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Germany

Anti-weapons action group petitions parliament

An anti-weapons action group protested to the German parliament Friday, a year after Germany's gun laws were strengthened in response to a high-school massacre. The group insists that the changes are too weak.

Memorial for Winnenden massacre

Fifteen people were killed at the Winnenden school

The anti-weapons campaign group "Keine Mordwaffen als Sportwaffen" (No murder weapons as sports weapons) presented a petition of over 185,000 signatures to parliament on Friday in Berlin as part of a campaign to ban large-caliber handguns in Germany.

The campaign group was accompanied by the gun control organization founded following the 2009 Winnenden massacre, led by Hardy Schober, whose daughter was killed in the shooting.

The presentation was followed by a short debate in parliament, in which Green party domestic policy spokesman Wolfgang Wieland called for a ban on all firearms from private residences, and for guns and ammunition to be stored separately in sports clubs. "If neither of these things are in a household, then a criminal can't run away with them," he said.

Wieland also called for a total ban on all large caliber handguns and semi-automatic weapons, even for sport.

Insufficient measures

The protest came one year to the day after parliament stiffened Germany's guns laws in response to the Winnenden massacre of March 2009, in which a 17-year-old, whose father owned sports guns, killed 15 students and teachers in his former school, as well as several people nearby.

The group that accompanied the petition on Friday included several relatives of Winnenden victims. "German weapons law abets killing sprees, as it does the uncounted murders in domestic circumstances," said campaign spokesman Roman Grafe.

Weapons stored in police headquarters

A weapons amnesty was introduced in 2009

Grafe was also quick to condemn the extra measures introduced a year ago. "The changed gun laws do not impede massacres like Winnenden or Erfurt," he said, pointing out that sports club members still have access to semi-automatic large-caliber weapons. Grafe said that following the new legislation, media and politicians had given Germany a false sense of security.

The new security measures introduced in schools amounted to "knobs replacing handles on classroom doors," the spokesman said. He described it as the "simulation of a new gun law." "Young sports shooters," Grafe claimed, "can still train with deadly weapons."

By current German gun law, a firearms owner is subject to random inspections of his firearm storage facility, and can expect fines if firearms are not stored correctly. But Grafe said that firearms that are stored correctly can still be used for killing sprees, and that inspections barely cover a fraction of the over two million gun-owners in Germany.

Hardy Schober

Hardy Schober's daughter was killed in the Winnenden shooting

A weapons amnesty was also introduced last year for people to hand in illegally-owned guns, and the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where the Winnenden shootings took place, is currently calling for a further amnesty, while a national gun register is also being created and set to be launched this year.

British comparison

The "Keine Mordwaffen als Sportwaffen" campaign is using Great Britain as the example of how it believes the German government should act. Following a shooting spree in the Scottish town of Dunblane in 1996, the British government banned the private ownership of all handguns, and confiscated thousands of weapons in exchange for financial compensation. The move was also the result of a massive popular campaign that collected over a million signatures, despite heavy criticism from gun lobbies and sports clubs.

But the Green party's proposal also garnered criticism during the debate. Guenter Lach of the Christian Democratic Union said the proposals cast suspicion on all hunters and sports shooters, while Free Democratic Party parliamentarian Serkan Toeren claimed that Germany already had among the tightest gun controls in the world.

Author: Ben Knight (dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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