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Acquittal Brings Home U.S.-Japan Gap Over Guns With AM-Student Shot

May 24, 1993

TOKYO (AP) _ An American jury’s acquittal of a man who fatally shot a Japanese exchange student shows the difference between a society where guns are virtually banned and one where weapons are everywhere, Japanese said Monday.

The morning news in Japan led with Rodney Peairs’ acquittal Sunday in Baton Rouge, La., on manslaughter charges.

Peairs had shot 16-year-old Yoshihiro Hattori with a .44-caliber Magnum revolver after the unarmed boy mistakenly went to his house looking for a Halloween party and apparently misunderstood his command to ″Freeze 3/8″

″The trial made clear how different Japan’s common sense is ... from the United States,″ wrote Nobuo Tominaga from Baton Rouge in the nationally circulated Asahi newspaper.

Personal ownership of guns in Japan is banned with a few limited exceptions.

The Oct. 17 shooting caused outrage in Japan, and all of Japan’s major newspapers and television stations sent correspondents to cover the trial.

Hattori’s father, Masaichi Hattori, who attended the trial, found the verdict ″unbelievable,″ an interpreter said. But his mother, Mieko Hattori, was more resigned.

″The verdict is unfortunate, but we have no choice but to defer to the judgment of the jurors,″ Mrs. Hattori said from her home in Nagoya, central Japan, according to Kyodo News Service.

The Hattori family has collected more than 1.6 million signatures in Japan on a petition urging Congress to adopt stricter gun laws.

Masanori Suzuki, the executive director of the exchange program that sent Hattori to Louisiana, was outraged by defense attorney Lewis Unglesby’s depiction of Peairs as a victim of events.

″He didn’t kill an animal, he killed a person,″ Suzuki said. ″The gun he shot him with was not a gun for self-defense. ... (Unglesby) skillfully controlled the media with this tear-jerker story.″

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