Abe’s murder haunts Japan with questions about handmade weapons

TOKYO (AP) — The shooting has rocked an orderly, low-crime Japan: A high-profile politician is assassinated by a man who emerges from a crowd wielding a firearm crafted so crudely it’s wrapped in duct tape. .

The 40-centimeter-long (16-inch) firearm used to kill former prime minister Shinzo Abe on Friday while campaigning for his ruling party in Nara, western Japan, he looked crude, more like a jet pack made of pipes taped together and packed with explosives.

Several of those weapons were found in a raid on the suspect’s home, a one-bedroom apartment in Nara, police said. Unlike standard weapons, handmade weapons are virtually untraceable, making investigation difficult.

Such weapons are rarely used in Japan, where most attacks involve stabbings or dousing a place with gasoline and setting it on fire, or driving mad on the street in a vehicle.

Strict gun control laws he probably had the suspect choose a handmade weapon. Tetsuya Yamagami, who was arrested at the scene, was a former member of the Japanese military and knew how to handle and assemble weapons.

Crime experts say instructions on how to make guns are floating around the internet and guns can be made with a 3D printer.

Some analysts characterized the attack on Abe as “lone wolf terrorism.” In such cases, the perpetrator acts alone, often in sympathy with certain political views, making the crime very difficult to detect in advance.

The motive for Abe’s murder remains unclear. Japanese media reported that the suspect had developed hatred towards a religious group that obsessed his mother and caused financial problems for his family. The reports did not specify the group.

Japan has seen attacks on politicians in the past. In 1960, Abe’s grandfather, then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, was stabbed but survived. In 1975, when then-Prime Minister Takeo Miki was assaulted at the funeral of former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, Abe’s great-uncle, Japan created a security team modeled on the US Secret Service.

Hideto Ted Osanai, executive director of the International Bodyguard Association in Japan, and other experts believe the Japanese may have merely learned superficial things like bodyguard training rather than the safety-critical mindset of prevention.

“The Japanese are so used to leading peaceful lives that they caught security guards asleep,” says Yasuhiro Sasaki, president of Safety-Pro, a Tokyo-based security company.

Sasaki said he couldn’t believe no one moved to protect Abe in the seconds between the first and second shots, a scene that is shown over and over again on national television.

The guards should have acted to physically remove Abe from harm’s way, Sasaki said. More critically, he wondered why they didn’t notice a suspicious person walk up and pull what might be a gun out of a bag.

Isao Itabashi, head of the Public Policy Council’s research division, which monitors such risks, said providing security during an election campaign was a challenge when the main goal is to get politicians closer to people.

Unlike in the US, the use of bulletproof glass is relatively rare in Japan, and security officials rarely resort to shooting at would-be attackers.

“The assumption here is that people are not armed,” Itabashi said.

Osanai worried that more people might use homemade weapons like the one used in Abe’s murder in “copycat crimes.” He observed a trend of disgruntled people resorting to random crimes, indiscriminately targeting victims.

“Japan’s conformist culture makes it difficult for some people to live freely and they put a lot of pressure on themselves. When they blame themselves, they resort to suicide. When they blame others, they resort to indiscriminate crimes,” he said.

Last year, a man dressed as the Joker brandished a knife and started a fire on a Tokyo train, injuring 17 people. In December 2021, an arson attack at an Osaka clinic killed 25 people. In 2019, another arson attack at a Kyoto animation studio killed 36 people.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama


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