Hundreds of far-right German Reichsbürger still armed, own gun permits | News | DW | 09.10.2018
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Hundreds of far-right German Reichsbürger still armed, own gun permits

Hundreds of German Reichsbürger still own firearms despite police efforts to disarm the movement. The group, which refuses to recognize the federal government, gained traction after a member killed a policeman in 2016.

Hundreds of members of Germany's far-right Reichsbürger scene still hold weapon permits and possess firearms, despite police efforts to crack down on the radical movement.

A joint investigation published on Tuesday by German broadcaster NDR and the Süddeutsche Zeitung found that as many as 600 members still own rifles and pistols, while only around half of all known members have had their permits revoked.

The findings come almost two years after all of Germany's regional interior ministers across the 16 states agreed to disarm the radical movement. The decision was made after a Reichsbürger member shot dead a policeman and injured three others in Bavaria in October 2016.

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Who are the Reichsbürger?

The Reichsbürger movement (roughly translated as "Citizens of the Reich") subscribes to the idea that the 1937 borders of the German Empire still exist and that the modern-day Federal Republic is effectively a puppet state still occupied by the Allied powers.

Members refuse to recognize the German Basic Law, the government, police authorities and the courts, while some are also anti-Semitic.

According to Germany's domestic intelligence agency, as many as 18,000 people are believed to be part of the movement, several of whom have been classed as violent right-wing extremists with an affinity for weapons. 

The NDR/Süddeutsche report broke down how heavily armed members in some German states were. For example, in the state of Brandenburg, just 37 Reichsbürger members own some 150 firearms, while in Thuringia 18 members owned 79 rifles.

Read more: Extremist crimes in Germany down, number of fanatics up

Municipal authorities have complained that they lack the necessary resources to disarm all known members and that the legal process to revoke a weapons license is too protracted.

Konstantin von Notz, a lawmaker with the Green party, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that some officials were still underestimating the threat posed by the Reichsbürger scene. "The responsible authorities must finally take decisive action before something terrible happens again," he said, referring to the killing of an officer two years ago.

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