'There has never been anything like this'
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, shot Friday while campaigning before Sunday's parliamentary elections, is hospitalized in "severe condition" and doctors are trying to save his life, Abe's successor, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, said in an emotional press conference. "I pray from the bottom of the heart that he will survive this," he said, near tears. "This is a despicable and barbaric act that occurred in the midst of an election which is the foundation of democracy and absolutely cannot be tolerated."
Hospital and emergency response officials said Abe was initially conscious and responsive but then lost vital signs and entered a state of "cardiopulmonary arrest," which, The Washington Post reports, is "a term often used in Japan before death is officially confirmed."
Abe, 67, was shot in the chest and neck with what appears to be a double-barrel handmade gun, Japanese media reports. Police tackled and arrested the apparent gunman, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, and charged him with attempted murder. He told police he was dissatisfied with Abe and wanted to kill him, public broadcaster NHK reports.
Japan has extremely strict firearm laws, and gun violence is rare and most often associated with the yakuza organized crime syndicate. In 2020, the Post reports, "eight of the 10 shootings in Japan were related to the yakuza, according to the National Police Agency, resulting in one death and four injuries." Reporters who worked in Japan expressed shock at the assassination attempt and said it was felt throughout Japan.
Political violence is also rare in Japan, but not unknown. A gunman attacked Deputy Prime Minister Shin Kanemaru in 1992, but did not injure him. "In 2007 the mayor of Nagasaki was shot and killed by a yakuza gangster," Reuters notes. "The head of the Japan Socialist Party was assassinated during a speech in 1960 by a right-wing youth with a samurai short sword."
"There has never been anything like this," Waseda University political science professor Airo Hino told Reuters.