Gun violence is extremely rare in Japan.
Nancy Snow, Japan director of the International Security Industrial Council, said the shooting would change Japan forever.
“It’s not only rare, but it’s really culturally unfathomable,” she told CNN. “The Japanese people can’t imagine having a gun culture like the one we have in the United States. This is a speechless moment. I really feel at a loss for words.”
According to Japanese state broadcaster NHK, citing police, the suspect in Friday’s shooting is a local man in his 40s, who used a homemade firearm.
Under Japanese firearms laws, the only firearms allowed for sale are shotguns and air rifles – handguns are prohibited. But getting them is a long and complicated process that requires effort and a lot of patience.
To qualify for a firearms license, prospective buyers must complete a full day course, pass a written test and pass a shooting range test with at least 95% accuracy. They must also undergo a mental health assessment and drug tests, as well as a rigorous background check, including a review of their criminal record, personal debt, involvement in organized crime and their relationships with family and friends.
After obtaining a firearm, the owner must register their firearm with the police and provide details of where their firearm and ammunition are stored, in separate, locked compartments. The gun must be inspected by the police once a year, and gun owners must retake the course and pass an exam every three years to renew their license.
The restrictions have kept the number of private gun owners in Japan extremely low.
The last known public shooting of a politician in Japan was in 2007, when Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Ito was shot at least twice in the back at close range by a suspected mobster. He died of cardiac arrest.
Since then, Japan has tightened its gun control, imposing stiffer penalties for offenses committed with firearms by members of organized crime gangs.
According to the review, owning a firearm as part of an organized crime syndicate can result in up to 15 years in prison; possessing more than one firearm is also a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Discharging a firearm in a public area, meanwhile, can result in a life sentence.