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Kuniko Katz's essays and articles:

Japanese press for gun control  Scarsdale Inquirer, Nov. 26, 1993

On Nov. 16, Masaichi and Mieko Hattori presented President Bill Clinton with over 1.6 million signa­tures they had collected in Japan urging stricter control in the United States. The Hattoris' 16‑year‑old son, Yoshi ' came to the Louisiana as an AFS exchange student to fulfill his dream of someday becoming a "bridge of peace" between Japan and the United States.  But Yoshi's dream was destroyed when he went to the wrong house for a Halloween party in October, 1992. He was shot and left mortally wounded on the front walk by the man of the house.

Rodney Peairs, who killed Yoshi, defended his action at the trial by say­ing that he mistook Yoshi, who was dressed like John Travolta's character in "Saturday Night Fever," for a prowler. The jurors accepted Mr. Peairs's defense that he had to shoot Yoshi to protect his family and acquit him.

I met the Hattoris the first time when I went to Japan last June with six high school students and three teachers from the Scarsdale school district.  After successfully completing the itinerary and sending the Scarsdale delegation back to the states from Narita airport, I went to Nagoya to meet with the grieving parents. I visited the Hattori family because I wanted personally to convey my condolences to them.  As a mother with a son the same age as Yoshi, I deeply felt their sorrow. I also wanted them to know how moved I was to learn that while being grief‑stricken, they collected over one million signatures to protest the easy availability of firearms in the U.S., and established the Yoshi Foundation to help American exchange students who want to come to Japan.

After thanking me for coming, Mr.Hattori, a soft‑spoken, gray‑haired man in his forties, said: "We don't hate America for what happened to our son. We still think America is a great country, and if my younger son wants to go, we probably will send him. But we want the American people to realize that a society in which guns can be obtained so easily and people can be killed by a simple mistake is a very unfortunate one, indeed. Because we don't want anyone to go through what we had to go through, and because we don't want Yoshi's death to be a mere statistic in America, we decided to collect signatures to ask the American people to reassess the easy availability of guns there.  As to establishing the Yoshi Foundation, we did so to have Yoshi continue to fulfill his dreams of helping others even after his death."

Mrs. Hattori, a pretty, slender and gentle‑mannered woman, graciously served green tea for me while her husband spoke. Then she told me that she felt so guilty about her son's death because she didn't realize before they sent him to the U.S. that the country which they thought to be a peaceful democracy could actually be so dangerous.

"But my husband persuaded me not to feel guilty, instead, he said that we had to carry on Yoshi's Will so that his death will not have been in vain."

She then showed me a lot of pictures of Yoshi and a collection of his schoolmates' essays about him. Judging from his mother's stories and the essays, Yoshi was a bright young man who was also an excellent athlete and humorous student.  His high school, Asahigaoka, is one of the best high schools in Japan and is nationally known for its high academic standards.  While there, Yoshi joined the rugby team and many of his teammates described in their essays how well he played and how much he was missed by everyone.

In their essays, many of Yoshi's friends also expressed bewilderment at how this well‑rounded, excellent student had to die in such a senseless way. Many of them wrote that if the man who shot Yoshi had not had a gun in his home, this tragic incident would not have happened.  And for the sake of their dear friend, they wish their requests for strong gun control in America to be realized.

After reading their essays, I offered to arrange for the Japanese high school students in the Scarsdale area to translate them into English so that the American people could read them. I brought the translated essays with me when I went to Washington last week to cover the Hattoris' presentation for a Japanese newspaper. Along with the letters from Americans, they were handed to President Clinton when the Hattoris met him at the White House on Nov. 16.

At the press conference held in the office of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Richard and Holley Haymaker, Yoshi's host parents, thanked the Hattoris for their efforts to make Americans realize how deeply gun violence affects Americans and how we must fight against it. Inspired by the Hattoris' courage, they also collected more than 13,000 signatures with the help of hundreds of their U.S. supporters.

For Mr. and Mrs. Hattori, who came here to ask Americans to take the necessary steps to reduce gun violence, the Senate's passage of the Brady Gun Control Bill was truly rewarding news.

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