"Lax gun laws" blamed for Hamburg shooting

AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

I recently took a look at gun control laws in Germany. It was because of the Hamburg shooting. I knew there would be a discussion of the gun laws on the books as well as calls for new ones and I wanted to be familiar with what’s already in place.

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What they’ve got is pretty extensive, too. Mandatory storage laws, psychological evaluations before purchasing a gun, a licensing process that requires applicants to show a necessity for buying a gun, and age restrictions.

Frankly, they’ve got more rules in place than any state in the US could ever hope to get through.

Their gun laws are anything but lax.

Yet, in the wake of the Hamburg shooting, many are blaming lax gun laws.

Gun laws in Germany, where weapon ownership is among the highest in Europe, could be further tightened after last week’s mass shooting in which seven people, including an unborn child, were killed in a Jehovah’s Witness hall in Hamburg.

The attack has thrown up the perennial question of whether the various parts of the country’s federal system are working together, and strengthened the hand of those in the governing coalition who are seeking stronger gun controls.

But people are now asking why the specialist force is not deployed every day. And in a country whose fragmented political system is often a cause for complaint, a reckoning is coming over Hamburg’s weapons control authority’s response to an anonymous letter sent two months ago about [the gunman’s] mental health.

On 7 February, officers visited [the killer] at his flat in west Hamburg but gave him just a verbal warning after finding a loose bullet on top of the safe in which his gun and ammunition were supposed to be stored. The city’s health services seem to have had no involvement in the unannounced visit, despite the red flags of his book and the anonymous letter, which had suggested that [he] was suffering from a psychological disorder but refused to seek treatment.

A member of Hamburg’s Hanseatic Gun Club, [he] had held a weapons licence since December last year, and the awarding of this permit is a focus of attention as the people of Hamburg prepare to bury their dead.

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So once again, we see a mass shooting in an area with extensive gun control laws already on the books.

Sure, many are focusing on a single round sitting on top of the gun safe, but let’s be honest here. That’s not the issue.

The issue was, in part, that German gun control didn’t stop the Hamburg shooting. Gun control doesn’t do that.

What it does is make it so literally none of the people in that building had the means to resist this maniac.

Additionally, for all the talk of mental health, let’s remember that the shooter had to undergo a mental health screening in order to get his license. He passed that.

Now, I’m not saying that people can’t develop mental health issues afterward. Not at all. What I’m saying is that this is one of those measures we’re told we need here in the US, yet this is why it’s ineffective. The truth is many people can pass such a screening despite probably not being mentally well.

Germany has pretty extensive gun laws, some of the most extensive on the planet short of outright bans on anything more powerful than a blowgun.

That wasn’t the problem.

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We’ll never solve the issue of mass shootings so long as people keep pretending guns are the issue, rather than people.

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