Gunman Apparently Used an Improvised Firearm to Assassinate Shinzo Abe

Gunman Apparently Used an Improvised Firearm to Assassinate Shinzo Abe

The weapon used to assassinate former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was an improvised firearm.

Video of the assassination shows a device on the ground after the attack, consisting of two tubes perhaps just over a foot in length and bound together side by side with black electrical tape — similar to a double-barrel shotgun.

It is unknown what kind of ammunition was used in the attack that killed Mr. Abe. But in the video, two shots can be heard, approximately two and a half seconds apart, with a deep report that suggests they came from a cartridge such as those fired by a shotgun commonly used by civilian hunters.

Credit…The Asahi Shimbun, via Getty Images

Such ammunition, commonly used for hunting small game, consists of a propellant and a number of solid spherical projectiles called shot, or a single projectile called a slug. When fired, shot spreads out into a conical pattern that widens with distance; a slug follows a simple ballistic path like a bullet fired from a rifle or a handgun.

The amount of smoke seen in videos of the attack is not typical of modern, commercially purchased ammunition, suggesting the firing system and ammunition may have been homemade or improvised as well.

Japan has exceptionally strict regulations that prohibit the average citizen from obtaining a factory-manufactured firearm. Civilian ownership of firearms, except for those used for hunting purposes, is generally prohibited by the country’s Firearms and Swords Control Law.

Japanese citizens may possess guns “as an exception only if approval is obtained” from a public safety commission at the prefectural level, which is just below the national government, according to an official summary of the law.

“Licenses for possession of firearms are issued for specific guns for certain applications such as hunting or eradication of noxious birds or animals,” the summary says.

Japanese citizens who have criminal records or who are addicted to narcotics are prohibited from owning firearms. Concealed firearms are prohibited entirely.

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