The assassination of Shinzo Abe shatters the image of Japan without guns

The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an election campaign in western Japan is particularly difficult to verify because it involves guns – an extremely rare type of crime in a country with some of the strictest laws on crime. buy and own weapons.

Any form of violence is unusual in Japan, but gun violence is virtually unheard of. There is only a gun-related death for all of 2021. Since 2017, there have been 14 gun-related deaths, a significant number for a country of 125 million people.

Expressing the general reaction, Erika Inoue, a 25-year-old designer in Tokyo, said it was difficult to deal with gun violence.

“The filming part was confusing,” she said. “Have a gun? In Japan?”

Japan’s firearms law states that, in principle, firearms cannot be used in the country. There are exceptions for guns used in hunting, but the permitting process is time-consuming and expensive, so few people get in trouble.

Person must pass 12 steps Before buying a gun, start with a gun safety class and then pass a written exam that is held three times a year. The doctor must check the physical and mental health of the person buying the gun. Other steps include extensive background checks and police checks of gun safes and ammunition lockers needed to store guns and ammunition.

The shooting was even more shocking because before Friday, even the idea of ​​a political murder seemed like a relic of a bygone era.

Temperament rarely runs high in Japan’s famously glamorous politics. Debates in Congress often don’t go beyond catcalls and fake outrage, and even far-right groups regularly roam the streets of the city in black vans, propagating political propaganda. , is considered a nuisance rather than a threat to public safety.

Police protection at political events is a breeze, and during election season voters have ample opportunity to interact with the country’s top leaders. Videos show Friday’s suspected shooter walk unimpeded stay close to the former prime minister and fire a handgun.

Local Japanese police said the handgun used in the shooting was more than a foot long and eight inches high. They also said they seized several handguns during a search of the suspect’s home.

Unlike the United States, where gun rights are a frequent topic of debate, guns are rarely discussed in Japanese political circles. Serial murders – in rare cases – usually don’t involve guns. Instead, perpetrators resort to arson or stabbing.

In recent weeks, Japanese media has followed a series of mass shootings in the United States with skepticism and bewilderment. Following the school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest newspaper by circulation, publish an editorial called the United States a “gun society” and said another tragedy turned a classroom into a “gun massacre zone”.

Toyo Keizai, a prominent weekly business website and magazine, published one article Last year after the January 6 attack on the Capitol asked the question: “Why is ‘Gun Ownership’ a Non-negotiable Right in America?”

Journalist Keiko Tsuyama said in the article: “It is difficult for the Japanese to understand why gun ownership continues in the US even with such a high number of victims.

Most Japanese people hardly ever encounter a gun in their daily life even though police officers carry guns. And until Mr. Abe was shot, Japan had virtually no experience with the political and emotional consequences of gun violence – which has become a familiar ritual in the US.

In 2021, there are 10 shootings in Japan that result in death, injury or property damage, according to National Police Agency. Among those gun-related incidents, one person was killed and four others were injured. The figures do not include accidents or suicides.

Almost approximately 192,000 licensed firearms in the country are pistols and shotguns. For comparison, in the United States, where most guns are unregistered, the number of guns in civilian hands is an estimate. almost 400 million.

Political assassinations were a frequent feature of Japan’s tumultuous politics in the years leading up to World War II. But since then, only a handful of politicians have been murdered – and most have not used guns.

The last murder of a national political figure was in 1960, when a 17-year-old ultra-nationalist stabbed to death the leader of the Socialist Party of Japan, Inejiro Asanuma.

That same year, another extremist attack Mr. Abe’s grandfatherPrime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, repeatedly stabbed him in the leg and took him to the hospital.

In recent decades, cases of political violence that are rarely seen in Japan have often involved organized crime or right-wing groups. 2007, Kazunaga Ito, mayor of Nagasakiwas shot and killed by a gang member.

Journalists are also sometimes targeted. In 1987, a reporter for the left-wing Asahi Shimbun newspaper was murdered, in an incident involving anti-North Korean far-right groups.

Protesters sometimes express their grievances by taking their own lives, hoping to garner public sympathy for their cause. Most famously, novelist Yukio Mishima committed suicide by caesarean section in 1970, after leading a small group of right-wing fighters in a failed coup.

Gerald L. Curtis, professor emeritus of political science and expert on Japanese politics at Columbia University, said the deadly attack on Mr. Abe would resonate in Japanese politics.

“Without a doubt, it will shake the Japanese in a frightening way and will reinforce the view that Japan is no longer the safe, peaceful country it has been since the end of World War II and must be changed in response to the terrifying new realities facing the country.” he said in an email.

“The question is how Japan’s political leaders respond.”

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