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OPINION: A homemade gun and an Internet tutorial: the shooting that could change Japan forever

The assassination of the former Prime Minister of Japan has provoked thousands of headlines and numerous questions around the world, especially in Japan itself

A London newspaper rack holding several international newspapers
A London newspaper rack holding several international newspapers | Shutterstock

July 8, 2022 10:08am

Updated: February 13, 2023 1:53pm

In the early hours of this Friday morning, the news of the shooting that caused the death of Japanese former Primer Minister Shinzo Abe broke. And everyone was left wondering: how could this have happened in Japan?

If there is one thing Japan is known for and boasts about, it is security. Although Shinzo Abe was no longer the nation's Prime Minister, he was still a major figure in Japanese public life and probably the most recognizable Japanese politician of the last three decades.

An equivalent with the same degree of political violence in the world's collective imagination is the death of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963, when he was mortally wounded while riding in the presidential car in Dealey Plaza.

Additionally, the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986.

Japanese society does not usually worry about violent or bloody crimes since they rarely happen. Therefore, they weren’t prepared for one of such magnitude.

While it is true that there is the Yakuza organization, Japan's famously violent organized crime gangs, outside of that context we find no other examples of widespread violence.

Most people living or residing in the East Asian country never come into contact with violence. Even the Yakuza stay away from guns because the penalties for illegal gun possession are simply too strong.

Owning a gun in Japan is extremely difficult. The requirements for possession include no criminal record, mandatory training, psychological evaluation, and extensive background checks, including interviewing neighbors by the police. All this is to be able to have a license that proves your legal possession of any object considered lethal.

On average, there are fewer than ten deaths related to these firearms in the nation each year. In 2017, there were only three.

Logically, the media's attention in this unfortunate event is directed to the alleged gunman and the weapon he used to commit the crime that has shocked the country.

Some official Japanese newspapers report that the 41-year-old suspect is a former member of the country's self-defense forces.

The suspect reportedly spent three years in the navy. The weapon he used was homemade. Two pieces of steel pipe were taped together with a kind of handmade trigger.

The weapon is believed to have been created by following instructions posted on the Internet. Several handmade weapons, similar to those used in the attack, were confiscated after police conducted a search of the suspect's home.

Japan's history does not escape political assassinations either. The most famous was in 1960, when the leader of Japan's socialist party, Inejiro Asanuma, was stabbed in the abdomen by a right-wing fanatic wielding a samurai sword.

The assassination of the former Japanese Prime Minister is sparking fears of changes to Japanese life.