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Shootings in Japan are extremely rare due to its strict gun control

Very few people are allowed to own guns in Japan.

The people of Japan and beyond are stunned by the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week, who was killed by a gun — an extremely rare occurrence in Japan.

Japanese firearm laws are among the strictest in the world, meaning that deaths caused by firearms are few and far between.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
A woman kneels before a makeshift memorial for former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe, who was shot to death this week.Philip Fong / AFP via Getty Images

In 2018, there were 9 deaths resulting from firearms in Japan, according to the University of Sydney’s

That’s compared to 39,740 gun deaths in the United States the same year.

Japan's 1958 Firearm and Sword Possession Control Law banned civilian ownership of guns with some limited exceptions, including hunting or ownership of a shooting range.

Anyone who may qualify to own a gun in Japan must make it through a rigorous 12-step process before buying a firearm, which includes a written exam, a gun safety class, a doctor sign-off and extensive background checks.

Former Japanese PM Abe shot in Nara
Abe was rushed to the hospital after being shot at a campaign event, and ultimately died from his wounds. Kyodo News via Getty Images

Prospective gun owners must also undergo a police interview to explain why they need a gun, and must wait up to a month for a permit to attend firing training courses, according to the New York Times.

Thanks to these restrictions, gun ownership rates in Japan remain low. There was less than one firearm for every 100 people in Japan in 2017, according to the Small Arms Survey, a research program of the Geneva Graduate Institute.

In the U.S., by comparison, the survey stated that there was about 120 firearms for every 100 civilian residents. 

Former Japan PM Abe Unconscious After Shooting
Police officers investigate the scene where Abe was shot.Kosuke Okahara / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Abe was shot as he spoke at a campaign rally in the city of Nara.

The suspected shooter was identified by police as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami. Authorities said during a press conference that the gun used in the assassination appeared to be homemade.

Abe, who died at 67, was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He served from 2006 to 2007, and served another term from 2012 to 2020.