Japanese authorities are facing difficulties clamping down on the making of handmade guns, which came under the spotlight after the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year. Lethal guns and explosives can be crafted using iron pipes, fertilizers and other materials available online and at DYI stores, according to experts. "It's easy to find out how to make them, and materials are readily available to anyone," one expert said.
The suspect in the Abe shooting, Tetsuya Yamagami, 42, is believed to have made a gun and gunpowder by referring to online videos.
In the wake of the incident, Internet Hotline Center Japan, which is commissioned by the National Police Agency to monitor illegal and harmful information on the internet, will soon add information on how to make explosives and guns to the list of harmful information, so it can ask website operators to delete such information. The government is asking pharmacies and other sellers to strengthen the management of 11 chemical substances that can be used as materials for bombs and gunpowder. They are urged to create sales records that include the names and addresses of purchasers, as well as how the materials will be used, and to report to police if they find anyone suspicious.
However, it is difficult to monitor the exchange of information among limited people through social media. Also, there are many overseas websites containing information on the manufacture of guns. "There is no silver bullet," an investigative source said. "We just have to do what we can."
Isao Itabashi, a counterterrorism expert and chief of the Council for Public Policy's Institute for Analysis and Studies, said it is necessary to improve artificial intelligence-based technology to collect and analyze online posts and other information that could lead to terrorism. Given that bomb and other materials are available online, Itabashi said the authorities need to cooperate more closely with distributors.
In one recent case, Hokkaido police sources said Wednesday that a man in Sapporo who has been charged with possessing black powder, a bomb ingredient, is now suspected of making a deadly gun. The Hokkaido Prefectural Police sent the additional case to public prosecutors, alleging that the 29-year-old man, Hironobu Suwa, violated the law on controlling weapons manufacturing and the firearms control law, the sources said. Police believe the homemade gun and explosives found in Suwa's home in Sapporo to be lethal weapons. Suwa has admitted to the fresh allegations, the sources said. He has told police investigators that he had rushed to buy gun parts and other items thinking that regulations would be tightened after Abe was fatally shot. He was indicted in November last year on charges of possessing 316 grams of black powder at his home in violation of the gunpowder control law.
During the investigation into the case, the police came to suspect that he may have manufactured a gun using items such as steel pipes between April and July 2022. The police suspect that he learned how to make guns on the internet.
Bullets, a timer and potassium nitrate, which is contained in fertilizers and can be used as an ingredient of gunpowder, were also found at his home, the sources said.
Source: Japan faces difficulties clamping down on handmade guns