Germany moves to tighten weapons law after Neo-Nazi killings

Friday, April 11, 2014

A recently proposed draft bill foresees clearance by domestic intelligence for gun licenses, in a bid to prevent legal weapon sales to right-wing extremists

A recently proposed draft bill foresees clearance by domestic intelligence for gun licenses, in a bid to prevent legal weapon sales to right-wing extremists

BERLIN - Germany has moved to tighten its Weapons Act after recent investigations into the Neo-Nazi killings in 2000-2007.

The probes revealed that some right-wing extremists could have easily obtained gun licenses as they have gone unnoticed in the past in the criminal records of the police.

The second house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, agreed on a draft bill on Friday to change the current Weapons Act.

It would introduce a mandatory security clearance by the domestic intelligence agency for the purchase or possession of weapons.

The Bundesrat, which represents the federal states, said that the Neo-Nazi killings in 2000-2007 have shown the need for change in the current legislation.

Delegates of Germany's 16 state governments said in the bill that the investigation into the so-called " Zwickau terror cell" had revealed that some right-wing perpetrators of violence were ready to use arms to achieve their goals.

Broader investigations into the right wing scene also showed that some right-wing extremists  - albeit in small numbers - had legally purchased guns, despite being identified by the domestic intelligence agency as right-wing extremists, the bill said.

The Bundesrat has proposed in its draft bill to introduce stricter security checks in evaluating applications for gun purchases and a mandatory clearance from the domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

The draft bill to change the Weapons Act needs to be debated and passed in the first house of the federal parliament before becoming law.

According to the current gun legislation, authorities check criminal records of the police and judicial records before issuing weapons licenses. But authorities are not obliged to ask information from the domestic intelligence, which is closely monitoring the far-right scene.

The mystery on the ten murders in Germany between the years 2000-2007 could not be solved until 2011.

While German police long sought suspects among the Turkish community, even families of the victims, it was revealed in 2011 that the 'Zwickau terror cell', labelled as National Socialist Underground (NSU) by the Neo-Nazi extremists, was behind the murders of eight Turks, one Greek immigrant and a German policewoman.

The NSU was believed to have been founded by three far-right militants from the state of Thuringia in the early 2000s. Police have found 11 guns in the house of the NSU members in Zwickau.  

The shocking revelations in 2011 led to widespread criticism in Germany against the police and intelligence organizations for failing to see the big threat posed by the right-extremists. Since 2011, German government and intuitions have taken measures to combat the far-right much more fiercely.

According to reports by Germany's domestic intelligence, far-right parties and organizations had 21 thousand 750 members in 2013. Among them 9 thousand 600 are identified as right-wing extremists ready for violent acts.

Germany already made several changes to its gun legislation for stricter rules after the attacks to schools in 2002 in Erfurt and in 2009 in Winnenden. 

Latest statistics show that 1 million 450 thousand Germans are in possession of 5 million 500 thousand weapons. 

Each year, around 70 people are murdered by guns in Germany. According to a survey by the weekly Zeit, at least 54 people were murdered by weapons, which were legally purchased in half of the cases.

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