National

Concerns remain despite stricter checks on gasoline sales after KyoAni arson attack

JIJI

Fuel distributors and others are voicing concerns over instructions given by the authorities on July 25 to apply stricter procedures when selling gasoline following the deadly arson attack on Kyoto Animation Co.’s studio last month.

The instructions came after Shinji Aoba, 41, allegedly doused and ignited the KyoAni studio in Kyoto with gasoline he bought from a nearby gas station. The July 18 arson attack left 35 people dead and dozens injured.

In response to the incident, Japanese authorities, including the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, have urged gas stations across the country, through industry groups, to confirm the customers’ identification and the purpose of their purchase when selling gasoline in containers. They also asked that the gas stations keep record of such sales.

Through such moves, the authorities hope to identify suspicious individuals and prevent similar incidents from happening.

Some are worried that the tightened procedures may lead to other problems, while others expressed skepticism about the meaning of such changes.

Since the KyoAni arson attack, there have been a string of incidents where copycat attacks have been threatened.

A controversial art exhibit held this month in Aichi Prefecture was closed down after the event’s organizers received a fax message saying, “I’ll go (to the event) with a gasoline container.”

The Aichi Prefectural Police arrested a man who allegedly sent the message on charges of forcible obstruction of business.

There have also been arrests in Tokyo and Hokkaido over similar incidents.

A gas station operator in Kyoto has started keeping sales records in response to the instructions.

The operator said that although keeping such records is time-consuming, many customers have agreed to the changes.

On the other hand, another operator asked what the gas station should do if a customer does not comply with such checks. “If we refuse to sell (gasoline), it may lead to problems,” the operator said.

“Even if we ask what (the gasoline) will be used for, we cannot know if we are being lied to,” a senior official of an industry group in Kyoto Prefecture said. “What’s the point of the restrictions?”

Nobuo Komiya, a professor at Rissho University, noted that while the identity confirmation aspect may cause people to hesitate to commit impulsive crimes, it will not be enough to stop criminals who are willing to die during such acts.

“What we need are measures to clamp down on people who are about to commit crimes,” Komiya said.

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