Source AP ©

Japan adopts stricter gun control measures

Japan adopted stricter gun control measures following a spate of gangster shootings that have rattled a nation renowned for its crime-free streets.

The measures crack down on the smuggling of foreign guns into Japan by organized crime groups and focus on getting rid of guns already in circulation, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura said.

"Most of the guns that are confiscated in Japan are foreign guns," Shimomura said. "It is important to prevent an influx of these guns from abroad."

The new measures will require foreign aircraft and ships to report more detailed information of their cargo, passengers, and crew to Japanese custom authorities. Inspections can then be carried out when suspicion is aroused, a separate Cabinet official, Koji Horinouchi, said.

Shimomura said the government will also more rigidly enforce new penalties and fines for importing guns that took effect in February.

Calls for more stringent gun control have intensified in the wake of last week's fatal shooting of the Nagasaki mayor and a gangster attack in the streets of a Tokyo suburb only a few days later.

"We must prevent this nation from becoming flooded with guns, no matter what," Japan's largest daily Yomiuri Shimbun said Sunday in an editorial.

The use of guns is still relatively alien to the Japanese public. Handguns are strictly banned, and only police officers and others professionals such as shooting instructors can own them. Hunting rifles are also strictly licensed and regulated.

Despite tough gun control laws, high-profile gunbattles between gangsters have increased. Of the 53 shootings reported in 2006, two-thirds 36 were blamed on organized crime groups, the National Police Agency says.

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