In a largely unarmed country, the Japanese are stunned by the murder of Abe

Japan struggled with shock and sadness on Friday, trying to come to terms with the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a country where guns are tightly regulated and political violence extremely rare. Abe was shot while giving a campaign speech on a street corner and taken to hospital by helicopter. His death was announced on Friday evening.

From Abe Fumio Kishida’s protected prime minister to everyday people on social media, there was an outpouring of grief in a nation where political violence is so rare the last time a former prime minister or sitting prime minister been killed was almost 90 years ago. “I’m incredibly shocked,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at a regular press conference ahead of the news of Abe’s death, holding back tears and sniffling audibly. “Whatever the reason, such a heinous act is absolutely unforgivable. It is an affront to democracy.”

Koki Tanaka, a 26-year-old computer scientist from downtown Tokyo, expressed a similar view: “I was just amazed that this could happen in Japan.” Japanese gun ownership restrictions do not allow individuals to own handguns, and licensed hunters can only own rifles. Gun owners must take classes, pass a written test, and undergo a mental health assessment and background check.

Shootings, when they occur, usually involve “yakuza” gangsters using illegal weapons. In 2021, there were 10 shootings, eight of which involved gangsters, according to police data. One person was killed and four injured. Japan has seen mass killings, but they have generally not involved firearms.

In 2016, 19 residents of a facility for the mentally disabled were murdered in their beds by a knife-wielding assailant, while in 2019, 34 people were killed in an arson attack on an animation studio. Attacks on politicians, however, are unusual. There have been only a handful in the last half-century, including in 2007 when the mayor of Nagasaki was shot and killed by a gangster – an incident that led to further toughening of gun regulations fire.

The last time a former prime minister was killed was in 1936 during Japan’s pre-war militaristic buildup, one of a series of similar assassinations. The man arrested for allegedly shooting Abe is a former member of the Japanese military who fired a homemade firearm, according to media reports. Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s brother, declined to comment on the reports.

Reactions to the shooting flooded social media, with “Abe-san” the top trending topic on Japanese Twitter in the afternoon. “I can’t help but shake. It’s the end of peaceful Japan,” Twitter user Nonochi wrote.

“There are plenty of politicians I would like to see disappear, but assassination is inconceivable. It’s the beginning of the end of democracy.”

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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