The world is reacting in horror today after former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated during a campaign speech for another Liberal Democratic Party member candidate in the country’s upcoming national elections. Abe was gunned down at approximately 11:30 a.m. local time on Friday (10:30 p.m. EST Thursday) in Nara, a city just outside of Kyoto and one popular with foreign tourists. He was pronounced dead hours later.
The tragic assignation is shocking for many reasons, not least of which Abe’s high popularity rating among the Japanese public, regardless of political affiliation. As a matter of fact, he would still be Japan’s prime minister today had he not resigned office in September of 2020 due to ongoing health issues.
But another reason Abe’s assassination is so shocking is that gun violence in Japan is practically nonexistent. As The New York Times notes, the country in 2021 had just 10 shootings that resulted in property damage, injury, or death, according to the country’s National Police Agency. And out of those 10 shootings, only one person was killed and just four injured.
Further, as journalists Martyn Williams and Michelle Ye Hee Lee have pointed out on Twitter, Japan has some of the strictest gun control laws on the planet, and gun violence is so rare in the country that when even a police officer discharges their weapon, it makes the national news.
Michelle is right. It's virtually impossible to own a gun in Japan. (It appears the weapon used to shoot Abe was home-made) The police are armed but they so rarely fire their weapons that when they do it's national news. More reading here: https://t.co/iM20FT5uq0 https://t.co/ie1j5VM9EE
— Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) July 8, 2022
GunPolicy.org, which tracks gun statistics around the world, shows that in 2019 there were just 310,400 civilian guns in the country (including both legal and illegal ones) of over 125 million. That’s a firearm rate of just 0.25 for every 100 people. By contrast, America had over 393,000,000 civilian guns in 2017 for a population of 329 million. That’s a firearm rate of 120.5 guns for every 100 Americans. Yes, in America guns outnumber people.
As CBS News pointed out last month, ironically, Japan’s strict gun control laws are due to the United States. After the U.S. occupied the country during its reconstruction after World War II, American leaders drafted legislation that required Japanese civilians to give up firearms. Even today, in order to get a gun in Japan, a citizen must pass rigorous written, mental health, and physical health exams as well as undergo mandatory firearms training. This is all in addition to police interviewing a prospective gun owner’s friends and family about any violent tendencies they may have.
But with laws so strict, how did the alleged shooter get his gun? Early reports suggest the alleged shooter’s firearm may have been homemade, notes The Daily Beast.
Abe was 67 and is widely known around the world for his policy of Abenomics, measures designed to bring Japan out of its economic stagnation of the 1990s and beyond.