Japan’s strict gun laws make gunfights rare

Abe was shot dead in the city of Nara on Friday while delivering a campaign speech, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

Gun violence is extremely rare in Japan.

In 2018, Japan, a country of 125 million people, reported just nine gun deaths – compared to 39,740 in the United States that year, according to data compiled by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney .

Nancy Snow, Japan director of the International Security Industrial Council, said the shooting will change Japan forever.

“Not only is it rare, but culturally it’s really unfathomable,” she told CNN. “The Japanese people cannot imagine having a gun culture like we have in the United States. This is a speechless moment. I’m really at a loss for words.”

According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, the suspect in Friday’s shooting, citing police, is a local man in his 40s who used a hand-made weapon.

Under Japanese gun laws, only shotguns and airguns can be sold – handguns are prohibited. But getting them is a long and complicated process that takes effort — and a lot of patience.

To qualify for a gun license, prospective buyers must attend a full-day course, pass a written test, and pass a shooting range test with at least 95% accuracy. They must also undergo a mental health and drug test, as well as a rigorous background check — including a check on their criminal records, personal debt, involvement in organized crime, and relationships with family and friends.

Upon receipt of a gun, the owner must register their gun with the police and provide details of where their gun and ammunition are kept in separate, locked compartments. The gun must be inspected by the police once a year, and gun owners must repeat the course and pass an exam every three years to renew their license.

The restrictions have kept the number of private gun owners in Japan extremely low.

In 2017, only an estimated 377,000 guns were held by civilians in Japan, a country of 125 million people. That was 0.25 guns per 100 people, compared to about 120 guns per 100 people in the US, according to the Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

The last known public shooting of a politician in Japan was in 2007, when Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Ito was shot at least twice in the back at point-blank range by a suspected mobster. He died after cardiac arrest.

Since then, Japan has further tightened its gun controls and imposed heavier penalties for gun crimes committed by members of organized crime gangs.

Under the revision, possession of a gun as part of an organized crime syndicate could result in up to 15 years in prison; Possession of more than one weapon is also a crime, punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment. Firing a gun in public, meanwhile, can result in a life sentence.