Japanese and Guns – A Lack of Knowledge
Yoshihiro Hattori just came to America to study English. On October 17, 1992, he was looking for a Halloween party. He drove with his homestay brother to the wrong .38 special ammo home, that of Rodney and Bonnie Peairs. Rodney Peairs, a supermarket butcher, stepped outside, armed with a .44 magnum revolver with a laser sight. Peairs obviously felt threatened by this slight Japanese high school student in a tuxedo. Peairs said, “Freeze.” Hattori, not understanding what to do, walked toward Peairs. Peairs shot. Hattori, a Japanese exchange student studying in Louisiana who had only wanted to see America and learn English, was dead.
Newspapers and talk shows in Japan and America repeated again and again that Hattori would have been alive if he had understood the word “freeze,” but the problem was not linguistics. Hattori failed to understand that you should normally stop moving when you see someone with a gun. Do not walk toward them. Language is not relevant. This, however, was certainly no rational reason for Peairs, a butcher, to shoot and kill a high school student who had come to America to study English. We certainly cannot hold Hattori responsible for his death, even though he made a fatal mistake. We cannot expect him to think that ringing the wrong doorbell will result in a butcher shooting him with a .44 magnum.
Peairs’s .44 magnum revolver was the gun popularized by Dirty Harry, who described the gun as “the most powerful handgun in the world”. Dirty Harry was holding this instrument of death when he said, “Make my day.” A butcher working in a supermarket has little need for such a gun. Few Americans need such a gun, but they are easily available in America. If they were not, Hattori might still be alive today. Peairs had probably seen Dirty Harry in action. Perhaps he fantasized about helping to rid America of crime. Hattori paid the price.
Japan is not 100% free of guns, but it is very close. Some hunters have guns and some of the yakuza, who are Japanese gangsters, have guns, but the average citizen in Japan is highly unlikely to see a gun or be injured by one. Japanese live in much greater danger of choking to death on some rice product, not exactly a death that strikes fear into the Japanese heart. The vast majority of Japanese often imagine that all Americans have guns. While this is obviously false, enough of the wrong people have guns.