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The assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shows how determined killers can find a way to build a homemade weapon, even in a country that has fewer gun deaths in a year than some major U.S. cities experience in a weekend.
Even before Abe was memorialized, his death touched off arguments in the United States about whether his killing is proof that even the strictest gun laws cannot stop gun violence.
The shooter used a homemade shotgun to kill Abe, but less crude and even more lethal weapons are flooding into the U.S. gun market. The gun used in Abe’s killing appears to be a zip gun, a category of crude, usually unreliable, untraceable and commonly one-shot weapons. They are comparable to go-karts built from spare lawn mower and auto parts.
Zip guns are not new. In the 1950s, for example, police said young people were building lots of small caliber zip guns from everything from old car antennas to flimsy door bolts. It is even possible to modify a toy cap gun to make a crude pistol that fires real ammo.
Japan has seen incidents involving homemade guns in the past. A company employee was arrested by the Hyogo Prefectural Police in 2018 for manufacturing a pistol and 139 bullets at his home. He said, “I saw how to make a gun on a video site and made them for decorative purposes.” He is believed to have purchased steel plate and other materials online, asked a contractor to process some of them into parts, and assembled the pistols.
The same year, a university student in Japan’s central city Nagoya was arrested for manufacturing high-performance explosives. A gun made with a 3D printer was also found.
Even though the zip gun used in Japan is homemade, it is being mentioned as an example of a ghost gun. But zip guns are different from much more sophisticated ghost guns that police say are showing up at crime scenes around America. Ghost guns are weapons assembled by buying actual gun parts, usually online, and assembling the parts into a weapon that bears no serial number, as a weapon produced by a manufacturer would. In the U.S., once a gunmaker builds a weapon, a serial number follows that weapon to a retailer. But often as the gun changes hands, the ownership trail grows cold.
A White House statement in April reported, “Last year alone, there were approximately 20,000 suspected ghost guns reported to ATF as having been recovered by law enforcement in criminal investigations — a ten-fold increase from 2016.”
… bans the business of manufacturing the most accessible ghost guns, such as unserialized “buy build shoot” kits that individuals can buy online or at a store without a background check and can readily assemble into a working firearm in as little as 30 minutes with equipment they have at home. This rule clarifies that these kits qualify as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act, and that commercial manufacturers of such kits must therefore become licensed and include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver, and commercial sellers of these kits must become federally licensed and run background checks prior to a sale – just like they have to do with other commercially-made firearms.
NPR said, “Under the rule, the kits will need to be produced by licensed manufacturers. And anyone buying the guns will have to pass a background check.” The rule will also require serial numbers on the gun kit’s frame or receiver, which is the primary piece of the firearm to which all of the parts are attached, according to NPR.
The criminal underground has long relied on stolen weapons with filed-off serial numbers, but ghost guns represent a digital-age upgrade, and they are especially prevalent in coastal blue states with strict firearm laws.
Nowhere is that truer than in California, where their proliferation has reached epidemic proportions, according to local and federal law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. Over the past 18 months, the officials said, ghost guns accounted for 25 to 50 percent of firearms recovered at crime scenes. The vast majority of suspects caught with them were legally prohibited from having guns.
The New York Times points to Abe’s shocking death as an example of how Japan’s gun laws are successful in curbing nearly all gun violence, but that is nearly inevitable that the assassination will spark claims from gun rights groups that the killing is evidence that gun control does not work and that killers will find a way to kill. Within a day of the assassination, candidates for various offices were using the prime minister’s death to make a point. This Florida GOP Congressional candidate posted:
How did Shinzo Abe get assassinated when guns are banned in Japan?
Liberals, care to explain?
— Lavern Spicer🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@lavern_spicer) July 8, 2022
A 2022 report from the University of Washington revealed that, while the US had more than four firearm homicides per 100,000 people in 2019, Japan had almost zero.
Comparing high-income countries in the World Bank with the rate of firearm homicide per 100,000 people, the US had 4.2, Australia had 0.18 and Japan 0.02, the report found.
In 2013, the country hit a record high for gun crime, with 40 criminal cases of guns being fired, but it has followed a downward trend since.
There are also strict laws about how many gun shops are allowed to open – in most of the countries’ 47 prefectures, a total of three gun shops can operate in each prefecture.
Zip guns like the one used in Japan are deadly, but when shooters have to tape together pipes and gunpowder charges, the weapons tend to be less deadly than store-bought weapons. As the Times put it:
If the shooter’s ability to build and use such a device shows that gun restrictions cannot completely eliminate violence from a society, then it also demonstrates that such measures tend to make that violence rarer and less deadly.
Contrast this attack with the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where the gunman’s high-capacity, rapid-firing AR-15-style rifle enabled him to kill 19 children and two teachers. Another attacker used a similar rifle to quickly kill 10 at a Buffalo grocery store. Last week, another still murdered seven at a parade in Highland Park, Ill.
The few legally acquirable weapons, mostly hunting rifles, can only be purchased after a screening and a training process so onerous that Japan has one of the world’s lowest firearm ownership rates: one gun per every 330 residents.
American ownership, by contrast, is 1.2 guns for every resident, or 400 times Japan’s rate.
New state gun law requires buyers to list social media accounts
As New York lawmakers attempt to navigate the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit, the state legislature is trying to impose a new rule that would require gun buyers to list their social media accounts. Nobody seems sure the idea is constitutional, and who knows how it will be enforced. The Associated Press explains:
As missed warning signs pile up in investigations of mass killings, New York state is rolling out a novel strategy to screen applicants for permits to carry concealed guns: They will be required to hand over lists of their social media accounts for a review of their “character and conduct.”
It’s an approach applauded by many Democrats and national gun control advocacy groups, but some experts have raised questions about how the law will be enforced and address free speech concerns.
Some of the local officials who will be tasked with reviewing the social media content also are asking whether they’ll have the resources and, in some cases, whether the law is even constitutional.
Sheriffs haven’t received additional money or staffing to handle a new application process, said Peter Kehoe, executive director of the New York Sheriffs’ Assn. The law, he asserted, infringes on 2nd Amendment rights, and although applicants must list their social media accounts, he doesn’t think local officials will necessarily look at them.
A bounty for conservative justices?
ShutDownDC is promising a bounty of $50 to anyone who provides a “confirmed sighting” of Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett or John Roberts at any DC area public space, upping that to $200 if they remain in that location for a half-hour.
Protests outside the Justices’ homes have since occurred, with some public confrontations. The latest effort of offering bounties ramps up the stakes.
“DC Service Industry Workers… If you see Kavanaugh, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Coney Barrett or Roberts, DM us with the details!” said a Twitter post by ShutDownDC. “We’ll Venmo you $50 for a confirmed sighting, and $200 if they’re still there 30 mins after your message.”
Politico reported protesters forced Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to exit out the back door of a D.C. steakhouse last week.
COVID hospitalizations and new cases rising fast, deaths still steady
Hospitalizations have increased steadily in recent weeks. On average, there are more than 33,000 people in American hospitals with coronavirus on a given day — the highest national average since early March.
Every region of the country has COVID hot spots
The Wisconsin Hospital Association reported 427 COVID patients in hospitals across the state, this is an increase of 53 patients from July 1 and also the highest level in the state since early March.
Keep an eye on Europe’s COVID cases: Italy’s hospitalization rate is up 33% in a week
We have learned (or should have learned) the lesson by now that COVID-19 is a PANdemic. It is worldwide. And when it shows up in Italy in the force that hospitals see now, we should pay attention. Euractiv reports:
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have risen by 33% in the past seven days driving a 36% increase in intensive care ward occupancy, according to the monitoring report by the Gimbe Foundation.
A surge in COVID-19 infections is underway in the country, with more than 132,000 cases in 24 hours and a positive test rate above 28%.
COVID-19 has rebounded in the country and is also driving up the number of hospitalized patients and deaths. “Real reasons for concern exist,” said Gimbe Foundation President Nino Cartabellotta.
Kids, camps and COVID
See this weekend post from a New York pediatrician:
Literally every patient’s family that goes on vacation is coming home w/covid.Kids missing camp & parents missing work after just taking a vacation.
Didn’t have to be this way if we had masking, ventilation standards & rapid testing to exit isolation bf day 10.
— snarky pediatrician (@snarkypeds) July 9, 2022
Here is an example of the disruption that one household COVID-19 case can cause — and cost hundreds just to prove you are not infected.
Speaking of camps, the NFL is about to open summer camps with no COVID-19 protocols in place.
The latest wildfire forecast shows much of the country at significant risk through October
This week, the National Interagency Fire Center reported:
In 2022, 34,822 wildfires have burned 4.6 million acres. This is well above the 10-year average of 27,587 wildfires, and more than double the average number of acres burned.
Here are the newest regional forecasts for wildfires around the U.S., which are less than encouraging.
A million Muslims gather in Saudi Arabia for the biggest hajj since the pandemic began
Before the pandemic, two million Muslims would gather annually in Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage. For Muslims, the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith required of all who can physically and financially make the trip.
This year, the Saudi government is requiring negative COVID-19 tests before entering the country. Al Jazeera says since the start of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has registered more than 795,000 coronavirus cases, more than 9,000 of them fatal.
850,000 of the one million making the trip will come from outside Saudi territory, and it is the first time in two years outsiders have been allowed in the country for the hajj.
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