Nearly Gun-Free Japan Shocked by Shinzo Abe’s Assassination

Nearly Gun-Free Japan Shocked by Shinzo Abe’s Assassination

Rates of gun ownership and gun-related violence in the east Asian nation are among the lowest in the world.


The assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Friday sent shockwaves throughout Japan, which is known to have some of the world’s strictest gun-control laws.

According to National Public Radio, rates of gun ownership and gun-related violence in the east Asian nation are among the lowest in the world. For example, per the country’s National Police Agency, only one person was killed by gun violence in Japan in all of 2021. In contrast, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were more than 45,000 firearm deaths in the United States in that same year.


Meanwhile, Yahoo News reported that “despite having a population of 125 million, Japan rarely sees more than ten gun deaths a year.” For example, in 2018, there were only nine gun-related deaths reported in Japan, according to data compiled by the University of Sydney School of Public Health. Similar to 2021, there were nearly 40,000 such deaths in the United States that same year.

“With its long tradition of gun control measures, and low homicides by firearm rates, this shooting will then not only rock Japan because of the high profile of the victim, but also because of the rarity of the event,” Iain Overton, the executive director of British NGO Action on Armed Violence, wrote in a blog post on Friday, per NPR.

According to Fox News, Japanese Ministry of Defense officials who spoke to NHK, a Japanese news outlet, claimed that the gun used in Abe’s assassination appears to have been homemade. The forty-one-year-old suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, served in the country’s Maritime Self-Defense Force between 2002 and 2005.

“The weapon used by Abe's assailant made a noise that could be compared to an explosion, and white smoke rose into the air after it was discharged. A gunpowder-like smell could be detected afterward,” read a Kyodo News report on Friday.

The news outlet noted that one of its journalists on-scene said the firearm appeared to have been held together with duct tape.

The sixty-seven-year-old Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, holding that office from 2006 to 2007 and 2012 to 2020 before stepping down due to health reasons. He was known for seeking to establish Japan as a more internationally outward-looking country, including making efforts to distance itself from its post-World War II pacifism.

President Joe Biden said he was “stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened” by the assassination.

“This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him,” he continued. “His vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure. Above all, he cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service.”

Meanwhile, per the Associated Press, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida condemned the “unforgivable act.”

“The free and fair election, which is the root of democracy, needs to be protected no matter what. We will not be defeated by violence,” he said.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn

Image: Reuters.