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Guns and Japan August 3, 2012

Posted by akessler47 in Travel Log.

Something weird I noticed in every city I went to in Spain: there are novelty weapon shops. I mean entire shops dedicated to replica handguns, rifles, swords, and daggers. Not even a child’s plastic model or a bb-gun, I mean historically accurate M1A1 Thompsons and FAL assault rifles. They have moving fire selectors, real steel and wood, working iron sights, and a realistic weight; all that is missing are a bolt and bolt carrier, the only two components stopping it from becoming a functioning firearm. I own several firearms and have visited the range for years, but I cannot even tell if these guns are replicas or real firearms with the bolts stripped out of them. Why do these stores exist in the multitude?

                There is a company called Denix that produces fake firearms for not only the country but for a large percentage of Europe. Toledo also has a market in selling historical imitations of famous firearms, some of which even end up in museums

Armeria, next to Pelayo

Armeria, next to Pelayo

. Today while I was eating lunch in a small hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant as ten year-old ran around with a plastic handgun, it has no orange tip like in the States nor did anyone in the restaurant really seem to pay attention. The culture of guns in Spain seems to be more lax than in America, but gun laws are far stricter here. What is the Spanish fascination with weapons?

                I believe in the answer can be found with a similar case in Japan. Thousands of these replica shops have appeared in Japan the past few decades, becoming a legal concern for the country. Politicians wrote several bills to block the barrels with caps, paint orange tips, and insert metal rods into designs to make sure they could not be modified into actual firearms. However the government was in constant battle (no pun intended) with the model gun industries because of such high demand and interest in true replica weapons. Not coincidentally this shops starting appearing soon after WWII, after strict Allied regulations severely limited the country’s capacity for manufacturing and owning firearms. It is believed as a result that curiosity in the make and modeling of historical weapons increased.

                Under the rule of Franco Spain also experienced harsh gun laws, requiring most gun owners to actually submit to medical and psychological testing before earning a permit to own a weapon

Mock Assault Rifles on the Walls

Mock Assault Rifles on the Walls

. In addition no one may own more than 5 hunting rifles or one handgun, and owners must submit to frequent inspection. Today a very small population of Spain owns guns, but the society as a whole is, I believe, expressing a repressed interest in firearms as a whole. Spain and Japan are two states which were built in the furnace of war and baptized in the bloody struggles of Medieval Europe and Feudal Asia. Though the Spanish Civil war still burns brightly in the minds of many, the Spanish are a passionate and aggressive people by nature. These are the people who invented guerilla warfare and took up arms in households to terrorize French occupation. Like how Franco’s repression of culture led to a surge in Catalan nationalism I believe the same mechanism is at work with the replica weapons industry.

                I must stress that this blog is not about gun control; rather the point is the unique fascination the Spanish and Japanese gained given the conditions of their history. The United States by comparison has very open gun laws and culture (especially in the South), yet I know if I walked around with a replica firearm in public I would most certainly have the police called on me.  As a kid growing up in Atlanta I would play paintball in my own backyard with replica weapons and my neighbors would still either call my parents or in some extreme cases the police. And this kid in the Chinese restaurant is running up and down the aisle with pistol in hand; nobody even gives it a second glance, although I was shocked. It was a weird culture-shock for someone from the US. I suppose this country has been through a lot more than ours has, and as such they have a more mature perception of weapons in general.



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