GUNSrnRemember PearlrnHarborrnby David B. KopelrnUnder the auspices of the UnitedrnNations, no nation is workingrnharder to disarm American citizens thanrnis Japan. With help from Canada andrnColombia, Japan is the main enginernpushing the United Nations to promotern”small arms” controls which would obliteraternthe Second Amendment.rnThere are three problems with Japan’srneffort. First, it is a form of cultural imperialism,rnwhich shows ignorance of thernways in which American society’ is differentrnfrom the Japanese. It also flies in thernface of a constitutionally guaranteedrnright. Third, these attempts indicate arnwillful blindness to Japan’s own historyrn—a history that supports argumentsrnagainst gun control even in Japan.rnLet’s start with the misunderstandingrnof America, hi Japan, crime rates arernver’ low. Burglar}’ is rare, and most peoplernfeel perfectly safe. The Japanese usuallyrndo not need to take extraordinaryrnsteps to protect themselves from violentrncriminals. Conditions in America, however,rnare rather different. And the conditionsrnare different not just because ofrnguns; even if all gun crime were eliminated,rnAmerica’s violent crime raternwould still be many times higher thanrnJapan’s. Our police cannot guarantee individualrnsecurity; hence, many Americansrnmust provide their own.rnFirearms are one option that manyrnpeople choose, and firearms in the handsrnof law-abiding people make Americarnsafer. Over a dozen studies —includingrnone paid for by an anti-gun group — havernfound that Americans use firearms hundredsrnof thousands of times yearly forrnlawful protection. These uses usuallyrndon’t involve pulling the trigger; brandishingrnthe gun generally is enough tornfrighten off a would-be assailant.rnAbout half of all American homesrncontain a gun, and the prevalence ofrnguns in American households plays arnmajor role in reducing burglary. WlrenrnAmerican burglaries do occur, the burglarsrngenerally break in during the daytime.rnBurglars take the extra risk of stealingrnin daylight because they realize thatrnif they break in at night, people may bernhome, and the burglars stand a goodrnchance of getting shot. Since burglarsrndon’t know which homes have guns andrnwhich don’t, the entire community —rnnot just the gun-owners—benefits fromrnthe deterrent value of widespread gunrnownership. By contrast, burglars in otherrnEnglish-speaking countries are muchrnmore willing to attack a home whenrnhomeowners are present.rnAnother reason so many Americansrnchoose to own guns is the example set byrnour government. The Japanese policernalmost never draw their revolvers, and insteadrnuse their expertise in judo and otherrnmartial arts to subdue criminals, hirnAmerica, however, about one person arnday is fatally shot by the police. The frequentrnuse of guns by American police legitimatesrnthe use of guns in general.rnJapan’s activism in the cause ofrngun prohibition was galvanized by thernshooting death of Yoshihiro Hattori, arnJapanese exchange student who was shotrnby a Louisiana homeowner in 1992 afterrnHattori left a Halloween party where hernhad been drinking, trespassed on thernman’s property, and began advancing towardrnthe man despite the man’s repeatedrnwarnings to “freeze.” Hattori’s grievingrnfamily responded by circulating petitionsrnurging the American government to banrnthe possession of guns in the home.rnWliile this family’s grief is understandable,rnits public policy is not, becauserneven if Hattori’s family were to prevail,rnthe result might not be what they intended.rnWhenever American cities or statesrnhave enacted laws forbidding the possessionrnof particular types of guns, or simplyrnrequiring that people tell the governmentrnwhat kinds of guns they own, mostrnAmericans have refused to obey suchrnlaws. Depending on the law and the region,rndisobedience rates range from 75rnpercent to 98 percent. If the possessionrnof guns in the home were prohibited, arnsignificant number of Americans wouldrnrefuse to comply. And, incredible as itrnmay sound to the Japanese, many Americansrnwould shoot a policeman whorncame to confiscate their guns.rnPerhaps even more incredibly, from arnJapanese viewpoint, our Constitutionrnimplicitiy endorses such behavior. ThernSecond Amendment guarantees thernright to own and carry firearms. The historicalrnrecord shows that the core purposernof the Second Amendment was tornensure that, if the central government everrnbecame dictatorial, the American peoplernwould be able to overpower it. The menrnwho wrote the Constitution presumedrnthat any government that would confiscaternguns would do so as a first step towardrnrestricting political and social liberties.rnJapanese history itself shows the importancernof an armed populace. As historianrnHidehiro Sonada explains, thernmilitary was able to dominate Japan inrnthe 1920’s, 30’s, and early 40’s parfly becausernthe “army and the navy were vastrnorganizations with a monopoly on physicalrnviolence. There was no force inrnJapan that could offer any resistance.”rnWlien the Japanese dictator Hidiyoshirndisarmed Japan in 1588 with the SwordrnHunt, he did so because, as he put it, thernpossession of weapons by peasantsrn”makes difficult the collection of taxesrnand tends to foment uprisings.” Oncernthe peasants had been disarmed, theyrnwere increasingly oppressed. Americanrnhistorian Stephen Turnbull notes that,rnafter the Sword Hunt was completed,rn”The growing social mobility of peasantsrnwas thus flung suddenly into reverse.”rnHaving once enjoyed the freedom tornchoose jobs as they pleased, weaponlessrnpeasants were forbidden to leave theirrnland without their superiors’ permission.rnJust as the American Founders wouldrnhave expected, disarmament paved thernway for de facto slavery.rnAmerican ownership of guns is deeplyrntied to concepts of individualism, selfprotection,rnand freedom from oppressiverngovernment. To the group-orientedrnJapanese, our attitudes may seem absurdrnor even barbaric. But in this century, itrnhas been Japan, not the United States,rnwhich allowed itself to be run by a militaryrndictatorship, and to start a world war.rnIn a civilized society, the people controlrnthe government, and they are trusted byrnthe government. It is gun prohibition,rnnot gun ownership, that is uncivilized.rnMost American gun owners have therngood manners not to try to force theirrnSecond Amendment ideals on Japan.rnThe Japanese should not try to forcerntheir own ideology on the United States.rnDavid B. Kopel is the author of ThernSamurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy:rnShould America Adopt the CunrnControls of Other Democracies?, whichrnwas named book of the year by the AmericanrnSociety of Criminology’s Division ofrnInternational Criminology.rnFEBRUARY 1999/47rnrnrn