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Tougher laws

March 11, 2010

On the first anniversary of a school shooting in the southern town of Winnenden, German president Horst Koehler demanded tougher gun laws to prevent a recurrence of last year's massacre, in which 15 people died.

German President Horst Koehler
Koehler made stern calls for tougher gun lawsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

During a moving ceremony remembering the victims of last year's school shooting in the town of Winnenden, President Horst Koehler on Thursday said Germany's gun laws were still too lenient. The German government had pledged to take measures to prevent access to dangerous weapons last year.

"Both houses of parliament and the governments of all German states must bring the process of toughening our gun laws forward," Koehler said in front of hundreds of mourning guests.

He added that "gun clubs should also aid in the process of preventing general access to deadly weapons. Much has already been done, but much more must follow - so that people capable of committing dangerous acts can't threaten our schools with attacks like this one."

The gun used in the Winnenden school shooting
Tim K. had easy access to this semi-automatic pistolImage: AP/Reproduktion: Daniel Roland

Last year on the eleventh of March, a 17-year-old former student stormed the Albertville Secondary School in Winnenden with his father's semi-automatic pistol, killing nine students and three teachers. After police arrived, the boy - known as Tim K. - fled the scene, hijacking a car and killing three more people before finally taking his own life.

Tim K.'s father, who had stored the pistol unlocked in his bedroom, is expected to appear before a German court this year to face manslaughter charges.

Media also to blame

In his address, Koehler also called on the media to join the fight against juvenile violence. He said it had been scientifically proven that detailed reports on violent episodes can cause others to imitate and reproduce such violent acts.

"We need clearly defined rules for new reports that include all areas of the media; our press must develop a code that strives to prevent the recurrence of such acts," Koehler said.

The memorial at the Albertville Secondary School in Winnenden
A plaque and flowers were laid for each of the 15 victimsImage: AP

Together with President Koehler, students who witnessed the attack last year laid flowers and plaques for each of the 15 victims.

At the end of the service, which also featured speeches by students and musical performances by a school orchestra, mourners were invited to lay a stone, inscribed with a personal message.

"Even out of stones, blossoms can grow for the future," said the school's principal, Astrid Hahn, in a closing message.

"There is a long road ahead for our school after last year's tragedy, and it's a road that will at times certainly be rugged," Hahn added.

Editor: Rob Turner