German government plans to further tighten gun control

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Although it already has strict gun controls in place, the German government plans to introduce new gun control measures. Currently, an average of around 155 people are shot and killed each year in Germany.

Gun control will become stricter in Germany

After the shooting in Hanau in February 2020, calls for stricter gun control in Germany are increasingly heard. The shooter, known as Tobias R., was able to obtain guns, despite being diagnosed with paranoid delirium in 2002. He legally owned three guns and borrowed another from a gun dealer , before killing nine people, as well as his mother, before turning the gun on himself.

A Home Office spokesperson has since confirmed that a bill is being drafted which will see the introduction of stricter gun control laws, including more detailed checks on background that authorities must undertake before issuing or renewing a firearms license. For example, the new law will allow firearms licensing authorities to check with doctors and other relevant medical professionals whether applicants have a history of mental illness.

Germany has steadily tightened its gun control laws after mass shootings. Following a school shooting in Erfurt in 2002, the age limit for owning firearms was raised and, after the mass shooting in Winnendon in 2009, random checks were introduced for ensuring that weapons were properly stored.

Germany has also adopted the EU Firearms Directive into German law, last amending it in 2020. Essentially, this requires authorities to verify whether the applicant is a known extremist with an intelligence agency. national. German authorities have also been forced to check whether registered gun owners have a legitimate need for a gun. A legitimate need could be that the owner is a member of a shooting club or has a valid hunting license.

Mental health experts call for psychological testing

Dietmar Heubrock, professor of forensic psychology at the University of Bremen, argued that health authorities do not always have a complete record of an individual’s mental health history. “Do we even have the right procedures to recognize potential psychological dangers that might develop later in life?” He asked. “Let’s say I already own a gun and I’m going through a personal crisis – my livelihood is being taken away from me and I’m starting to develop violent fantasies: I want revenge on society and I want to go out and kill everyone I I see. No health authority would know,” he noted.

Heubrock suggested developing psychological tests that potential gun owners would be required to pass before receiving a gun license. “Current tests are 20 years old, and any test, whether it’s an intelligence test or a personality test, needs to be re-standardized after a while.” Green MP Marcel Emmerich has thrown his support behind the idea, even suggesting that all candidates should be required to pass a psychological assessment, not just those under 25.

However, the German Sport Shooting and Archery Federation (DSB) has raised doubts about the collection of sensitive health information, questioning the legality of such a practice and a person’s ability without medical expertise or qualifications to correctly interpret the data. “For example, an official from a regulatory authority certainly cannot judge whether an entry in a health record is even relevant to arms legislation,” DSB spokesman Thilo von Hagen said.

Resistance to new regulations

There has been some resistance to the newly proposed gun controls, especially among the one million people who legally own guns in Germany. The German Hunting Association (DJV), which has more than 250,000 members, argued there was no problem with Germany’s current gun laws, blaming instead the implementation of the laws . “Hanau could have been avoided,” said DJV spokesman Torsten Reinwald. “The facts were on the table: it was known that this person was mentally ill, but no action was taken. If the authorities had been better connected, this person could have been taken out of circulation. Make new requests now – these are just “placebos”, nothing more.”

Reinwald said German police spot checks were “a serious intrusion on individual freedom”. However, historian Dagmar Ellerbrock has argued that owning a firearm is a privilege, not a basic right. “It’s a privilege,” she said. “A privilege granted to certain people. And anyone who wants to be granted that privilege has to qualify for it.”

There are also privacy concerns, particularly around the collection of sensitive health data. Emmerich acknowledged that the data is sensitive but assured people that this would be considered in any new laws. “The challenge is to manage the data responsibly, but also to make sure that some people don’t get their hands on guns,” he said.

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