Sunday, January 09, 2011

How to Own Guns in Japan [sic]

The following was written in 1995 by a Mr. Masaaki Ishida in response to a question about gun control on a Google groups site.  The name is not uncommon in Japan, so I know nothing about Mr. Ishida's background or his expertise in the area.  I'm certain, however, that gun control in Japan is much stronger than that in other countries I'm familiar with.  I post it here because of its being extremely relevant to what has occurred in the U.S. today (January 8, 2011).

How to Own Guns in Japan

In Japan there are many people who believe that Japanese shooters at Olympics are policemen or soldiers of Self-Defense Force.   Some other people believe that Japanese citizen cannot own guns and people who enjoy shooting have to rent guns at shooting range, and some other people believes that legal gun owners must keep guns in lockers assigned for them at shooting ranges. So, I decided to write short introductory article about gun ownership in Japan.
In Japan, the kind of guns owned by civilian are as follows. 
   Air Rifle
   Hand Rifle
   Air Pistol (limited to 500 people for sports shooting only)
   Pistol (limited to 50 people for sport shooting only)
The purpose to own guns is limited to two, i.e., hunting or sports shooting.
It means we cannot own guns for defense purpose.

The procedure to own the gun is as follows.
Of course, people who use guns in their work (policemen, soldiers, etc.)
don't have to follow the following step for guns used in the job.
The terminology about 'air 
gun', 'air rifle' follow Japanese custom. 
   Participation in a lecture at nearby police station

   This is a requisite condition for anyone who tries to own gun.
   You go to the police station which is responsible for your address area, and
   apply for the lecture on 
gun regulation for beginners.   In case of Tokyo,
   entire districts are divided into four blocks, and the actual place to have
   the lecture is one police station in the block.
   The lecture for beginner is held once in a month, I think. 

   The lecture starts at 9:00 in Saturday morning, and written examination
   follows after lunch.   To 20 questions, you have to give at least 14
   correct answers.   When I had this lecture, two or three people did not
   pass among 32 or 33 attendance.   This performance was high because usually
   80 % of attendants pass the examination.   After passing the examination,
   a certificate is given and its copy must be submitted whenever you do some
   application afterwards.   The certificate is valid three years.   It means,
   after the valid date of the certification, you have to attend a lecture
gun owners to get the new certificate.   This time, no examination is

   Air rifle, hand rifle, and shot gun

   Once you get the certificate of the gun regulation lecture, there are two
   different paths depending on what you want to own.   Note that you cannot
   apply for usual rifles nor pistols at this stage.   To own them, you need
   further qualification. 

A. Air rifle or hand rifle. 
      People who are not familiar with gun confuses air rifle from
      'air soft 
gun' (or simply 'air gun') which uses plastic bullet and
      whose barrel does not have rifling.
      In fact, recently it was reported on TV that some members of AUM camped
      near by Mt. Fuji and did some military training using 'air rifle' of
      AK 47.   This report was not correct.   What they used must be air soft
gun shaped like AK 47 or model gun of AK 47. 
      Hand rifle is unique to Japan.   It is actually air pistol, but long
      sleeve covers the barrel, and long stock is attached to the grip.
Japan, ownership of pistol (air or not) is restricted because of
      their small size which enables covered transportation.   Therefore,
      hand rifle was introduced for people who plan to own air hand 

      If you want to own air rifle or hand rifle, you can go to a gun shop
      with certificate to show to clerks, determine which 
gun to buy, ask
      clerks to write a paper which describe the detail of the 
gun, and name of
      the shop.   When you buy a 
gun not from a shop but from a current owner,
      the same paper is needed. 

      You must be at least 18 years old, or, you need to be over 14
      years old and have recommendatory letter from an organization which
      governs all official sports organizations. 

B. Shot gun
      Prior to go to gun shop, you have to take practical shooting course,
      followed by examination.    To apply for it, you have to submit a lot
      of papers to the police, and it takes a few months until you get the
      approval because you and your family who live together are examined. 

      After the approval, you have the course at a shooting range and pass
      it (it is quite easy).   Then, you go to a 
gun shop, determine the gun
      to buy, and ask clerks to write the paper. 

      You need to be at least 20 years old.
   After applying for any gun, usually it takes about one month until you get
   permission.   When you get notification from the police about permission,
   you go to the police station to receive license booklet, take it to the
gun shop and receive the gun.   Then within two weeks, you have to go to
   the police station again with the 
gun to have it inspected and stumped on
   the license. 

SB - Small Bore rifle (0.22 caliber, rim-fire) 

   Since using of 0.22 caliber rifle (both rim-fire and center-fire) for
   hunting is prohibited in 
Japan (probably small animals suitable as targets
   of 0.22 caliber live not far from where people live), the only permitted
   purpose to own it is for rifle shooting sports.   The step to own Small Bore
   (rim-fire) rifle is as follows. 

 A. Become a member of a branch of National Rifle Association of
Japan, then become a member of N.R.A.J. itself.
      I my case, I became a member of Setagaya (one district in Tokyo) area
      at first, which means automatic membership of Tokyo branch of N.R.A.J,
      then had to wait one year until I was allowed become a member of N.R.A.J
      it self.   But this term differs with branches.
      If you want to just enjoy air rifle, and have no interest in participating
      in national wide shooting meet, to stay just as Tokyo branch's member
      saves membership fee. 

B. Participate in a few hour's lecture by N.R.A.J., and get certification. 
C. Participate in at least two shooting meet per year before you apply for SB. 
D. Get certification of skill of shooting.
      In case of shooting in Standing position, the score of criteria is
      300 for S60, and 200 for S40.   It is quite easy. 

E. By satisfying above A,B,C,D, then you can apply for SB to N.R.A.J.
      What you get if you pass the examination is recommendatory letter that
      you are suitable for shooter of N.R.A.J., and have potential to become
      a shooter for higher level competitions like Olympic. 

F. Submit above letter as well as many other papers to the police station.
      Like the case of shot 
gun, it takes a new months until the police
      issues a permission to take shooting course in practice. 

G. Take a practical shooting course at a shooting range, and get a

H. Apply for a gun to buy. 
LB - Large Bore rifles (center-fire)

   There are two purposes you can use LB, one is sports shooting under
   control of N.R.A.J., and the other is hunting. 

A. For rifle shooting as sports, the requisite to apply for it are
      as follows. 

      a. It is over one year since you have owned a SB. 
      b. You have already participated in 2 shooting meet per year with SB. 
      You apply for recommendatory letter to N.R.A.J., and follow the similar
      steps (without practice course in a shooting range) as SB.
      It looks only bolt action rifles can be allowed. 

B. For hunting purpose, you must have continuous 10 years' history to
      have own shot 
gun or SB.   You simply apply for a gun to the police

Air pistol

   The requisite condition to apply for air pistol is almost the same
   as SB except that certification of more skill in shooting is
   required (in case of AR S60, score of over 510). 

   Since the number of owners of air pistol is limited up to 500,
   you usually wait one year or more (it means you wait someone
   fails to update the license) until you get recommendatory letter. 

   After getting recommendatory letter from N.R.A.J, follow the same
   procedure as other kinds of guns to apply for the license. 


   To apply for pistol, you need quite excellent skill of air pistol
   (in case of AP60, score of over 555) to apply for pistol. 

   This time, the number of people is limited to 50, but because of
   so hard criteria, I heard two years ago that only 30 people owned it. 

Permission for ammunition

   Anybody can buy bullets for air rifle, hand rifle, and air pistol without
   restraint.   For ammunition which contains powder, you have to get
   another paper from the police.
   On the permission paper, based on which kind of guns you have, the kind
   of ammunition 
gun shops can sell to the owner of guns are listed as well
   as total maximum amount.   This paper is valid for one year, and, if my
   memory is correct, the maximum number of ammunition the police allow to
   a paper is 4,000.

   Because of the law, the maximum number of ammunition you can keep
   at home is limited to 800, and you must keep them in a specially designed
   locker which is different from 
gun locker. 
Updating the license 

   The license of gun is a booklet like passport.  [emphasis mine]
   Your name, photograph, address, birth date, license booklet No. and its
   issue date, etc. are in the first page.
   Then pages for up to 12 guns follow (so, if you own more than 12 guns,
   you have several license booklets).
   In the last page, there is a holder to insert the permission paper to buy

   The license for each gun is valid three years (more correctly, until
   the third birthday after you get the license).
   It means, if you have three guns which you owned in three continuous years,
   you have to update the license of different 
gun every year.   If you have
   three guns owned in the same year or owned in interval of multiple of three
   years, you can update them in the same year.   Here, 'year' means not
   calendar year, but a interval between two birthdays of the owner, i.e.,
   if you buy two guns, one a day before the birthday and the other one day
   after the birth day, their licenses are updated in the different years.

   To keep the license, following things must be cleared. 
A. Requisite to update license. 
      There's no condition to update the license of air rifle, hand rifle,
      and shot 
gun.   But if you have not used them in the past three years,
      license can not be updated. 

      To update the license of SB and LB, you have to show stump you got
      at rifle shooting meets.   Though one of conditions that N.R.A.J.
      issues recommendatory letter for SB and LB is that owner should
      participates at least two formal shooting meets per year for EACH 
      in realty, it is not checked by the police strictly. 

      To update license of air-pistol or pistol, it is strictly examined
      whether you participated in enough number of shooting meets, and score
      at them were enough to qualify the ownership. 

B. Annual gun inspection. 
      Usually in spring, there's a day of annual gun inspection (the date
      differs with police stations).   You bring not only all guns but also
      a paper to report the number of times you used 
gun (for practice,
      shooting meet, hunting) as well as the number of bullets you consumed. 

C. Certification of a lecture which is valid at the time of update. 
      To update of the license, valid certificate of gun regulation lecture is
      necessary.   It means you have to attend the lecture every three years. 


A. There are many kinds of papers which you submit to the police at
      various opportunities.   The following is a list of them (not all of
      them are needed every time). 

      o Application for ownership
      o Application for license update
      o Application to buy ammunition
      o Paper to return expired paper to buy ammunition
      o Signed paper that 
gun shop or ex-owner agrees to sell a gun to you,
        which contains detailed description of the 
      o List of your family who live with you
      o Abstract of your family register
      o Past 10 years' record of your address, job, crime, and guns
        you ever own
      o Doctor's certification that you are not a user of drugs, and
        satisfies some other physical conditions.
      o Certification of 
gun lecture (for beginners, or for owners)
      o Certification of practice course at a shooting range  
[emphasis mine]

B. If you have some crime history, using knife or guns, you cannot
      apply for 
gun ownership for some amount of years.
      Also, if you live with dangerous people, like member of Yakuza,
      it may happen application is rejected. 

C. In Japan, most policemen are transferred every several years to avoid
      their adhesion with residents.   In case of a policeman who is
      in charge of handling 
gun ownership, he is transferred every two years. 
D. Because only one policeman works for gun ownership in each police
      station, I experienced several times that he was absent for criminal
      investigation.   What I do when I have some business about 
gun ownership
      is to call him in the morning to check his convenient time, then
      go to the police station.   So, it is often necessary to take
      annual leave of a day or half just to submit papers.
      I hope some reformation about this inconvenience. 

 E. The most popular accident caused by legal gun owner is to shoot the
      colleague mistakenly at hunting.
      In total, 10 to 20 accidents on legally owned guns happen every year.
      N.R.A.J is proud of its record of no accident at shooting meets. 

F. The number of owners of shot gun and air rifle are, if my memory is
      correct, around 35,000 respectively, whereas owners of rifles are 1/10
      of them. 

G. Guns must be kept in your house in a specially designed locker.
      One exception is pistol (not air pistol) which must be kept in a locker
      of the nearby police station. 

      You must keep key of the locker in a secret place (your family should not
      know it), and even if policemen comes to your home for inspection,
      only owner should show guns.
      He can reject to show guns if policemen come without prior notification.
      It is to avoid an incident that guns are stolen by 'false police'. 

H. To do hunting, you need another license for it.
      Issuing of hunting license is under control of Governor of each
      The first course for beginners is followed by written examination
      follows like that for 
gun ownership.   License is valid for 3 years. 
I. When you apply for a gun, you specify its purpose (target shooting, or
      hunting).   You cannot use a 
gun for hunting if its purpose in the
gun's license is "target shooting". 

CA's note:  If anyone can provide further information on this topic, please let me know.  All I can say is that I have never seen a gun, except as a sidearm for police on such occasions as the G8 Summit, in the 20+ years that I have lived in Japan.  I do not personally know of anyone who has ever been shot or killed by a gun, which is not the case for people living in the U.S. including close friends and relatives.

1 comment:

FFL123 Blog said...

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