February 7, 2008 / 11:06 AM / 12 years ago

Japan shootings rise in 2007 on gangster gun use

TOKYO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The number of shootings in Japan rose in 2007 for the first time in six years, police said on Thursday, in a review of a year that included the assassination of a city mayor and gun use involving rival gangsters.

Shootings rose to 66 compared with a record low of 53 in 2006, the National Police Agency said in a report. The figure was up for the first time since 2001.

"There was an increase in confrontations between gangster organisations and a series of brutal crimes involving gun use," the report said.

The number of those who died from shootings rose to 22 from 2 in 2006, the report said. Those wounded numbered 18.

Gun-related crime had been rare in a country with strict gun control laws, but last year’s string of shootings shocked the public and prompted the government to further strengthen its firearms law.

The revision of the law, the first since 1995, imposed heavier punishments for gun crimes committed by members of organised crime gangs. Firearms in Japan are mostly in the hands of registered hunters or "yakuza" gangsters.

Being a gang member is not illegal in Japan, and until recently the gangs were known for their openness, with their offices posting signs with names and membership lists inside.

Shootings last year included the murder of the mayor of Nagasaki in southern Japan by a suspected gangster. (Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by David Fogarty)

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