Japan’s tough gun laws add to shock at Shinzo Abe’s killing – Orange County Register

By YURI KAGEYAMA | Associated Press

TOKYO – The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in broad daylight on Friday shocked a world that has come to associate Japan with relatively low crime and strict gun controls.

Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister Abe was shot in the back while campaigning for parliamentary candidates in the city of Nara. He died in a hospital two days before the election.

The suspect apparently circumvented the country’s strict gun regulations by building his own gun. Police said the 15-inch device was apparently homemade, and one expert compared it to a muzzle-loading pistol. Authorities seized similar weapons when they searched the suspect’s nearby one-bedroom apartment.

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The motive of the man, who was arrested at the scene, remained unclear.

Deadly gun violence is virtually unknown in Japan, and most Japanese go through life without ever having handled or even seen a real weapon. Knife fights are more common among kills.

Major universities have gun clubs and Japanese police are armed, but gun rights have been a distant issue for decades. Even the police rarely resort to firing their pistols.

With a population of 125 million, the country had just 10 gun-related crimes last year, resulting in a single death and four injured, according to police, according to police. Eight of those cases involved gangs.

In the densely populated capital Tokyo there were no gun incidents, injuries or deaths in the same year, although 61 guns were seized there.

“The Japanese are in shock,” said Shiro Kawamoto, a professor at Nihon University’s College of Risk Management in Tokyo.

“This serves as a wake-up call that gun violence may occur in Japan and that security needs to be re-examined to protect Japanese politicians,” Kawamoto said. “To assume that this type of attack will never happen would be a huge mistake.”

Abe’s security team could face serious questions. However, since such attacks are exceptional in Japan, relatively low security is the norm even for former prime ministers.

The last high-profile shooting happened in 2019, when a former gang member was shot dead at a Tokyo karaoke venue.

Under Japanese law, owning firearms without a special license is illegal. Importing them is also illegal. The same rules apply to some types of knives and certain other weapons, such as crossbows.

Individuals wishing to own firearms must undergo a rigorous background check, including medical clearance, and provide information about family members. They also have to pass tests to show they know how to use weapons properly. If you come and buy a gun, you also have to buy a special locking system for it at the same time.

Overcoming these hurdles will enable a license holder to shoot at clay targets. Hunting requires an additional license.

The weapon used in the attack on Abe was likely a “handmade” firearm, according to NR Jenzen-Jones, director of Armament Research Services, a specialist weapons investigation firm.

He compared the weapon to a musket, in which the gunpowder is loaded separately from the bullet.

“Gun laws in Japan are very restrictive, so I think what we are seeing here, with what is likely a muzzle-loading gun, is not only an attempt to circumvent firearms control, but also the tight control of ammunition in Japan,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Lviv, Ukraine contributed to this report.

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/07/08/japans-tight-gun-laws-add-to-shock-over-abes-assassination/ Japan’s tough gun laws add to shock at Shinzo Abe’s killing – Orange County Register

Caroline Bleakley

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