Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated on Friday, July 8th while giving a speech at a campaign rally in Western Japan. Many worldwide will remember Abe as the visionary architect of peace, democracy, and collective security in the Indo-Pacific. He pulled Japan out of economic malaise and just fell short of normalizing Japan’s military power in the post-war pacifism.
Shinzo Abe was killed by an improvised firearm. Video evidence of the assassination shows a device with two tubes bound together by black tape mounted on a wooden board. The device seems like a makeshift attempt at a double-barrel shotgun. The shots fired at the former Prime Minister came two seconds apart and are claimed by experts to have been from a cartridge used by civilian hunters.
Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that he was “not aware of the motives and background behind this attack, but this attack is an act of brutality that happened during the elections — the very foundation of our democracy — and is absolutely unforgivable.”
The shooting came with huge shock and terror as Japan has stringent gun laws. Gun violence is almost unheard of in Japan. In 2021, there was only one gun-related death and the 2020 Small Arms Survey found that Japan suffers only 0.03 violent deaths by firearm per 100000 population. The U.S. suffers seven per 100000.
In Japan, citizens are allowed to carry a firearm “as an exception only if approval is obtained” according to the country’s Firearms and Swords Control Law. These exceptions include carrying arms for hunting: “Licenses for possession of firearms are issued for specific guns for certain applications such as hunting or eradication of noxious birds or animals.” People with a criminal history or a recognised addiction to narcotics are completely banned from owning a firearm.
The shooting has once again raised the spectre of gun violence around the world. With technological advances in weaponry every day, it is essential that countries implement policies to increase security and keep civilians safe. Equally, this particular instance has demonstrated the devastating and violent potential of homemade weapons which are distinctly unsophisticated. The death of the Prime Minister is heartbreaking but serves as a call to action around the world: gun violence, terrorism, and security must be top priorities.
President Biden said in a statement following Abe’s death, “I am stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo, former Prime Minister of Japan, was shot and killed while campaigning. This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him.”
President Biden has ordered that all United States flags at federal facilities be flown at half-staff in honour of the former Japanese Prime Minister. The funeral is due to take place on July 12th to celebrate his 67 years of life in leadership and public service.
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