Possession of crossbow without a license to become illegal this month.

March is tax season in Japan, so right now a lot of people are getting their paperwork done to file their returns. It’s also when the weather finally starts to warm up, and in a country with such stark seasonal temperature differences, putting away your winter clothes and pulling your spring ones out of storage can take up a big block of time too.

And this March there’s one more thing people in Japan need to do: figure out what they’re going to do with their crossbows. That’s because in the middle of this month crossbows, as well as pistol-type bow guns, will become illegal to possess.

This revision to Japan’s Firearm and Sword Control Law was announced last June, giving owners one last summer, autumn, and winter to spend with their bolt-slinging weaponry and to make any necessary preparations for the shift to a crossbow-less lifestyle.

▼ Such as, say, strengthening their castle walls.

Come March 15, though, they’ll have to turn their crossbows in, unless they apply for and are granted a license to continue owning one. License applicants must be at least 18 years old, not have served jail time within the past five years, and undergo a background check. The revised regulations also specify that licenses can only be granted to those seeking authorization for target/sport shooting or commercial/industrial use, such as licensed animal control, and that permits will not be issued for display or collection purposes. While it may sound odd to essentially say “You can only have a crossbow if you’re planning on shooting it a lot,” the reason for this is likely to prevent any single individual from stockpiling crossbows, and to make sure that they’re only in the hands of people with a legitimate need for them. Owners not applying for a license can turn in their crossbow to their local police station, with no fees involved.

The ban was prompted by an increase in crossbow-related violence, the authorities say. Under the revised law, unauthorized possession of a crossbow will result in penalties of up to 500,000 yen (US$4,350) in fines and up to three years in prison. There is a six-month grace period for owners waiting for their license application to be processed, but Japan’s National Police Agency says that firing the crossbow without a permit during this period is “obviously” prohibited. Even loading a crossbow without a license is illegal during the grace period, and will incur a fine of up to 200,000 yen.

There is an exemption for crossbows that fire arrows with a force of under 6 joules. The National Police Agency has set up a special “crossbow power” page on its website that shows how to estimate the weapon’s level of kinetic energy based on its size, draw weight, and arrow speed, but it really seems like the sort of thing you should double check in person with your local police station, especially if it’s been a while since your last physics class.

The crossbow ban goes into effect on March 15 dramatically at the stroke of midnight. Plate armor, meanwhile, remains legal.

Source: National Police Agency (1, 2) via IT Media
Top image: National Police Agency
Insert image: Pakutaso
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