Largely gun-free Japan shocked by Shinzo Abe assassination

TOKYO — Japan was left reeling Friday by the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a surprising act of political violence in a rustic the place gun legal guidelines are stringent and shootings are uncommon.

Abe was shot within the again whereas giving a speech at a marketing campaign rally within the western metropolis of Nara and was pronounced useless hours later, prompting a nationwide outpouring of shock and grief.

It was the primary assassination of a former or incumbent prime minister in Japan in 90 years.

“I believed we have been in a rustic the place assassinations would by no means occur. I really feel so sorry for Mr. Abe. I’m in shock,” Emiko Shiono, a 76-year-old Tokyo resident, informed NBC Information. “He was somebody who contributed to the nation.”

The identical sentiments have been shared by those that didn’t essentially agree with the conservative politician’s legacy.

“There are quite a lot of professionals and cons [about Abe], however what occurred ought to by no means have occurred,” Tomoko Tanaka, 50, mentioned Friday as she was strolling together with her grandchild in central Tokyo.

Video of Abe’s speech confirmed a puff of white smoke seem behind him together with two loud cannon-like blasts. Video and images present what seems to be an improvised weapon mendacity on the bottom within the aftermath.

Police mentioned Friday that they imagine the assault was carried out with a home made gun and later discovered a number of different weapons that gave the impression to be home made on the suspect’s residence. It’s unclear whether or not the suspect has correct licenses for the weapons.

Japan’s gun legal guidelines are among the many strictest on the planet, serving to to make it one of many world’s most secure nations. Handguns are banned and other people should bear intensive checks, coaching, background and psychological well being checks to acquire and hold shotguns or air rifles.

Solely 9 folks died by weapons within the nation in 2018, eight of which have been thought-about suicides or accidents, in response to the World Well being Group. In 2021 there have been simply 10 taking pictures incidents, in response to police knowledge that excludes suicides or accidents. It mentioned one individual was killed and 4 folks wounded.

The suspect was tackled to the bottom close to the location the place Abe was shot.Katsuhiko Hirano / AP

“That is an extremely low quantity,” mentioned Iain Overton, creator of “Gun Child Gun” and government director of Motion on Armed Violence, a U.Okay.-based advocacy group in opposition to gun violence.

“Japan has among the strictest gun legal guidelines on the planet and has an extended historical past of such — it was the primary nation on the planet to instigate a type of gun legislation through a reward scheme for data resulting in the capturing of illicit weapons within the seventeenth century,” mentioned Overton.

The restrictions imply the sorts of shootings so frequent in america are vanishingly uncommon in a rustic like Japan, the place the general public assassination of a contemporary politician was inconceivable earlier than Friday.

“Whether or not you appreciated what he was doing or not, the notion {that a} former chief could possibly be gunned down in chilly blood, I feel, is simply unimaginable to most Japanese,” mentioned Jeff Kingston, director of Asian research at Temple College Japan in Tokyo.

“That is one thing that occurs in different nations — not right here.”

Police work on the scene of the taking pictures after Abe was airlifted to a hospital on Friday. AFP – Getty Photos

Occasional taking pictures do happen involving “yakuza” gangsters and Japan has had mass killings, however these normally haven’t concerned weapons.

In 2016, 19 residents of a facility for mentally disabled folks have been killed of their beds by a knife-wielding assailant, whereas in 2019 36 folks died in an arson assault on an animation studio.

Politically motivated violence can also be uncommon within the nation.

In 1932 Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was killed by a bunch of troopers at his residence throughout Japan’s pre-war militaristic buildup, certainly one of a sequence of comparable assassinations. And in 1960, Socialist Get together chief Inejiro Asanuma was assassinated by a young person with a dagger throughout a political rally.

The rarity of such assaults has seen Japan develop a tradition of relative closeness between public and politician.

Abe, who remained an influential determine within the governing Liberal Democratic Get together, was talking at a marketing campaign rally close to a practice station within the metropolis of Nara in help of a candidate for the higher home of Parliament in elections scheduled for Sunday.

There tends to be little distance between voters and candidates at marketing campaign occasions, mentioned Tobias Harris, creator of “The Iconoclast: Shinzo Abe and the New Japan,” calling it “one of many nice issues about Japanese politics.”

“Campaigns are usually not on TV — they are surely in individual, out day-after-day interacting with voters at practice stations,” he mentioned. “Abe was doing the factor that Japanese politicians do.”

Olivier Fabre reported from Tokyo, and Rhoda Kwan reported from Taipei, Taiwan.

Jennifer Jett and Reuters contributed.