(CNN) – Students in other countries assessing where to study abroad are increasingly scared of coming to the United States because of gun violence, the nation's top diplomat said Monday.
Speaking with CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty in Tokyo, Secretary of State John Kerry said he'd discussed the situation with officials there who said students felt unsafe in the United States.
"We had an interesting discussion about why fewer students are coming to, particularly from Japan, to study in the United States, and one of the responses I got from our officials from conversations with parents here is that they're actually scared. They think they're not safe in the United States and so they don't come," Kerry said.
He noted Japan's restrictive gun laws – which prevent private ownership of nearly all firearms, including handguns – and said the country was safer "where people are not running around with guns."
In 2011, Japan sent 21,290 students to study in the United States, making it the seventh largest country of origin for international scholars. That was down 14% from the previous year, according to numbers from the Institute of International Education.
Figures have shown international study is down markedly among Japanese students to all destinations, including the United States. Experts have attributed the decline to Japan's low birthrate, the expense of foreign study in a poor economy, and a desire among Japanese young people to remain at home rather than venture to other countries.
Unlike the United States, the right to private gun ownership in Japan is not guaranteed in law. Individuals wishing to possess any firearm must obtain a license and demonstrate a reason for owning the gun.
Out of a total 582 homicides in Japan in 2008, 11 were by guns.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.