Japan, whose strict gun controls have long helped its image as the safest industrialized nation, has recently seen its reputation slip in the wake of headline-making shootings.

Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito was gunned down by a yakuza during his re-election campaign on April 17; a mobster holed himself up April 20 in an apartment in Machida, western Tokyo, after fatally shooting a fellow yakuza; a former gangster in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture, shot and wounded his two children and a police officer May 17 and fatally shot an assault squad officer the next day.

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