Gasoline-accelerated mass homicide has policy makers reevaluating current safety regulations.

It’s been a week since the horrific arson attack on Kyoto Animation’s Fushimi Ward anime studio. 76 workers were in the studio when the fire started, and 34 of them were killed, with burning confirmed by investigators as the cause of death for 26 victims. With such a staggering death ratio, some have speculated that the studio must have had an illegally unsafe design, but the building was in compliance with all fire codes.

Such codes are designed to prevent/minimize damage from fires that start accidentally in the course of ordinary workplace operations. The Kyoto Animation fire, though, was an attack on a magnitude far beyond that which private companies are legally required to prepare for, and is closer to the sort of security issue that government facilities, large-scale public event venues, or other high-probability terrorism targets are concerned with.

Prior to the attack, 41-year-old Shinji Aoba, who was taken into custody at the scene of the fire while shouting “They stole my novel, so I set the fire,” went to an ordinary gas station to fill two 20-liter (5.3-gallon) canisters which he’d brought with him, telling an attendant he needed the gas to power an electricity generator. He then used a hand cart to transport the fuel to Kyoto Animation’s Fushimi studio, where he ignited the gasoline inside the building’s first floor, causing an explosion. Aoba is also said to have sprayed the fuel directly on victims.

Following the arson attack, the city of Kyoto is requesting cooperation for stricter protocols in gasoline sales. Currently, gas stations are under no legal obligation to confirm the identity of customers buying gas to fill portable containers, nor to confirm their intended purpose. On July 25, though, the Kyoto municipal government sent a written request to gas station operators and trade organizations operating within the city asking them to do so. Compliance would, at least initially, be on a voluntary basis, as no such legislation is yet to be enacted.

While confirmation of identity would ostensibly mean checking the buyer’s name against a driver’s license or some other form of official ID, it’s less clear how Kyoto wants gasoline vendors to confirm the purpose of the purchase. In Japanese, the word kakunin/確認 technically refers to checking validity, but its ordinary parlance is also used in the less iron-clad sense of “check with the person.” As such, it’s not sure whether or not Aoba’s casual explanation that he needed the gasoline to power a generator would qualify as the sort of “confirmation” the Kyoto government is requesting.

Another potential flaw in the proposed system is that while confirmation of the buyer’s identity would act as a deterrent for would-be arsonists who’re hoping to get away with their crime, it would be of minimal effectiveness in stopping those who aren’t concerned about escaping prosecution, or even continuing to live themselves, after setting their intended fire. It seems the Kyoto government itself is aware that its initial proposal isn’t foolproof, and legislators are also in consultation with fire and police officials, in preparation of an expected request to change fire safety laws on the national level.

Sources: NHK News Web via Hachima Kiko. Tele Asa News via Jin
Top image: Wikipedia/L26
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