'Hard to Think of a More Unexpected Place'

Japanese laws mean gun violence is almost non-existent
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2022 1:04 PM CDT
'Hard to Think of a More Unexpected Place'
People pray after putting a bouquet of flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene where the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot while delivering his speech to support the Liberal Democratic Party's candidate during an election campaign in Nara, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

There will be no erasing the scars carved into Japan with Friday's assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, say those familiar with Japanese society. The country has been "brought to a standstill by the news," which is especially shocking given that gun crime is almost non-existent in Japan, writes Gearoid Reidy, a senior editor and former Tokyo deputy bureau chief at Bloomberg. (The stats back him up.) "It's hard to think of a more unexpected place for this to happen," writes Reidy. Yet "because of Japan's safety record, security at political rallies is weak."

Abe was shot during a campaign speech in Nara ahead of Sunday's upper house elections. Though he "did have a team of security police with him," the shooter got quite close to the politician "without any sort of check," writes the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes. That's not so surprising for Japan. "When I say people don't think about violent crime here, I'm not exaggerating," Wingfield-Hayes writes. The suspect is a 41-year-old man who has reportedly admitted to shooting Abe, with whom he had some sort of grudge. He is believed to have used a homemade gun.

Even "the Yakuza, Japan's famously violent organized crime gangs … shy away from guns because the penalties for illegal possession are just not worth it," he writes. Only shotguns and air rifles can be sold to buyers who undergo background checks, drug tests, mental health evaluations, and pass practical and written tests following a full-day safety course, which must be repeated every three years, per CNN. Possessing more than one gun is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A person convicted of discharging a gun in a public space can be sentenced to life in prison. Expect further steps to prevent similar violence in the future, Wingfield-Hayes writes. (Read more Shinzo Abe stories.)

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