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Shooting of Japan’s Ex-Leader shocks nation where guns are rare

The blast that felled former leader Shinzo Abe on Friday -- with a homemade shotgun, according to reports -- happened while he was campaigning on behalf of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Nara, a city east of Osaka.

July 08, 2022 / 01:17 PM IST
Representative Image: Reuters

Representative Image: Reuters

The last time a current or former Japanese prime minister was shot was 90 years ago. It’s a measure of just how rare and shocking gun violence is in the country, where gun ownership is strictly controlled.

The blast that felled former leader Shinzo Abe on Friday -- with a homemade shotgun, according to reports -- happened while he was campaigning on behalf of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Nara, a city east of Osaka. Abe was giving a speech in front of a train station ahead of this weekend’s Upper House elections. He was taken to a local hospital and was unresponsive.

“It was shocking, I’ve never thought such a catastrophe would happen in a countryside town,” said Yuki Ito, 42, who was shopping at a pharmacy nearby when Abe was shot. “It happened at a place by offices, banks and shopping malls, and is very safe. I got scared when I learned it was a gun crime.”

Shootings are uncommon in the island nation, but not unheard of. There were 10 incidents last year, leaving one person dead and four wounded, according to the National Policy Agency. For civilians, obtaining weapons -- mainly rifles and shotguns for sport or hunting -- requires an intensive licensing and background check process. Police are usually armed with handguns.