they could be shown to have an effect on crime. However, since the evidence shows there are other policies that have greater effects on crime, and these are passed over in favor of gun laws, one must conclude the other side is committed to a gun ban agenda. Everything else is cover to win public support.

193 Andrew' January 13, 2013 at 9:47 am

“so anti-smoking campaigners started with reasonable laws.”

And then they completely jumped the shark. So now we know what’s up.

194 Ray Lopez January 13, 2013 at 9:56 am

Suggestive red herring noted: “Far more powerful weapons are legal and will still be legal”. Reminds me of a online ‘debate’ where the gun control nut stated that since it’s legal in certain states to own a Sherman tank, ergo, since a Sherman tank is more powerful than an ‘assault rifle’ (which the gun nut refused to acknowledge even exists), then by definition gun control won’t work. Twisted logic.

195 DCBILLS January 13, 2013 at 10:23 am

A few hundred years ago guns were introduced in Japan. The introduction quickly began to erode societal norms as the samurai were no longer at the top of the food chain. The effects were widely regarded as being negative overall and guns were banned. Japan then enjoyed almost a hundred years of peace and stability before smuggling and exposure to the outside world led to the return of guns albeit illegally. There may be a lesson here.

I have without doubt fired more bullets than almost anyone in this discussion. I have the high blood lead level and deafness to prove it. I got a trophy for shooting the highest score in my basic training company (200 men). So much for credentials. There is no good reason I am aware of for anyone to own a gun. They are too effective (dangerous) to be handled casually. Any oldster loving a gun needs viagra. Any young person enthralled with guns should think Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. Anyone who wants to hunt should seek psychological help or be a real sport and use bows or slingshots. Airguns should be regulated but allowed for target shooting. Adding a testosterone antagonist to the water supply would do wonders for this country.

196 jorod January 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm

I always wondered why they carried swords.

197 Greebo_Snabble January 13, 2013 at 10:02 pm

I don’t think Texans would ever agree to a gun ban, and given the states’ neighbors to the south, I can’t say that I blame them.

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