Here’s what we know about the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech.What we know:Abe, 67, was shot from behind while giving a campaign speech outside a train station in Nara.Abe was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he was later pronounced dead.He was Japan’s longest-serving leader when he resigned in 2020.Police arrested the suspected shooter, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a former member of Japan’s navy, on suspicion of murder.Police said Yamagami admitted to attacking Abe, telling investigators he had plotted to kill him because he believed rumors about the former leader’s connection to a certain organization that police did not identify.Who was Shinzo AbeShinzo Abe was a political blueblood groomed for power. Japan’s longest serving prime minister, he was also perhaps the most polarizing, complex politician in recent Japanese history.When he resigned as prime minister in 2020, Abe blamed a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager. He said then it was difficult to leave many of his goals unfinished, especially his failure to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia, and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.That last goal made him a divisive figure. His ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to create what he saw as a more normal defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.Loyalists said that his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship that was meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe made enemies by forcing his defense goals and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.Abe was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs.Japan’s strict gun laws make shootings rareJapan is particularly known for its strict gun laws. Japan, with a population of 125 million, had just 10 gun-related criminal cases last year, resulting in one death and four injuries, according to police. Eight of those cases were gang-related. Tokyo had zero gun incidents, injuries or deaths during that same year, although 61 guns were seized there. Although major universities in Japan have riflery clubs and Japanese police are armed, most Japanese go through life without ever handling, or even seeing, a real gun.“This serves as a wake-up call that gun violence can happen in Japan, and security to protect Japanese politicians must be re-examined,” said Shiro Kawamoto, professor at the College of Risk Management at Nihon University in Tokyo. “To assume this kind of attack will never happen would be a big mistake.”Adding to the complexity were reports that the weapon used in the shooting may have been homemade, meaning that existing gun controls could be ineffectual. The last time a high-profile shooting occurred was in 2019, when a former gang member was shot at a karaoke venue in Tokyo.Under Japanese law, possession of firearms, as well as certain kinds of knives and other weapons, like bowguns, is illegal without a special license. Importing them is also illegal.Those who wish to own firearms must go through a stringent background check, including clearance by a medical doctor, and declare information about family members. They must also pass tests to show they know how to use firearms correctly. Those who pass and purchase a gun must also buy a special locking system for the weapon at the same time.Passing all those hurdles will allow that person to shoot at clay targets. Hunting requires an additional special license. Even police officers rarely resort to firing their pistols.The Associated Press contributed to this report

Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech.

What we know:

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  • Abe, 67, was shot from behind while giving a campaign speech outside a train station in Nara.
  • Abe was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
  • He was Japan’s longest-serving leader when he resigned in 2020.
  • Police arrested the suspected shooter, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a former member of Japan’s navy, on suspicion of murder.
  • Police said Yamagami admitted to attacking Abe, telling investigators he had plotted to kill him because he believed rumors about the former leader’s connection to a certain organization that police did not identify.

Who was Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe was a political blueblood groomed for power. Japan’s longest serving prime minister, he was also perhaps the most polarizing, complex politician in recent Japanese history.

When he resigned as prime minister in 2020, Abe blamed a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager. He said then it was difficult to leave many of his goals unfinished, especially his failure to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia, and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.

That last goal made him a divisive figure. His ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to create what he saw as a more normal defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.

Loyalists said that his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship that was meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe made enemies by forcing his defense goals and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.

Abe was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs.

Japan’s strict gun laws make shootings rare

Japan is particularly known for its strict gun laws.

Japan, with a population of 125 million, had just 10 gun-related criminal cases last year, resulting in one death and four injuries, according to police. Eight of those cases were gang-related. Tokyo had zero gun incidents, injuries or deaths during that same year, although 61 guns were seized there.

Although major universities in Japan have riflery clubs and Japanese police are armed, most Japanese go through life without ever handling, or even seeing, a real gun.

“This serves as a wake-up call that gun violence can happen in Japan, and security to protect Japanese politicians must be re-examined,” said Shiro Kawamoto, professor at the College of Risk Management at Nihon University in Tokyo. “To assume this kind of attack will never happen would be a big mistake.”

Adding to the complexity were reports that the weapon used in the shooting may have been homemade, meaning that existing gun controls could be ineffectual.

The last time a high-profile shooting occurred was in 2019, when a former gang member was shot at a karaoke venue in Tokyo.

Under Japanese law, possession of firearms, as well as certain kinds of knives and other weapons, like bowguns, is illegal without a special license. Importing them is also illegal.

Those who wish to own firearms must go through a stringent background check, including clearance by a medical doctor, and declare information about family members. They must also pass tests to show they know how to use firearms correctly. Those who pass and purchase a gun must also buy a special locking system for the weapon at the same time.

Passing all those hurdles will allow that person to shoot at clay targets. Hunting requires an additional special license. Even police officers rarely resort to firing their pistols.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Contributed by local news sources

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