But, meanwhile, the top-heavy Japanese nobility also began to fear this newly armed peasantry and within a generation had removed guns from the common people. The “Sword Hunt” of 1588 took away not only the farmer’s swords, but their matchlocks as well. This was, perhaps, the earliest gun control of world history. It was followed by the “Separation Edict” of 1591, which made the farmers hereditary serfs. Previously, the great bulk of Japanese fighting men were citizen-soldiers, farmers most of the time, who answered the call when local noblemen needed infantry support. But after the new edicts, only the Samurai could carry swords or shoot matchlocks. The farmers now had only one job: to pay for everything. And pay they did, up to 80 percent of all they grew now went to support the nobility and the Samurai. The Samurai myth has taken on exaggerated elements of chivalry. Popularly represented as brave swordsmen, defenders of the innocent, the truth was often the opposite, for many Samurai were cold-blooded killers who murdered unarmed commoners for perceived insults as slight as simply making eye contact with them. All were merciless, blue-blooded parasites, living off the toil of people they considered vastly inferior. Once the farmers had been disarmed, it was easy to eradicate their few remaining freedoms. So, by the dawn of the Tokugawa Shogunate (military dictatorship), around 1603, Japan had near-total gun control. This notwithstanding, the Japanese myth of “giving up the gun,” and reverting to the sword, often couched as “putting the evil genie back in the bottle,” is more wishful thinking than historical fact. Matchlocks were not gone, they were now only reserved for a favored few. The Samurai still used them for war and hunting, and practiced constantly: marksmanship competitions were not uncommon.
(From “The Village Tiger Gun”, in The Blue Press, April 2016, p. 80.)