Homemade gun attacks a blind spot for police

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Following the shooting death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the National Police Agency has found that police forces across the nation have not given enough attention to the threat of homemade guns being used to attack very important persons.

The NPA will include these examination results in a security inspection report to be compiled before the end of this month.

Believing that the police have not been sufficiently aware of the ease that harmful information, such as how to make firearms, can be obtained on the internet, the NPA is considering stepping up measures to address the situation.

If homemade guns and other weapons are produced more widely, it could lead to an increase in crimes using firearms to hurt other people, affecting not only the guarding of VIPs but overall security as well.

The NPA plans to discuss the strengthening of controls on chemicals used to make gunpowder and other issues with relevant ministries and agencies, as well as how to deal with harmful websites.

When it comes to countermeasures against firearms attacks, police have traditionally prepared for attacks using manufactured pistols by those belonging to certain organizations, such as members of gang groups or far-right-wing organizations.

However, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, who shot Abe and is currently confined for expert examination, is quoted by police as saying that he learned how to make firearms from YouTube videos and made gunpowder on his own from chemicals that he had bought online.

Taking these facts seriously, the NPA checked what assumptions police officers in charge of guarding VIPs base their security plans on. As a result, the NPA found that police have not been sufficiently aware of the fact that anyone can make guns and other firearms based on information available on the internet, and that they have not assumed attacks against VIPs could be carried out using homemade guns.

In addition to websites that teach how to make guns and explosives, it has been confirmed that some individuals have made guns using 3D printers. The NPA believes that the police as a whole have not taken enough measures to address such a situation, which would be one of the reasons behind the fatal shooting of Abe.

“We lacked perception of the current situation and were not vigilant toward ‘modern-type’ firearms attacks,” a senior police official said.

According to the NPA, it is difficult to judge the legality of websites that show people how to make firearms, as many websites use foreign servers, making it difficult to find those that violate the swords and firearms control law and other regulations.

Even though such websites are routinely reported to the police by external parties, all the police can do is to ask administrators of such websites to remove them, except in cases in which the illegality is obvious.

As for chemicals used to make gunpowder and explosives, police are asking the sellers to report to them when someone buys such chemicals in bulk, but such reporting is not mandatory.

Following the fatal shooting case, the NPA set up an inspection team and has been sorting out issues in the security of Abe.

So far, the NPA has found that it had not checked the security plan for Abe, leaving it to the Nara prefectural police, and that the Nara prefectural police responsible for guarding Abe did not assign uniformed officers to the site for customary reasons.