Early Tuesday morning, a man stabbed dozens of people at a residential care facility for people with developmental disabilities, according to NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting network.
The man claimed to be a former employee at the facility and admitted to carrying out the attack before turning himself in. Multiple outlets are reporting that sharp weapons were found in the suspect’s bag and car.
At least 19 people are dead, and dozens more are wounded. If the tally is confirmed, the incident will be worst mass killing in the country since World War II.
So why are mass killings so rare in Japan? Heavy regulation of firearms is one big reason – almost nobody owns a gun there. And there’s a link between the availability of guns and the deadliness of a crime – the wider the access to firearms, the higher the levels of violence, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Outside of the Americas – North, Central and South America – where “firearms are the most widely used weapons, accounting for 4 out of every 10 homicides” globally, sharp objects kill about a quarter of victims, according to the UNODC’s 2013 Global Study on Homicide.
In the last 15 years, Japan has seen only two other mass stabbing attacks: Seven people were killed in Akihabara in 2008, and eight children were killed at a school in Osaka in 2001.
Including Tuesday’s stabbing, the three attacks have these things in common: They were all committed by a single individual, killing four or more people in a single ongoing incident, in a single location. And the attackers all used knives.