Japanese police to enhance measures against online instructions for homemade weapons

Image from video
Tetsuya Yamagami, right, is seen behind former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was about to deliver a speech.

A National Police Agency security inspection report on the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasizes that there was a lack of awareness that even individuals with no ties to terrorist organizations can easily obtain information about how to make firearms and explosives on the internet.

The NPA is considering enhancing firearms countermeasures and online information-gathering activities as part of its responses to lone-wolf crimes like the July shooting attack.

The suspect in that attack, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, currently confined for expert examination, allegedly made an online purchase of agricultural fertilizer that can be turned into a raw material for making gunpowder sometime after spring last year. He reportedly learned how to make firearms from YouTube videos and crafted multiple homemade guns.

The inspection report points out that information about designs and methods for making firearms and other weapons can be easily obtained on the internet in recent years, bringing about a serious change in security threats.

“We need to take into account the characteristics of modern society, in which individuals who have nothing to do with specific terrorist organizations could be inspired by the internet and become radicalized,” the report says, emphasizing the importance of taking appropriate countermeasures. The Nara prefectural police lacked awareness of such a threat, and the NPA did not inform the Metropolitan Police Department or the prefectural police of the risk of attacks using homemade weapons.

In the past, there was a case in which an individual made a gun using a 3D printer based on a design available online. The NPA is considering establishing a system to identify such “harmful information” on the internet and remove it. Reporting risk assessment results and other information to the MPD and prefectural police is one of the major measures that the NPA is currently considering.

As countermeasures against explosives, police are currently asking sellers of 11 kinds of chemicals that can be turned into raw materials to report when someone buys any of them in bulk. The NPA plans to use this system and cooperate with relevant government ministries and agencies, as well as private companies, to enhance countermeasures.

“It is necessary to quickly find harmful information on the internet by fully using the latest technologies of the private sector, such as artificial intelligence, and remove it,” Shuichiro Hoshi, professor of criminal law and procedure at the Tokyo Metropolitan University who is familiar with security measures issues, said.

“Not only the NPA but also all relevant ministries and agencies should squarely face the reality that guns can be made by hand in Japan and they should review the regulations concerning illegal websites and other systems.”