TOKYO (AFP) — Japanese media called for tighter gun-control laws on Sunday following a deadly shooting at a sports club, which sent shockwaves through the country in which gun crimes are emerging.
"We feel fear that (Japan) has turned out to be a gun society like the United States," the Yomiuri Shimbun said in an editorial. "A gun was pointed at random at the ordinary public. It was an unprecedented crime in Japan."
"It is necessary to tighten permission standards such as introduction of new regulations to check the purpose of using guns and limit storage locations of guns under control of a third party," the daily said.
A 37-year-old local resident opened fire Friday night at a private gym in Sasebo, western Japan, killing two people and injuring six, including young girls.
The victims were a 26-year-old female swimming instructor and a 36-year-old fisherman who was reportedly a childhood friend of the gunman, identified as unemployed Masayoshi Magome.
The suspect, who fired 10 shots and briefly took 10 people hostage before fleeing, killed himself with his gun on Saturday.
Magome, who had permits for three shotguns and an air gun for the purpose of hunting, reportedly possessed more than 2,500 gun pellets, three times as many as an authorised hunter is allowed to have.
The Asahi Shimbun questioned police authorisation of his weapons possession despite his neighbours' complaints that Magome was often roaming the city with a gun.
"If we cannot check strictly under the current sword and firearms control law, we should revise the regulations," the daily said in an editorial. "We should not let such a tragic incident happen any more."
The Mainichi Shimbun also said: "We should minimise permission of gun possession, shouldn't we? It is urgent to overhaul entire measures against guns."
Japan already strictly controls guns, with only police and licensed hunters and some sportsmen allowed to own firearms, but as many as 300,000 rifles are registered across the country.
Japan experienced 54 criminal shootings between January and November this year, with 30 deaths or injuries, up by 10 shootings from the same period last year, according to local media.
"I'm worried that our country may have become just like foreign countries," Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters on Saturday, adding that his government would "seriously" consider measures to prevent gun crimes.
Parliament revised the gun-control law in November, toughening punishment on gangsters for possessing or using guns following a series of shootings involving organised crime.
Nagasaki mayor Iccho Ito was shot dead in April by a gangster affiliated with Japan's largest crime syndicate, Yamaguchi-gumi, which held a personal grudge against him.
In May, a former gangster killed a police officer, shot the officer's two children and held his partner hostage for two days before surrendering.
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