Japan has some of the strictest gun controls in the world, requiring applicants to show a clear reason for owning a gun, pass a written test, and achieve at least 95 percent accuracy at a shooting range.
he assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday shows that anyone with the will and sufficient technological know-how is capable of creating a rudimentary – but lethal – weapon.
Japan, a nation of 125.8 million people, has an average of 10 shooting deaths a year, the vast majority related to rivalries between yakuza underworld groups.
Perhaps partly a legacy of the rule of a military government that took the nation to war in the 1930s, very few Japanese have any interest in owning a gun. This is backed by the Swords and Firearms Control Act 1958, which clearly states that “no one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords”.
There is a small fraternity of marksmen, while farmers and professional hunters are allowed to own guns to keep wild animals off crops, but gun license requirements are strict.
In addition to proving their perspicacity and marksmanship, applicants must pass a mental health test conducted at a hospital and a background check.
Individuals with a criminal conviction will be disfellowshipped and family members will be interviewed about the applicant’s motives for wanting a gun.
The only weapons that can be legally owned are airguns and shotguns. Pistols and the assault weapons sold over the counter in other countries are not available. A ban on crossbows was introduced earlier this year. Gun owners’ homes are inspected to ensure their guns are properly stored and an initial gun safety course and exam must be repeated every three years.
Mass killings usually involve knives. About 27 people were injured in two incidents in Tokyo last fall, while an attacker killed 19 people at an assisted-living facility in Yokohama.
Tetsuya Yamagami, accused of killing Mr Abe, appears to have circumvented strict gun laws.
Footage of the incident shows what appears to be a primitive firearm consisting of two pieces of pipe glued to a board. The plume of smoke released after the gun was fired would indicate that the projectile was also home-made.
Noriko Hama, an economist at Doshisha University in Kyoto, said she fears the kind of political extremism-related violence seen in other countries could emerge in Japan.
As prime minister, Shinzo Abe was desperate to end Japan’s constitutional commitment to pacism and restore it to a military power. In death he can do that well. Stunned by the killing of Mr Abe while he was campaigning in Nara yesterday, Conservatives expect a bigger lead for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in tomorrow’s upper house elections. That could allow them to revise the constitution they say was imposed by vengeful Allies at the end of World War II.
“I believe that the LDP will now do better than expected, and I hope that what happened today will also inspire those who win because of Mr. Abe’s death to carry out his most important policy,” said Yoichi Shimada , Professor of International Relations at Fukui Prefectural University and a friend of Mr. Abe.
Mr. Abe’s political leanings are a legacy of his upbringing. His grandfather was Nobusuke Kishi, the economic ruler of occupied China and Manchukuo, the pre-war puppet state set up by Tokyo in northeastern China. During the conflict he served as Deputy Minister of Munitions.
After the defeat of Japan, he was arrested as a suspected war criminal but evaded prosecution and helped found the LDP in 1955. Mr. Kishi was prime minister from 1957 to 1960.
Mr. Abe’s father, Shintaro Abe, volunteered to be a kamikaze pilot, but Japan surrendered before he had completed his training.
Mr. Abe — the longest-serving prime minister in modern Japanese history — stayed true to his nationalist roots, visited a controversial shrine to Japan’s war dead, which includes war criminals, and refused to apologize to South Korea for atrocities committed during the conflict .
First elected to the state legislature in 1993 from the safe family seat in Yamaguchi Prefecture, he has never hidden his desire to rewrite parts of the constitution, which was passed in May 1947, declaring that “land, sea – and air forces and other war potential will never be sustained”. The result is that Japan has what it calls “Self-Defense Forces.”
Mr Abe has stated on several occasions that he hopes Japan can become a “normal nation” capable of playing a bigger role on the world stage, despite sparking angry outbursts from China and North and South Korea. In the end, the Japanese public, still scarred by the horrors of war, was unwilling to support his militaristic ambitions.
Even before yesterday’s events, the LDP was on track to win more seats than any other party. If it can secure 82 of the 124 contested seats, it would give it the supermajority in the 245-seat chamber to force a debate and vote on an amendment to the constitution.
Prof Shimada believes higher turnout will favor Mr Abe’s party.
“The current prime minister [Fumio] Kishida was not as strong a proponent of change as Mr Abe, but he will now have the political support to revise the constitution,” he said. “Now I’m confident that something will finally change.”
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/asia-pacific/shinzo-abe-assassination-may-have-paved-way-for-japan-to-embrace-militarism-41826474.html The assassination of Shinzo Abe may have paved the way for Japan to turn to militarism