Former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe was assassinated with a homemade firearm in a country that has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.
Pictures from the attack on the Japanese leader appear to show the killer — identified as 41-year-old military veteran Tetsuya Yamagami — tossing the black tape-covered homemade firearm moments after gunning down the ex-prime minister.
The weapon remained near the assassin’s feet as security tackled him to the ground — while others started attempts to save Abe, 67, who bled to death from two deep gunshot wounds, including one in the neck.
The images show what appears to be a rudimentary double-barrelled shotgun, with two tubes taped together atop a wooden body and a black handle.
The “craft-made” firearm appeared to be similar to a Civil War-era musket, in which the gunpowder or the propellant is loaded separately to the bullet projectile, according to N.R. Jenzen-Jones, the director of Armament Research Services, a specialist arms investigations firm.
Military officials told public broadcaster NHK that Yamagami had been in the Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years — from 2002 to 2005 — and was “frustrated” with Abe.
Police found several possible explosives during a raid on Yamagami’s home, and the suspect confessed that he had “manufactured multiple pistols and explosives so far,” NHK said.
Other local reports said that he told cops he initially planned to blow up Abe, but decided to instead build a gun because he feared a bomb was less reliable.
The shooting was particularly shocking in a country that prides itself on having some of the strictest gun laws in the world.
Private citizens are barred from owning handguns, and licensed hunters may own only rifles — and even then only after attending classes, passing a written test and undergoing a mental health evaluation and background check.
Shootings, when they occur, typically involve “yakuza” gangsters using illegal weapons. When mass killings do take place in Japan, as when 19 people were murdered at a facility for mentally disabled people in 2016, they tend to be carried out with knives.
Despite having a population of 125 million, Japan had just 10 gun-related criminal cases last year, resulting in one death and four injuries, according to police. Eight of those cases were gang-related.
“Firearms legislation in Japan is very restrictive, so I think what we’re seeing here, with what’s probably a muzzle-loading weapon, is not just an attempt to circumvent the control of firearms, but also the strict control of ammunition in Japan,” said Jenzen-Jones, the arms investigations specialist.