Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Japanese solution to gun crime

Tokyo from the top of the SkyTree - World's largest city - photo by Yokalica (C) 
                                                         Creative Commons license

by Greg Saville

There is a remarkable story in today’s Guardian newspaper titled “How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime”. It says in 2014 Japan had “just six gun deaths compared to 33,599 in the US.”

Six gun deaths? In the entire country of 130 million people? The US averages 10 gun deaths per 100,000 persons (both felonious and accidental). Canada is less than 2. The UK and Australia under 1. Japan's number is so low it doesn’t register!

Ah, say the naysayers, that may be six gun deaths but you cannot compare the two countries! Raw population size alone accounts for the difference! Right?

Nope. Both countries have large populations: Japan is the 10th most populous country and America the 3rd. At 130 million, Japan is just under half the US population of 325 million.

Ah, say the naysayers, there are lots of other reasons why you can't compare.

Let's consider them...


Does the US have more poverty?  Nope! The US reports its relative poverty rate at 13.5%. Japan posts its relative poverty rate at 16%.


America is far more diverse and Japan is far more culturally homogenous. True, that probably leads to shared social attitudes about non-violence in Japan. But it is a fact that most American urban violence is not between different racial groups but rather within them (a truism ignored by fact-free politicians).


Perhaps American history, with a civil war and multiple overseas wars, fuels a culture of violence? Nope, Japan isn't that different! Consider Japanese militarism following the Meiji Restoration, the Sino-Japanese wars, the Russian-Japanese War, and of course WW2.


Perhaps there are more frustrated people who live in dense American cities and that drives them to crime (the US is 81% urban)?  Nope! Japan is 78% urban and the world’s largest city - Tokyo - is one of the densest and most urban in the world. It is also among the safest.


The latest in criminology is to explain global crime declines via increases in security technology, DNA fingerprints, predictive policing, CCTV computer algorithms, etc.

Nope, that doesn't work either. DNA fingerprinting works after a crime, not before. It might get a chronic offender off the streets. But given DNAs investigative scarcity around the world, claiming it accounts for crime declines stretches the logic gap to Grand Canyon proportion. Predictive policing has not been around long enough to register on statistical radar screens.

And CCTV? Every time I turn on the nightly news I watch an "exclusive report" of a robbery "caught on tape"? If CCTV is so great cutting crime, why do gun robberies keep showing up on the nightly news? Obviously, research on CCTV effectiveness is spotty.

Security tech isn’t the answer.


John Hancock Observatory Night View
Chicago had over 700 homicides in 2016
- photo by allen McGregor (C),  Creative Commons license 

Stats are hard to come by, but rough estimates suggest there are 1.4 million gang members in the US and 100,000 Yakuza in Japan. That’s a whopping difference of .4 to .07 percent of each country’s population respectively (almost 6 times as many criminal gang members per capita in the US).

The gang theory makes some sense since Yakuza are not only fewer in number but far more disciplined than their US counterparts. But the obvious explanatory elephant in this room is simple. Guns!


After years of blogging about mass murder, guns and gangs in places like Orlando, Connecticut, Los Angeles, and too many others, I’m not going to harp on gun control or the long-proven crime causation theory behind it. For clear thinkers, it is study-laden and it is obvious. It is also a theory well understood in places like Canada, Australia and especially Japan.

So the American carnage continues. Yesterday there was yet another mass shooting on US soil by a madman triggered by “voices” (said the FBI). This latest mass murder was a lone gunman at the Fort Lauderdale airport and in 80 seconds he shot and killed 5 and injured 11. That is more than all those killed by guns in Japan for an entire year.


4 Replies so far - Add your comment

Mateja said...

Thank you Greg! The readers may also be interested in this comparative study between Australia and US:

GSaville said...

Thanks Mateja, that is a remarkable and detailed study of the mass killings in US vs Australia. As I say in my blog, the issue is study-laden and obvious - this research confirms that. I was amazed how clear it was to see the declines in mass killing in the US following the Assault Weapons Ban, and the increase in mass killings when it was repealed. And I was stunned to see how mass killings vanished after the Australian NFA laws! It could not be more obvious... but sadly, in the US this debate has little to do with facts and truth, and everything to do with $$$

Anonymous said...

5 times the number of gang members does not answer the question of causal relationship since if that was the case then we would expect 5 times the number of incidents: so their 6 would be related to 30 here… not what we have.

It is true that Japan and the US share a degree of a violent history, however, we do not share a period where arms were banned, or the concept that the mass of the population should be armed in their private homes.

There is one aspect that is obvious to me…
we have more guns than people and those guns are private as opposed to a place like Switzerland where the guns are government placed and controlled.

We have more guns than the combined armies of NATO which includes the US Army.
Seems to me that that might figure in heavily with the equation of gun violence… accessibility.

GSaville said...

I couldn't agree more Anon. Easily accessible guns, guns, guns. That is basically what I was saying. I written that in blogs so many times over the years it just gets redundant saying it again and again. The gun lobby, manufacturers and the NRA (and their Supreme Court pals) controls the discourse, manipulate 2nd Amendment, and condemn us to a future of gun violence and massacres. Thanks for your comment.