There are few countries in the world with more draconian gun control laws than Germany. But German politicians apparently believe that the answer to the rampage in Munich that took ten young lives is to “tighten” the already suffocating restrictions on gun ownership.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper chain that the country “must continue to do all we can to limit and strictly control access to deadly weapons” while Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in a separate interview that “we have to evaluate very carefully if and where further legal changes are needed.”
Ali David Sonboly, 18, the dual German-Iranian national behind Friday’s attack outside a shopping mall in which nine people died, obtained his Glock firearm illegally and he did not have a license, investigators said Saturday. But he would have struggled to meet Germany’s stringent requirements for legal possession even if he did.
Applicants under 25 must undergo a series of tough checks that include whether the person has a history of mental health issues. Sonboly suffered from depression. They must also pass tests about gun knowledge and get approval for what the weapon will be used for. Unlike in the United States, there is no guaranteed right to bear arms.
All this didn’t stop Sonboly from acquiring an illicit weapon of course, but it does appear to have helped Germany reduce gun-related deaths to 57 last year, down from more than 800 in 1995, according to the website GunPolicy.org. This compares with about 13,445 people killed in the U.S. by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Germany has a population of 80 million versus the U.S.’s 319 million. There are about 5.5 million legally owned guns in Germany, according to the nation’s National Guns Registry, putting it in fourth place behind the U.S., Switzerland and Finland. In the U.S., the figure is about 300 million, according to the Guns in America website.
Ali David Sonboly did not purchase a gun legally. There are four times the number of illegal guns in Germany as legal ones, untouched and unaffected by any gun control measure.
But politicians being politicians have to be perceived as “doing something about the problem.” When in doubt, make it even harder for law-abiding citizens to purchase a firearm.
You have to wonder if more sensible gun laws that would allow people to be armed in public would have made a difference in Munich. But realistically, it’s impossible to say. With no basic right to bear arms in Germany, rampage killers like Sonboly will almost certainly be free to take out their rage on as many people as possible without fear of being opposed by a private citizen.