Enforce revised law to protect public from dangerous threat of crossbows

The misuse of crossbows, known as bow guns in Japan, to harm people and animals must not be tolerated.

With a crossbow, a user places an arrow on a bowstring and releases the arrow by pulling a trigger. Crossbows are used for sport shooting at universities and other institutions, and there are international competitions. They are also used to anesthetize animals for academic research and in other situations.

However, many people own crossbows for self-defense or use them as a hobby, and in recent years there have been incidents of people being killed or injured by the weapons. For this reason, the revised Firearms and Swords Control Law was enacted, requiring permission from a prefectural public safety commission to possess crossbows, which are dangerous to human life. The revision will take effect by next spring.

The possession of crossbows will be limited to such cases as sporting competitions and animal anesthesia, and owners will be required to attend a lecture on their proper use every three years. Illegal possession will be punishable by up to three years in prison with labor or a fine of up to ¥500,000.

Owners must obtain a permit within six months of the enforcement of the revision or dispose of their crossbow. People who may be in these circumstances are advised to consult the police.

Police in various areas are promoting efforts to collect crossbows free of charge. To prevent illegal dumping and sales between individuals, police need to strengthen their educational activities to encourage owners to hand over their crossbows.

In Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, last June, a man shot three members of a family and his own relative with a crossbow, killing three of them. Since then, there have been incidents in the cities of Kobe and Nagano in which people have been shot by crossbows. Animals such as wild ducks and cats with arrows stuck in them have also been found in various places.

Since 2010, police have received more than 170 complaints such as “I found an arrow stuck in the wall of my house” or “My neighbor is noisy, but I don’t complain to him because he has a crossbow.”

Crossbows are easier to handle than Western archery bows and bows for kyudo traditional Japanese archery, which require more training. Many crossbows are powerful enough to penetrate a frying pan. Awareness must be raised in society that crossbows can be used as dangerous weapons.

Most of the crossbows in circulation are imported and sold online for prices ranging from thousands of yen to hundreds of thousands of yen. The number of domestic owners and the number of crossbows in circulation are not known.

When a permit system is introduced, it will be easier for the central and local governments to ascertain who is an owner and how many bows are out there. It is necessary for dealers to thoroughly check before selling whether the buyer has a permit.

There are expected to be cases in which people buy crossbows directly from overseas via the internet without going through domestic dealers. The possibility cannot be denied that an owner may use social media to illegally resell a crossbow. Police must keep a close eye on such transactions and deal with them strictly.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 10, 2021.