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Shinzo Abe’s murder was a rare shooting in Japan

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for his speech in Nara
Twitter @makichanman37/via Reuters
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for his speech in Nara, Japan, July 8, 2022, in this still image obtained from social media video. TWITTER @MAKICHANMAN37/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
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Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was pronounced dead today after being shot during a campaign speech with a shotgun believed to be homemade. Abe, 67, was rushed to the hospital and declared dead within hours. A 41-year-old male suspect was apprehended immediately after the shooting.

Television reports showed a crudely made device that appeared to be two tubes wrapped in black tape, with smoke drifting from an improvised muzzle. “It’s certainly no standard shotgun,” a former police detective told The Daily Beast after reviewing photos.

What are the gun laws in Japan?

The assassination came as a shock in a country of strict gun laws and shooting fatalities numbering, in recent years, in the single digits. According to Japan’s National Police Agency, one person was killed by gun violence in 2021. Seventy-eight people were apprehended by police for possessing a handgun or its parts.

Japanese police carry handguns, but it is difficult for civilians to procure firearms. Handguns are illegal, and shotguns can be bought for sport or hunting only after extensive training, licensing and background checks.

According to the University of Sydney’s international database,, there are 310,400 legal and illegal firearms held by civilians in Japan, amounting to 0.25 guns per 100 people. This stands in stark contrast to the US, which has between 265 million to 393 million guns, and a 2017 estimate of 120 firearms per 100 people. In 2020, there were 19,411 gun deaths in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Abe survived one previous attack, in 2000, when a yakuza gang firebombed his home and office. The last time a Japanese prime minister was assassinated was in 1932.

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