Japanese police have detained a 31-year-old man, the son of a local government official after he allegedly went on a stabbing and shooting rampage in the city of Nakano.
According to officials, the suspect, Masanori Aoki, shot a 61-year-old police officer in the chest with a hunting rifle and killed two others, including a 46-year-old police officer and a woman in her 40s. A fourth victim, a 70-year-old woman, was later discovered outside the house where the assailant had barricaded himself.
Nagano police chief Iwao Koyama has stated that they currently have 100 individuals investigating the incident. He also said that the incident has caused “increased anxiety” in Japan, where murder rates are low and gun crimes are rare due to extremely strict gun laws.
In 2018, only nine deaths were reported in Japan from firearms- a stark contrast to the 39,700 that occurred in the United States that same year.
How the ‘Heinous’ Incident Unfolded
According to Koyama, the police received a call about a man who stabbed a woman with a long “survival” knife on Thursday afternoon. A witness to the incident later told Japanese broadcaster NHK that a woman was being chased by a masked man and had run to him for help.
Nakano officials immediately posted a statement to social media, urging residents to stay indoors while the police designated a 300-meter radius “evacuation zone” around the area. Approximately 60 people were evacuated to a gymnasium, where officials provided food, drinks, blankets, and shelter.
Koyama later confirmed that the suspect stabbed a woman, before stabbing a man. He then shot at and killed two police officers before barricading himself inside a house, one that’s believed to belong to his father, Masamichi Aoki, the Chairman of the Nakano City Council.
Koyama said the 31-year-old suspect lived with his parents and aunt, and that his mother and aunt both successfully escaped and were rescued by police officers.
Japan’s Strict Gun Laws
Unlike the United States, gun ownership is exceedingly rare in Japan as strict laws make it almost impossible for an individual to get a firearm. According to NHK, however, Aoki had a valid license, which allowed him to possess up to four hunting rifles, including air guns and shotguns.
To qualify for the license, potential buyers must pass a written test, a shooting test with an accuracy of at least 95 percent, and attend an all-day class. In addition to that, they must undergo drug tests as well as a mental health evaluation. Rigorous background checks are also performed, including a review of their personal debt, criminal record, relationships with family, and involvement in organized crime.
After receiving a firearm, the owner must register the gun with the police and provide information on where it and the ammunition is stored. Police must also inspect the gun once a year. The owner must also sit in an exam and retake the class every three years to renew their firearm license.