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Armed Violence and Guns in East Asia

East Asia, despite its universally restrictive gun policies, is home to some of the world’s largest firearms exporters and emerging industry giants, particularly South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China.1 2 China has had the world’s greatest value increase of military small arms exports between 2000-06.3 

Gun policies throughout the region are some of the most restrictive in the world. Japan and South Korea place heavy restrictions on civilian gun ownership.4 5 China has a government allocation system whereby civilian ownership is prohibited, and those who can prove a need for a firearm are lent one by the government.6 7

Civilian possession and gun homicide rates throughout East Asia are among the lowest in the world. Japan’s civilian possession rate, in particular, is ranked 164th of 179 countries.8 Estimated civilian gun possession numbers range from 50,000 in Mongolia, to 725,000 in Taiwan, and China ranks 3rd in the world for the number of firearms held by civilians, with 40,000,000.8

Public health reporting across the region is rare at best. Just over half the countries of this region have reported gun homicide statistics, Taiwan has the highest rates with 0.6 per 100,000 population in 2008.9 Other reporting countries have very low gun homicide rates ranging from 0 for Hong Kong,10 Japan,11 and South Korea,12 to 0.1 for Mongolia.13

China, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan are amongst the twenty largest military stockpiles, with respectively 21,000,000, 6,200,000, 4,700,000, and 2,600,000.14

China is also believed to have the largest number of law enforcement firearms in the region, with an estimated 1,950,000 firearms, followed by Japan with 250,000.15 

China, Japan and South Korea are the only active participants in the international small arms programme.16 17 18 19 20 Japan is the only country of the region to have signed and ratified the Arms Trade Treaty. Mongolia and South Korea have also signed, but not yet ratified, the Treaty.21

For information on armed violence and gun control laws in each country and territory of East Asia, please use the search tools in the left hand column.

Short References

1.

Pavesi, Irene and Christelle Rigual.2013.‘Annexes 8.1: Major Exporters.’ Small Arms Survey 2013: Everyday Dangers.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press and the Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,2 July. (Q8485)Full Citation

2.

Amnesty International.2006.‘The Flow of Arms Accelerates – Introduction.’ People's Republic of China: Sustaining Conflict and Human Rights Abuses.London:Amnesty International,12 June. (Q1560)Full Citation

3.

Dreyfus, Pablo, Nicolas Marsh and Matt Schroeder.2009.‘Ten Largest Absolute Increases in Exports of Military Small Arms and Light Weapons, 2000-06.’ Small Arms Survey 2009: Shadows of War.Geneva:Cambridge University Press,9 July. (Q1512)Full Citation

4.

United Nations.1999.‘Analysis of Country Responses.’ United Nations International Study on Firearm Regulation.Vienna:UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division,30 August. (Q1)Full Citation

5.

Japan.2001.‘Firearms Control in Japan.’ National Police Agency, Firearms Division.Tokyo:Firearms Division, Community Safety Bureau, National Police Agency,1 January. (Q1466)Full Citation

6.

China.1996.‘General Principles.’ Law of the People's Republic of China on the Control of Firearms.Beijing:President of the People's Republic of China,1 October. (Q1445)Full Citation

7.

China.1996.‘Allocation of Firearms.’ Law of the People's Republic of China on the Control of Firearms.Beijing:President of the People's Republic of China,1 October. (Q1446)Full Citation

8.

Karp, Aaron.2007.‘Completing the Count: Civilian firearms - Annexe online.’ Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,27 August. (Q5)Full Citation

9.

UNODC.2013.‘Homicide in 207 Countries - Taiwan.’ Global Study on Homicide 2011: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,26 June. (Q6321)Full Citation

10.

UNODC.2006.‘Reported Overall Homicide Numbers and Rates per 100,000 Population for 64 Countries, 2003-04.’ Ninth United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2003 – 2004).Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,10 December. (Q9)Full Citation

11.

UNODC.2013.‘Homicide in 207 Countries - Japan.’ Global Study on Homicide 2011: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,26 June. (Q6318)Full Citation

12.

UNODC.2013.‘Homicide in 207 Countries - South Korea.’ Global Study on Homicide 2011: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,26 June. (Q6312)Full Citation

13.

UNODC.2013.‘Homicide in 207 Countries - Mongolia.’ Global Study on Homicide 2011: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,26 June. (Q6310)Full Citation

14.

Karp, Aaron.2013.‘Table 4: Twenty Largest Military Small Arms Inventories.’ Armed Actors - Data Sources and the Estimation of Military-Owned Small Arms.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 September. (Q8186)Full Citation

15.

Karp, Aaron.2012.‘Table 1 - Estimated Law Enforcement Firearms in 20 Selected Countries.’ Armed Actors - Estimating Law Enforcement Firearms.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 December. (Q6544)Full Citation

16.

Cattaneo, Silvia and Sarah Parker.2008.‘Reporting, NPCs and NCAs, 2002 to 2008.’ Implementing the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons: Analysis of the National Reports submitted by States from 2002 to 2008.Geneva:United Nations Development Programme,1 November. (Q20)Full Citation

17.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Findings - Table 3: Reporting States by Rank and Score.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 August. (Q8752)Full Citation

18.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘What do the PoAIM Scores Represent? How Should the PoAIM Scores Be Interpreted?.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 August. (Q8753)Full Citation

19.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Point Allocation System.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 August. (Q8754)Full Citation

20.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Introduction.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 August. (Q8755)Full Citation

21.

UNODA.2013.‘Towards Entry Into Force.’ Arms Trade Treaty.New York NY:United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs,2 April. (Q7226)Full Citation