Thu, 30 March 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

Hamburg shooting sparks debate on Germany's gun laws

Update : 11 Mar 2023, 23:47

Politicians have questioned why the gunman's weapon wasn't confiscated after concerns were raised about his psychological health. The shooting at a Jehovah's Witness hall left eight people dead.

A debate has erupted in Germany over the effectiveness of the country's gun control laws after this week's mass shooting at the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall in the northern city of Hamburg.

On Thursday evening, Philipp F., a 35-year-old German citizen and a former member of the congregation, went on a shooting spree and killed eight people, including himself.

The police said the motive for the crime remains unknown.

Authorities had received an anonymous tipoff that the perpetrator might have psychological issues but the police gave him the all-clear during a surprise visit to his property.

On Saturday, several German politicians demanded urgent reviews of restrictions on weapons ownership, including Marcel Emmerich, the interior affairs expert of the Greens Party in parliament.

"This terrible act has shown that legal gun owners can use their guns to do bad things in this society," Emmerich told public broadcaster NDR Info. "Fewer guns in private hands ensure more public safety."

At present, Germany requires only those under 25 to undergo medical or psychological assessments before being granted a gun license, which another Greens Party lawmaker, Irene Mihalic, told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) was "more than questionable."

"As firearms are dangerous to life in the wrong hands, all applicants should be required to provide such reports, regardless of age. Appropriate aptitude tests should also actually have to be repeated at regular intervals," she added.

Sebastian Hartmann, the interior spokesperson for the Social Democrats (SPD) in parliament, told the RND that any reform of gun-control legislation must strengthen the authority to confiscate weapons as well as improve the exchange of data about owners.

Other politicians were keen to avoid a knee-jerk reaction, saying that current legislation is already strong enough.

"Mentally ill persons are not allowed to possess firearms. It is good and right that the weapons law already unambiguously regulates this today," Konstantin Kuhle, deputy chair of the business-friendly FDP parliamentary group, told the German news agency DPA. Therefore, "hasty demands for legislative consequences" are "not necessary," he added.

In a separate interview with the Funke media group, Kuhle questioned why police refrained from revoking the weapons permit from the Hamburg shooter.

Jochen Kopelke, chairman of the GdP police union, said that the "perceived increasing number of [shooting] incidents" in Germany made it imperative to tighten laws speedily rather than conduct a systematic review that could take too long.

"Medical establishments must prioritize and quickly process documents related to weapons controls. Nowhere should there be delays due to staff shortages or long data protection processes," Kopelke added.

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