The city of Hamburg, Germany, has seen its share of calamity through the years. It was destroyed several times during the medieval period, for example. It was also heavily bombed during World War II.
Since then, though, the city has known relative peace. For residents, that’s a very good thing for what should be rather obvious reasons.
That peace was shattered on Thursday, however, when a shooter killed a number of people at a Jehovah’s Witnesses church in the city.
Eight people were killed in a shooting at a Jehovah’s Witness place of worship in the German city of Hamburg and the gunman was among the dead, police said on Friday.
Police received a call soon after 9 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Thursday and officers arrived at the scene to find several people seriously injured and some dead.
“Then they heard a shot from above, they went upstairs and found one further person,” said a police spokesperson.
“We heard shots,” one unidentified witness told reporters. “There were 12 continuous shots,” he said. “Then we saw how people were taken away in black bags.”
The gunman was believed to be a former member of the Jehovah’s Witness community, Spiegel magazine reported. The man was aged between 30 and 40 and was not known to authorities as an extremist, the report said, citing unnamed sources.
When I wrote about this last night, there were just six or seven believed to have been killed. Whether that was a miscount or misreport or whether one of the injured died after that report is unclear. Frankly, it’s also irrelevant. Early reports are often wrong and body counts often increase in the aftermath, so it just is what it is.
So what is relevant?
Much of what’s relevant, besides the fact that eight people were killed, is information we largely don’t have right now. Police are currently looking for a motive, though we may never learn that.
We also don’t know how the killer obtained his firearm. Germany has strict gun control in place, so there are going to be questions as to how he got a gun in the first place.
Then we have the fact that this isn’t unique, either outside of the United States or even in Germany itself.
Germany has been shaken by a number of shootings in the last few years. In February 2020, a gunman with suspected far-right links shot dead nine people, including migrants from Turkey, in the western town of Hanau before killing himself and his mother.
In October 2019, a gunman killed two people when he opened fire outside a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.
So it’s been a few years–nowhere near the frequency we see here, quite frankly–but it’s not unheard of despite all that gun control we see in Germany and throughout Europe.
Look, we need to remember these, not just because innocent people died because some maniac wanted them to, but also because mass shootings may be a predominantly American issue, but they’re not uniquely so.
They happen in other places, even those with extensive gun control laws already in place, so maybe we can start looking a little deeper than weapons restrictions and try to find the underlying causes of this kind of thing.