After the assassination of Japan’s ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, there are increasing indications of the perpetrator’s motive. But the question also arises as to whether the safety precautions were possibly not sufficient enough.

The shocking images of the attack on Japan’s ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went around the world: in the middle of broad daylight, the former head of government in the city of Nara was shot down in the street by a 41-year-old ex-naval member with a self-made gun during an election campaign speech .

The assassin is said to have originally targeted the leader of a religious group. That’s what the Japanese arrested the day before testified during interrogation, the Japanese news agency Kyodo learned from investigators on Saturday. He was “dissatisfied” with Abe and wanted to “kill” him, he was quoted as saying. He hates a “certain organization” that Abe is connected to.

The vague term “certain” religious organization conveyed by the Japanese media fueled speculation on the Internet that it could possibly be the controversial Unification Church of the late Korean sect founder San Myung Mun. Also known as the Mun Sect, the Unification Church has members in many countries, including Japan, and supports conservative political causes. Politicians like former US President Donald Trump and Abe are considered friendly towards her. Mun, who was strongly anti-Communist, founded it in 1954.

Assassin shot Shinzo Abe with homemade gun

As the public television broadcaster NHK learned from investigative circles on Saturday, the assassin is said to have testified that his mother had joined the “certain organization” and had donated a lot of money to her, which had shattered the family.

Apparently, he circumvented the country’s extremely strict gun regulations by building his own gun. An expert compared the device, which was around 40 centimeters long, to a muzzle-loading weapon. Authorities seized similar weapons when they searched the suspect’s nearby one-bedroom apartment.

The assassination meanwhile raises questions as to why the security personnel on site could not prevent the attack with a home-made firearm. After all, the perpetrator fired the shots from just three meters away. Several videos show him standing behind Abe with his gun belted for several minutes, listening to him for some time before he fires the fatal shots. The former prime minister’s security guards seemed completely taken aback.

Security concept for VIPs should be checked after the attack

“The Japanese are in shock,” said Shiro Kawamoto, a professor at Nihon University’s College of Risk Management in Tokyo. “This is a wake-up call that gun violence can also happen in Japan and that security measures protecting Japanese politicians need to be reconsidered,” Kawamoto said. “It would be a huge mistake to assume that these types of attacks will never happen.”

Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world and has extremely strict gun laws. Under Japanese law, owning firearms is illegal without a special license. The importation of firearms is also illegal. “I don’t think there are enough firearm precautions in Japan with its strict gun laws,” an expert on personal protection was quoted as saying by the Japanese newspaper “Nikkei” on Saturday. According to media reports, the National Police Authority now wants to review its security protocol for celebrities for deficiencies.

Rare gun crimes in Japan

Dignitaries in Japan often travel with modest security precautions focused primarily on direct physical threats, rather than being protected by heavily armed personnel prepared for firearm attacks, as is common in countries like the United States.

Even the police rarely use their pistols. Political violence and firearms offenses are extremely rare. The country of 125 million people saw just 10 gun-related crimes last year, resulting in a single death and four injuries, according to police. Eight of those cases were gang-related. The last high-profile shooting in Japan was in 2019, when a former gang member was shot dead at a Tokyo karaoke joint.

Sources: Reuters, DPA, Associated Press