The assailant, an 18-year-old new recruit, is said to have fired a rifle with “intent to kill”. Two people were killed and one injured.
The shooting range, a covered facility covering more than 65,000 m², is operated by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
Series of attacks in Japan
Violent crime is rare in Japan, where firearms legislation is extremely restrictive. And General Morishita pointed out on Wednesday that, to his knowledge, the previous case of gun violence caused by a member of the Ground Self-Defense Force dates back to 1984.
However, several recent attacks have shaken the archipelago, starting with the murder last July of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, killed by a homemade firearm during an election campaign speech.
Last April, incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was targeted by a homemade explosive device, also during an election event. He escaped unhurt, but two other people were slightly injured.
The army’s bad reputation
Japan’s law enforcement agencies have been on their toes since these high-profile attacks on political figures. Thousands of police officers were deployed to the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima (western Japan) last month. At the end of May, a madman killed four people, including two police officers, in a knife and shotgun attack in Nagano (central Japan).
The Gifu tragedy comes at a time when the Japanese army, which is still struggling to establish its legitimacy in a country with a pacifist post-war constitution, is facing chronic recruitment difficulties. Its image has also been tarnished over the past year by revelations of sexual assaults within its ranks. This is not making things any easier for the Japanese government, which wants to double its defense budget to around 2% of national GDP by 2027 in order to cope with growing geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.