After death of their son, Japanese couple fights for gun control in U.S.

LIHU’E — Yoshihiro Hattori was 16 years old when he went to Baton Rouge, La.,

an exchange student from Japan and recipient of a Morita Foundation

Scholarship.

On Oct. 18, 1992, he approached the wrong house while looking

for a Halloween Party and was shot to death by the owner. From that time on,

“Yoshi’s” parents have been supporting the gun control movement in the United

States.

The Hattori’s will share their story on Kaua’i at the Lihu’e

Library on July 6, 5-8 p.m. Their presentation will include the video “The Shot

Heard Round the World.”

Yoshi’s father, Masaichi, and his mother, Mieko

Hattori began their campaign for gun control on the plane while bringing their

son’s body home to Japan.

Mieko reflected on something she had heard

Yoshihiro’s host brother said in Baton Rouge: “I will write to Mr. Clinton, a

candidate for the next presidency, that my friend from Japan has become a

victim of the gun culture of America, and I urge you to change this situation

regarding guns in the United States.”

Mieko said these words inspired her

to write a draft petition for removing guns from households in the United

States during the flight.

Petition signing began at Yoshi’s wake in Japan

while Yoshi’s host family in Louisiana, the Haymakers, ran the petition

campaign simultaneously in the U.S.

In two months together they had

collected over one million signatures and when they met with Pres. Bill Clinton

on Nov. 16, 1993, they handed him 1.7 million signatures from Japan and 250,000

petitions collected in the U.S. asking for tougher gun control in America.

During the Hattoris’ visit to Washington, D.C. in November, the Brady Bill

was passed in Congress.

The Yoshi Coalition was formed after the shooting

tragedy. It supported the Hattoris’ petition drive economically as well as in

gathering signatures. Mieko Hattori wrote a poem entitled “Yoshi” and

singer-songwriter Akemi Mano, a member of the coalition, created music for the

poem.

The coalition produced and sold compact discs of “Yoshi” and profits

from the sales were used to send four people, including Yoshi’s parents, to

Washington, D.C. with the petitions.

In 1995, the Association of Lawyers

in Nagoya awarded the coalition the Human Rights Award in recognition of their

contribution to passing the Brady Bill and to supporting the movement in both

the United States and Japan to build a society without guns.

The coalition

continues to raise funds by organizing public lectures and other events, and

through the Yoshi Gift Foundation, awards two $3,000 gifts each year to groups

working on gun control.

The Yoshi Gift Foundation was created from money

won in a civil case filed by the Hattoris against Rodney Peairs, the man who

shot Yoshi Hattori, and his home owners insurance company.

In a jury trial

Peairs had been found not guilty of manslaughter in the shooting incident,

based on his claim that he felt threatened and shot in self-defense.

But

in the subsequent civil trial the court ruled that Peairs violated Louisiana

law requiring special precaution for use of firearms, and it also ruled that

Yoshi’s actions were “not at fault” and the claim of self-defense was not

accepted.

On Sept. 15, 1994, the parents of Yoshihiro Hattori won the

civil case with the amount of $653,000 as the compensation.

Out of

$100,000 paid by the insurance company, the Hattoris received about $45,000

after the lawyer’s fees and expenses had been paid, and with this they created

Yoshi’s Gift Foundation. The Hattoris hope that, with the help of Yoshi’s Gift,

many gun control groups will “grow up and become stronger lobby groups against

NRA.”

Through the Yoshi Foundation, founded in June 1993 after the

tragedy, one student every year from the U.S. experiences Japanese society with

the hope that they will get a deeper understanding of a culture where guns are

not a necessity.

The fund consists of 10 million yen out of Yoshi’s life

insurance and the donations from diverse groups and people, managed by AFS

Japan. The student lives with a host family and attends high school in Japan.

Every year, Yoshi’s parents meet with the student to tell them about

Yoshi’s misfortune, “with the hope that small efforts can bring world peace if

little by little,” Mieko said.

Mieko Hattori spoke at the Million Mom March

last May in Washington, D.C.

She said, “After my son’s death, many

Americans supported us so that my son’s life isn’t in vain.” She especially

commended the Haymakers, Yoshi’s host family, for always being there for them.

“All of these supportive people to us are the real conscience in America. We

Japanese stand by Americans like you and will keep on supporting you from

Japan.”

For more information about the Hattoris’ visit to Kaua’i call

Noriaki Fujimori of Waimea Higashi Hongwanji at 338-1847 or Hiroko Merritt of

Waimea Baptist Church at 338-1227.

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