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Hamburg Shooting Brings ‘Lax’ Gun Laws into Focus, Sparks Fury in Germany 

Gunman was granted a firearms license despite many psychological red flags

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

GERMANY: Gun laws in Germany, where owning a weapon is among the highest in Europe, may become even tighter in the wake of last week’s mass shooting, which took seven lives—including an unborn child—in a Jehovah’s Witness hall in Hamburg.

The attack has brought up the old question of whether or not the different parts of the federal government are working together. It has also helped those in the ruling coalition who want stricter gun laws.

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Authorities in Hamburg have emphasized the swiftness of the police reaction, saying that a specialized unit was on the scene minutes after Philipp Fusz, 35, started shooting. Since 2021, the city has been testing a specialized squad modelled after a task force established in Vienna following a shooting that left four people dead there in November 2020.

From Monday to Thursday, between noon and 10 p.m., two vehicles with four heavily armed officers in each have been patrolling the streets of Hamburg. This has been seen as a sign that the government has learned from the mass shootings that have happened in the past.

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When Fusz, a freelance business consultant who left the local Jehovah’s Witness chapter 1.5 years ago, tried to kill the 36 people inside the church with bursts of fire from his semi-automatic Heckler & Koch P30, the officers blasted their way in within four minutes of the emergency calls. This probably saved many lives.

Fusz—who had a dispute with other members over a book he had written, self-published, and compared to the Bible—was pursued to the first floor of the hall and killed himself, thereby shooting himself in the chest.

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But now, people are questioning why the specialized force isn’t sent out every day. 

In a nation whose fragmented political system is frequently a source of complaint, a reckoning is about to occur over Hamburg’s weapons control authority’s reaction to an anonymous letter that was sent two months ago regarding Fusz’s mental health.

Officers visited Fusz on February 7 at his apartment in west Hamburg and only verbally warned him after discovering a loose bullet on top of the safe where his gun and ammunition were meant to be kept. 

Even though Fusz’s book and the anonymous letter said he had a mental disorder but didn’t get help, it doesn’t look like the city’s health services were involved in the unannounced visit.

Fusz is a member of the Hanseatic Gun Club in Hamburg. He has had a licence to carry a gun since December of last year. As Hamburgers prepare to bury their dead, everyone is talking about Fusz’s licence.

Sebastian Fiedler, the SPD’s parliamentary group’s spokesman for crime policy, stated: “If not only the on-site inspection had taken place but also this publicly available information had been consulted, then the law would have provided a sufficient basis for action to request a psychological report. You have to examine why the security authorities did not get to this point.”

Germany is one of the countries in Europe with some of the strictest gun regulations, but it also has a high per capita rate of firearm ownership. More than 5 million guns are legally owned by about a million individuals. most of whom are foresters, sports shooters, or hunters, but while violence is still uncommon, an average of 155 people are slain by gunfire each year. Controls have been gradually tightened over the past two decades.

The legal age to purchase a firearm was increased from 18 to 21 years old following the 2002 school massacre in Erfurt, Thuringia, which claimed 16 lives. The same number of people lost their lives in a shooting at a school in Winnenden, close to Stuttgart, in 2009, prompting the introduction of random spot checks to ensure firearms were being stored properly.

Nancy Faeser, the federal minister for the interior, had already promised to enact additional controls, such as a complete ban on private ownership of semi-automatic rifles, but she faced opposition from her coalition partner, the liberal FDP.

Also Read: Germany on the Verge of Recession amid Energy Crisis


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