A rainy night scene at the entrance of the Kabukicho district in Tokyo, Japan. Credit: Moyan Brenn / Flickr

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.

Julia B. Chan can be reached at jchan@cironline.org. Follow her on Twitter: @juliachanb.

Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.