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Assassination of Shinzo Abe Shatters Picture of Gun-Free Japan


The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe throughout a marketing campaign rally in western Japan was particularly exhausting to fathom as a result of it concerned a gun — a sort of crime that’s extraordinarily uncommon in a rustic with a number of the most stringent legal guidelines on shopping for and proudly owning firearms.

Gun violence is nearly unheard-of in Japan. There was solely one firearm-related demise in all of 2021. Since 2017, there have been 14 gun-related deaths, a remarkably low determine for a rustic of 125 million individuals.

Expressing a standard response, Erika Inoue, a 25-year-old designer in Tokyo, stated the gun violence was exhausting to course of.

“The capturing half is complicated,” she stated. “There are weapons? In Japan?”

Japan’s firearms regulation states that, in precept, weapons aren’t permitted within the nation. There are exceptions for weapons utilized in looking, however the strategy of getting a license is time-consuming and costly, so only a few individuals undergo the trouble.

An individual should move 12 steps earlier than buying a firearm, beginning with a gun-safety class after which passing a written examination administered 3 times a 12 months. A health care provider should log off on the gun purchaser’s bodily and psychological well being. Different steps embrace an intensive background verify and a police inspection of the gun protected and ammunition locker required for storing firearms and bullets.

The capturing was all of the extra surprising as a result of earlier than Friday, even the concept of a political homicide appeared like a relic of a long-gone period.

Tempers hardly ever run excessive in Japan’s famously sedate politics. Parliamentary debates normally don’t transfer past cat calls and fake outrage and even the ultra-right-wing teams that commonly prowl metropolis streets in black vans, blaring political propaganda, are considered as extra of a nuisance than a risk to public security.

Police safety at political occasions is gentle, and through marketing campaign season, voters have loads of alternatives to work together with the nation’s high leaders. Movies confirmed Friday’s suspected shooter strolling unobstructed in proximity of the previous prime minister and firing a hand-crafted gun.

Native Japanese police stated the handmade gun used within the capturing was greater than a foot lengthy and eight inches in top. Additionally they stated they seized a number of handmade weapons in a search of the suspect’s house.

In contrast to the US, the place gun rights are a continuing subject of debate, firearms are hardly ever mentioned in Japanese political circles. Mass killings — within the uncommon cases once they happen — normally don’t contain weapons. As a substitute, perpetrators resort to arson or stabbings.

In latest weeks, Japanese media watched the spate of mass shootings in the US with a mixture of disbelief and confusion. After the varsity capturing in Uvalde, Texas, The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest newspaper by circulation, printed an editorial calling the US “a gun society” and stated that one other tragedy had turned a classroom right into a “gun bloodbath zone.”

Toyo Keizai, a distinguished weekly enterprise journal and web site, printed an article final 12 months after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol asking: “Why is ‘Gun Possession’ a Non-Negotiable Proper within the U.S.?”

“It’s troublesome for Japanese to grasp why gun possession continues within the U.S. even with such a excessive variety of victims,” journalist Keiko Tsuyama stated within the article.

Most Japanese individuals virtually by no means encounter weapons in day-to-day life although law enforcement officials carry firearms. And till Mr. Abe’s capturing, Japan had virtually no expertise with the emotional and political aftermath of gun violence — one thing that has turn into a well-known ritual in the US.

In 2021, there have been 10 shootings in Japan that contributed to demise, damage or property injury, in response to the Nationwide Police Company. Of these gun-related episodes, one particular person was killed and 4 others have been injured. The figures don’t embrace accidents or suicides.

Many of the roughly 192,000 licensed firearms within the nation are shotguns and looking rifles. By comparability, in the US, the place most firearms aren’t registered, the variety of weapons in civilian palms is by some estimates near 400 million.

Political assassinations have been a daily function of Japan’s turbulent politics within the years main as much as World Warfare II. However since then, solely a handful of politicians have been murdered — and most with out using weapons.

The final killing of a national-level political determine was in 1960, when a 17-year-old excessive nationalist stabbed to demise the chief of Japan’s Socialist Celebration, Inejiro Asanuma.

That very same 12 months, one other ultranationalist attacked Mr. Abe’s grandfather, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, stabbing him repeatedly within the leg and sending him to the hospital.

In latest many years, what little political violence Japan has seen has typically been linked to organized crime or to right-wing teams. In 2007, Kazunaga Ito, the mayor of Nagasaki, was shot to demise by a gang member.

Journalists have additionally often been targets. In 1987, a reporter for the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun was murdered, in an incident linked to right-wing anti-Korean teams.

Protesters have typically expressed their grievances by taking their very own lives, hoping to attract public sympathy to their causes. Most famously, the novelist Yukio Mishima killed himself by disembowelment in 1970, after main a small group of right-wing militants in a failed coup.

Gerald L. Curtis, a professor emeritus of political science and knowledgeable in Japanese politics at Columbia College, stated that the lethal assault on Mr. Abe would reverberate via Japan’s politics.

“It little doubt will shake up the Japanese terribly and can reinforce the view that Japan is now not the protected, peaceable nation it has been because the finish of World Warfare II and has to vary to take care of the brand new scary realities it faces,” he stated in an e mail.

“The query is how Japan’s political leaders reply.”

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