The assassination attempt on Shinzo Abe, former Japanese Prime Minister, is creating shockwaves all over the globe. It's especially felt in Japan where shootings are extremely rare and gun regulations are very strict.
Abe was speaking at a rally in Nara on Friday when he was shot and killed. According to NHK, police arrested a suspect and recovered a gun from the scene. The gun appears to have been homemade.
Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun ownership and violence, which is stark contrast to the U.S.
According to Japan's National Police Agency, only one person was killed in gun violence in Japan in 2021. Gun Violence Archive reported that there were 45,034 firearm-related deaths in the United States during the same year.
Iain Overton (executive director of British NGO Action on Armed Violence) wrote in a blog post that Abe's murder is "almost impossible" in a country where the firearm death rate is 0.01 per 100,000 and the homicide rate is even lower.
He wrote that Japan's long-standing gun control system and low firearm homicide rates will make this shooting a unique event.
According to Overton, Japan was the first country in the world to implement gun laws.
He links those to a 1588 law that prohibited civilians from owning firearms and swords. This was followed by hundreds of decrees that sought to limit the spread of guns brought in by missionaries and traders from the West. The culmination of those decrees was a 1958 federal law, which bans almost all gun ownership.
David Kopel wrote in 1993 that the weapons law began by saying "No-one shall possess either a fire-arm, firearms or a sword (or any other weapon)," and that very few exceptions are permitted. Kopel is a Denver University Sturm College of Law constitutional law professor and adjunct scholar at libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. He called Japan's gun control measures "most stringent" in the democratic world.
Japan bans the possession of handguns by private citizens. Only licensed hunters and target shooters are allowed to buy shotguns and air rifles.
To own a firearm, a person must be at least 18 years old. Gun athletes over 14 can still possess guns. If a person has declared bankruptcy, they are prohibited from owning a firearm.
According to Kopel, police in Japan have the right to refuse licenses to anyone they suspect might pose a threat to "other persons lives, properties or the public peace." Kopel also pointed out the high level of public cooperation in gun control measures enforcement by police.
"All of these mean that Japan is very much where the gun is not the rule," Action on Armed Violence's Overton stated.
A tracker from University of Sydney found that Japanese civilians had an estimated 310,000. Legal and illegal firearms in 2019. This is an estimate based on a population of 126.9 millions aEUR, or 0.25 guns per 100.
Researchers also found that the US has a total of 265 million guns and 393 million guns. The 2017 estimate was 120.5 firearms per 100 persons.
As few Japanese people have guns, so few shoot.
There were nine firearm deaths in Japan in 2018, including suicides and accidents, in 2018. This compares with the 39,740 reported in the U.S.
Overton says that Japan is a safe country for homicides. The rate was 0.26 per 100,000 in the same year. (The U.S. was at 7.5 per 100,000 in 2020).
It is not an easy task to buy a gun. There are many steps involved. These include:
Many of Japan's 40 prefectures limit the number of gun shops allowed to operate in their respective jurisdictions. Many of these restrictions limit the number of gun shops that can be opened in each prefecture. They also restrict people from purchasing new rounds after they return any used rounds.
After someone has been granted the right to purchase a gun, they must register it and give details about how they plan on keeping their weapon and ammunition safe and secure in locked compartments. The gun must be inspected by police every year. Every three years, the license renewal exam must also be taken. These regulations are strict and strictly enforced.
It's possible to purchase a gun in America in under an hour if you pass a background check.
In Japan, there have been many mass murders over the years. However, most of them did not involve guns. These include a stabbing rampage in Tokyo in 2008 that left seven dead, and a knife attack in 2016 that claimed 19 lives at an assisted living facility. In 2019, there was also an arson attack against an animation studio that resulted in the deaths of 34 people.
Postwar Japan is a country where violence is uncommon, but there have been high-profile incidents in the past century, according to Reuters.
One of them was the head of Japan Socialist Party, who was shot to death by a right-wing youth wielding a samurai sword in 1960. In 2007, a yakuza gangster killed the mayor of Nagasaki. According to the Japan Times, two prime ministers and one deputy minister were spared from shootings or attacks in 1995, 1992, and 1994, respectively.
Inukai Takashi, a Japanese prime Minister, was assassinated in 1932. He was killed in a coup de A(c)tat by ultranationalist Naval Officers in what is now known as "the May 15th Incident."
Abe's grandfather, who was prime minister between 1957 and 1960, survived an attempted assassination. Nobusuke was severely injured and stabbed in his thigh during a reception at The Prime Minister's Office.
Abe had also been the victim of an arson attack during his political career. In 2000, members of a yakuza group attacked Abe's home and office with Molotov cocktails.