Germany to consider gun fingerprint scanners | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 10.04.2009
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Germany to consider gun fingerprint scanners

The German government is exploring introducing strict new measures on deadly weapons, such as biometric identification methods and better safety locks on guns.

An image of a fingerprint

Electronic keys with fingerprint scanners are already on the market -- for about 260 euros

Sparked by the deadly shooting in the southern German town of Winnenden in March, the country's interior minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, says Berlin is working on ways of imposing tougher restrictions on gun access.

Schaueble told the daily Rheinische Post newspaper that fingerprint scanners installed on gun case locks is one possibility, while better safety locks on the firearms themselves would be also be considered.

“There are interesting technical possibilities,” he said.

His comments follow the case in March, when a 17-year-old youth shot dead 15 people and himself, using his father's pistol. He had apparently obtained the security code to his father's gun chest.

Experts doubt effectivness

But some weapon experts doubt the effectiveness of the biometric system for weapons. David Schiller, editor of the arms magazine, Visier, says items like the “Smart Gun” -- which can only be operated by the owner -- sound good but are not the solution.

He says fingerprint-scanning devices could be duped, while strong magnetic forces could destroy the electronic capabilities of locks.

Schiller favors improved education and less violence in the media.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

Schaeuble and his state colleagues will consider changes at their conference in June

Lapses in gun law enforcement

Germany experienced another deadly shooting this week, when a 60-year-old man shot dead his sister-in-law and wounded two people before turning the gun on himself, outside a court near Munich.

The two incidents have attracted a lot of attention from both the media and Berlin. Germany's gun laws were significantly tightened following the Erfurt school massacre in 2002, when a gunman killed 16 people and himself.

Interior Minister Schaeuble said while Germany has one of the world's toughest arms-control laws, the latest cases show there have been lapses in its implementation and enforcement.

He has begun talks with officials from Germany's 16 states as well as gun clubs and hunting groups about better firearm security. Recommendations from the talks are expected to handed down at a conference of state interior ministers in early June, where changes to gun laws are on the agenda.

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