Some of the strictest gun control laws in the world pose unusual problems at the Tokyo Olympics, from the coach who can’t touch a gun to strict ammo limits.
For Goran Maksimovic, the extent of the Japanese restrictions only became clear when he arrived to coach the national team and found he couldn’t put his finger on a gun, let alone shoot a gun. a.
“I was very surprised at first,” said the Serbian, a 10m air rifle gold medalist at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
“It’s very difficult for the coach because sometimes you have to check that the trigger is free, or check the weight of the trigger or help the shooter to adjust certain parts,” he added.
Only 500 people can own an air pistol in Japan, whose history of controlling guns and other weapons dates back hundreds of years.
Today, Japan’s gun laws are among the strictest in the world, and the annual gun deaths in the country of 125 million people are consistently in single numbers.
Obtaining a firearms license is a long and complicated process, even for Japanese citizens, who must first obtain a recommendation from a shooting association and then go through strict police checks.
It’s even more difficult for foreigners, with Maksimovic having to use Japanese assistants as intermediaries when coaching the shooting team.
But as the coronavirus-delayed Olympics loom, officials have taken steps to avoid the worst of issues by offering a series of workarounds.
– ‘They might complain’ –
During the Games, coaches will be able to assist with “minor repairs” as long as the athlete is holding the weapon.
And the rules have been relaxed so that technical officials can handle firearms and inspect ammunition in accordance with the rules of the International Shooting Federation.
It was a complicated process, National Rifle Association of Japan president Kiichiro Matsumaru told AFP.
“We have been involved in negotiations with the police and the government so that the teams coming here have no complaints,” he said.
But despite their efforts, he fears “if they come here and find it embarrassing, they might complain afterwards.”
# photo1 Other obstacles required more complex solutions. Japan has a limit of 800 rounds per shooter at a time, less than in previous Olympics and other international competitions.
Organizers had to come up with a “complex plan” to prevent competitors from running out of bullets, Peter Underhill, director of shooting sport for the Tokyo Games, told AFP.
“This was introduced specifically for Tokyo 2020, to help mitigate the effects of this particular law,” he said.
There will be a few options, including sending bullets to Japan through a designated contractor, but cartridges must be stored outside of the filming location and brought in to refuel supplies.
# photo2 Teams will also be able to purchase ammunition at the Olympic Shooting Range, but they will have to make do with whatever is available, which may differ from their usual specifications.
– ‘Top quality ammunition’ –
National Rifle Association of India leader Ajay Singh said his shooters were happy with the solution.
“These are top quality ammunition,” he told AFP.
“They specify the quality standards, so it’s pretty much on the right track. “
A 16-page guide for teams warns of “very strict legal regulations,” and Matsumaru said Japanese gun laws make it difficult to organize international shooting events.
They also hold Japan back from Asian heavyweight shooting nations China, South Korea and India, and getting young people into the sport is a particular challenge, he said.
Children must be 10 years old before they can start using an air pistol, and minors are subject to strict controls.
“Before a child gets permission, a detective will go around his neighborhood to gather information to find out what kind of child he is,” Matsumaru said.
“The neighbors will tell the parents that a detective was there to ask questions, and the mother will tell the child to leave the shooting club. It is excessively strict, and we would like to see it stopped. “
Still, he’s proud that Japanese shooters have won six Olympic medals so far and hopes the Tokyo Games can help change their minds about the sport.
“The Japanese aren’t really familiar with shooting sports, so if Japanese shooters do well at the Olympics, that will really put them in the spotlight,” he said.
“It could give him the momentum to really establish himself. “
© 2021 AFP