How to get a gun in Japan

Nov. 17, 2017

Japan's gun policies are some of the strictest in the world. Citizens can’t own handguns, automatic or semi-automatic weapons, military rifles or machine guns.

They can’t even own swords, and touching a firearm is a crime that can result in up to 10 years in prison.

Hunting rifles and shotguns are the only guns citizens can own. Japan’s stringent laws are similar to those in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Step 1

People who are interested in obtaining a license can attend a daylong training session hosted monthly by police.

Step 2

After completing the class exam, students gather the required materials and apply for training at a shooting range.

Step 3

The applicants then visit a mental health professional for a competency assessment and are awarded a certificate upon completion.

Step 4

Next, the hopefuls visit their local police station to be questioned about their family’s mental health history and why they need a gun.

Step 5

Their applications are checked against police databases, and then they move onto the next step: a training session at a shooting range.

Step 6

Meanwhile, a police officer can make unannounced visits to the applicants’ employers and neighbors to collect references.

Step 7

Then, hopefuls choose their guns and send applications to the National Police Agency, which grants temporary licenses — gun shops require them.

A temporary license isn't much good, though: Owners can't take the guns they purchase home until they have their official license.

Step 8

Shops give applicants a letter to show at their police station. Once the applicants are cleared for a proper license, they can then pick up their gun.

Step 9

There are more requirements even after all that: Owners have to store guns in a locker away from ammunition and notify police of the gun’s location.

There seems to be a connection between restrictions and gun deaths. In 2015, Japan's National Police Agency reported one — versus more than 13,000 in the U.S.