Few details were immediately available on Yamagami, but he was previously in the Japanese navy, known as the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF). Abe, Japan’s longest-serving PM, remained critical for a few hours after he was shot in his chest during a public event. This is the first time in around a hundred years that a sitting or former premier of Japan has been assassinated, according to a Reuters report.
Tetsuya Yamagami was apprehended by security forces present at the scene immediately after the shooting, and a gun was recovered from the area. Police arrested Yamagami on charges of attempting murder, according to Japan’s NHK World news organisation.
NHK said that Yamagami told investigators that he was “dissatisfied” with the former Prime Minister and intended to kill him. However, he also said that he “did not resent Abe’s political beliefs.”
A report by the AP said he was responding calmly to questions. He said that he had plotted to kill Abe because he “believed rumours about the former leader’s connection to a certain organisation that police did not identify,” the AP said.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was injured in an apparent gun attack while taking part in a campaign for the House of Councillors election in Nara City at about 11:30 a.m. on Friday. He suffered cardiopulmonary arrest and has been taken to hospital, according to firefighters. pic.twitter.com/SgKZEvZS9j
— The Japan News (@The_Japan_News) July 8, 2022
Police said he used a handmade gun. They confiscated similar weapons and Yamagami’s personal computer after raiding his one-room apartment nearby, the AP reported. NHK said those living nearby were told to evacuate.
Yamagami lives in Nara city, where he shot Abe. Nara has mostly elected officials from Abe’s party, the Liberal Democratic Party, which has more or less remained in power in Japan since 1955 except for a few brief periods.
The Japan Times reported that Yamagami did not seem politically active, quoting a source from his former company. He had quit his job at a manufacturing company in May for health reasons after working there since 2020, the source was quoted as saying.
Also referred to as the Japanese navy, according to its official website, the force in its current form is based on the National Security Strategy approved in December 2013 and the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) approved in December 2018.
The JMSDF conducts activities toward the “following three goals: 1) Defend Japan’s territory and surrounding areas; 2) Secure the safety of maritime traffic; and 3) Create desirable security environment.”
In Japan, technically the military has been restricted by Article 9 of its Constitution, but since 1954, the country has maintained a ‘Self Defence Force’ which has considerable weaponry and personnel. Part of Article 9 says, “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”
Given how the gun used in the shooting looked in visuals from the scene, it was initially speculated that it may have been made using 3D printing.
Subsequent reporting said it was believed to have been homemade. The gun used looked as though it had been assembled using two pipes. Witnesses said the sound of the shots was similar to that of blasts.
Gun shootings in Japan are rare and mass shootings are unheard of because of their strict laws on weapons. According to a BBC report from 2017, in order to get access to a weapon an applicant had to “attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.”
Handguns are banned outright and only shotguns and air rifles are allowed, the report said. In the case of Yamagami, there was some speculation that the gun may have been made using 3D printing. Even for those in the self-defence forces, the use of firearms must follow strict regulations.