Rarity of tragic Japanese assassination a stark warning to countries with less stringent gun laws
Yet the assassination of a politician is hugely different to the other needless killings which have been a far too frequent occurrence in recent months: this was not in the United States, but in Japan, a country with one of the most strict gun control policies in the world – and as a result, one of the lowest rates of gun crime.
Former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was killed by a lone gunman as he gave a campaign speech in support of another politician in the town of Nara, sending shockwaves through a country which prides itself on its safety.
His suspected killer, named locally as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, is believed to have killed him with a homemade weapon. Pictures from the scene show a roughly put-together gun, one of a number of similar weapons believed to be owned by the suspect, after police carried out a search of his house.
Unlike the US, where there are far more guns than people, in Japan it is almost impossible to obtain a firearm.
Stringent checks are carried out and the applicant given a long list of requirements, including a day-long course, a written and practical test, mental health assessments and background checks from everything from a person’s financial situation to their relationships with friends and family. Then, and only then, if a firearm licence is granted, the owner has to register their weapon with the police, along with details of where their gun and ammunition is stored. The course has to be retaken every three years, while the gun itself is subject to an annual police inspection.
Figures from gunpolicy.org, a website run by the University of Sydney in Australia, shows the US has 120.4 guns per 100 people – both licit and illicit – compared to a figure of 120.4 in the US. It is believed the average American gun owner has seven firearms. In Japan, the figure is just 0.29 guns per 100 people, while in the UK it is slightly higher at 5.04.
The controls work. Although Japan’s assassin was able to create a gun and tragically kill a respected politician, the regulations made it incredibly difficult for him to do so, making his crime a highly unusual horror which has stunned the country and the wider world.
It is a stark example to countries with less tough gun laws.
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