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Crossbow killings put focus on unregulated sales of 'hobby weapons'

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In early June, police in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, arrested Hideaki Nozu, a 23-year-old university student, on suspicion of killing his 47-year-old mother, 75-year-old grandmother and 22-year-old younger brother. 

Upon his arrest, Nozu readily confessed to the deed, telling police "I intended to kill my family." 

As reported in Spa (June 30), Noda's weapon of choice was a crossbow measuring more than 50 centimeters in length. Also known in Japanese as a yokyuju or "Western bow gun," a crossbow can shoot 50-cm-long bolts at a speed of 400 kilometers per hour, as far as 300 meters. If a bolt strikes a vital spot, such as the head, it can kill almost instantaneously. 

Several previous murder cases involving use of crossbows have occurred over the past decade,  including the killing of a high school student by a classmate in Tokyo in November 2009 and a parricide in Hiroshima in 2011. 

Despite their lethality, sales of crossbows have not been regulated in Japan and they can be purchased online for around 20,000 yen. As long as a person does not use one for a criminal act, he is free to enjoy it to his heart's content. 

"It's common to find people in Western countries who use the crossbow to hunt turkeys and other animals for sport," says Riki Noda, the nom de guerre of a Japanese man who formerly served as a parachutist in the French Foreign Legion. "One appeal is that they don't produce a loud noise like a firearm, so the prey being stalked won't flee." 

Another potentially lethal but unregulated weapon is the slingshot, which either takes the English name or is referred to in Japanese as gomu-ju ("rubber gun"). 

"Slingshots can fling rocks instead of pachinko balls," said Noda. "In Afghanistan I had the experience of being attacked in remote mountain villages by people armed with them. They would shoot at us from about 100 meters away, using rocks, which can be deadly if they hit the right spot. I can remember the unpleasant characteristic whizzing sound the stones made as they flew past." 

Other devices sold openly without restrictions include various types of cudgels, blowguns (fukiya), throwing knives and nunchaku, an Okinawan weapon consisting of two wooden or metal sticks connected by a short chain or cord. Popularized in the west by actor Bruce Lee, it is difficult to master, but when swung connects with terrific force. It can also be used to choke an opponent. 

Another item is the jitte, a metal shaft with a protruding hook at the bottom, once utilized as truncheons by lawmen in the Edo era.  

"There haven't been that many crimes committed with bow guns, and as they can be used in competitive sports, regulating them was difficult," remarked Yutaka Saito, a Niigata-based attorney, who pointed out that sales of daggers were once unregulated. 

"Then in 2008, a random slasher in Akihabara armed with a dagger was able to kill seven people. By the following year their sales had been outlawed." 

Saito gave the opinion that bow gun owners might be encouraged to behave more responsibly if they were required to register them with the authorities. 

"Controls on them were previously debated," he recalls. "The government promised to give it serious consideration, but nothing ever came of it. But with the deaths of three people this time, I think restrictions should be on the table. If permits can be issued for people to use them in competitive activities similar to skeet shooting, I think it would be a good thing."

© Japan Today

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12 Comments
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Japan lives to regulate and regulate!

It is tiring...

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

I have known two people who were avid bow hunters. Never heard of cross-bows being used to kill prey or people. Maybe that has to do with the easy access to guns over here.

It is interesting that cross bows are referred to as "Western bow guns." They appear to have first appeared in the Roman army, and later in Han China.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@1glenn

They were invented by the Chinese in around 700 BCE then later adopted by the Romans

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How in a country where I can't carry a folding Buck knife can people be allowed to own crossbows? It's not a "hobby weapon" unless your hobby is injuring people. They're weapons.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Here we go, an individual who is obviously mentally sick, their lone actions now imposes restrictions on normal people. It's happened again and again. Some idiots actions require a response from elected idiots that blanket cover everyone. Ban everything that's pointy.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

It's bizarre you can't have a knife over 30cm but a machete/ sushi blade, axe is ok? Weird laws. I have no idea what the law is and I suspect those that made the laws have no idea either.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It looks like the earliest known use of the crossbow is indeed in China. Today, because it is silent and deadly, it is still used by numerous special forces units.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan lives to regulate and regulate!

> It is tiring...

This is literally an article about things that aren't regulated in Japan.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Crossbows fall under the same category as archery bows, and both are banned in use as hunting weapons. Which is why they are not regulated.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here we go, an individual who is obviously mentally sick, their lone actions now imposes restrictions on normal people. It's happened again and again. Some idiots actions require a response from elected idiots that blanket cover everyone. Ban everything that's pointy.

This article is not talking about banning everything pointy, but rather about banning a tool that is specifically designed for killing.

And yes, it is valid to ban things because there is always going to be another idiot or mentally ill person

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nobody that Im aware of hunts with crossbows. Archery, yes. There are many problems with crossbows as they usually are in the hands of children of all ages. Most of the time crossbows make the news when someone shoots cats, other pets and wild animals for spite and the unfortunate animals has to be operated on or dies. Strictly speaking, there is no good reason to own this potentially lethal toy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the US there are people that hunt with crossbows as well as the compound bows. I am pretty sure anything can be made into a weapon if someone wants it badly enough. Regulation just makes the items that people can regularly get out in the open into underground items. You are only hearing about instances of people that got caught. I have not heard of crossbows being an issue in the US or anywhere else for that matter. I am sure there is a bigger problem with serial killers and organized crime than there is with unregulated weapons. When someone takes away one weapon they will just modify their tactics and use something else. I mean you had people fighting with sharpened rulers for a while there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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