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A look at gun control around the world: why it works in Japan

In this week marked by acts of gun violence, we continue our look at how other countries deal with firearms. Today, we turn our focus towards Japan.

In 2007 there were 22 gun-related deaths in that country. This was deemed a national crisis. Seven years later that number dropped... to six. By comparison in the US, more than 30, 000 people were killed by guns in 2007 alone.

With more on our series on global gun control measures, we have David Kopel. He wrote the leading work on Japanese firearms policy  "The Samurai. The Mountie and the Cowboy: Should America adopt the gun controls of other Democracies?" When Josie Huang spoke with Kopel via Skype, he said there are stark differences between American and Japanese culture when it comes to guns.

Listen to the first and second installment of Take Two's look at gun policies around the world.

To hear the full interview, click the blue play button above.

Interview Highlights

Why are Japan's gun laws, the way they are?

"Japan in the 1500's was a very war-like society...and the nobility that used firearms in combat to the extent they had to... but they really hated it because they are equalizers. If you're a Samurai with a sword and armor and you're up against a regular Japanese peasant, well you win. But if the peasant has a handgun or a rifle, then the peasant is much more equal."

"...they're still a very strong internalized culture of social control. We think of the government as something that was created by the people, that' show the constitution begins, 'we the people'. Japan has much more sense of authority, including government, as just being inherent in society. So there's no individual who has rights, prior to the existence of organized government."

The title of your 1993 paper asked the question: Should America adopt the gun controls of other democracies? Now more than 20 years have passed since you wrote that paper, what's your take on things now.

"Japan's gun control system works well for Japan and Japan is a safe society where people are generally content with this aspect of how their lives are organized by the government. It's not just a gun thing. The gun thing is a manifestation of their more general submission to authority.

Switzerland is also an extremely safe society, compared to the United States and the United Kingdom and Switzerland is a place where every able bodied adult male is required to own a genuine automatic assault rifle at home. And so that's about the opposite of Japan in terms of gun policy, but both societys are very safe because they have strong families and a strong safety net...strong communities..."

What should America do?

"America is a much more individualist country than either Japan or Switzerland...so our gun policy has to take that into account has to take into account that people in the U.S., unlike in Japan, are not willing to say 'oh well I will just be helpless if somebody breaks into my house and I'll wait for the police to come, and that'll be good enough for me.' That's not an American attitude. When we say the rule of law, we mean that the government has to obey the law when the same phrase is used in Japan it means the people have to obey the government. So our laws need to take into account our very different culture and find something that's a good fit for us which has to start with respect for individual choice."

We want to hear your thoughts on  gun control in the United States. What do you think should be done about firearms regulation in the US? Should we adopt some of the policies in place in Japan, Australia or the U.K.?

Leave your comments below, or on our Facebook page or Twitter.

This post has been updated.