Freedom in Germany - Part IV: Weapons law


Initially I wasn't sure whether to include weapons law issues in this series or not. Our weapons law is rarely felt as a restriction of freedom in Germany - it's rather a kind of accident and crime prevention for most.

I've got a problem with German weapons law, though. It's coined by a very asymmetric political balance. We've got a anti-weapons lobby that flashes into the news as ad hoc assembly of journalists, politicians and bureaucrats every time when a high-profile crime (killing spree in a school and such) happens. They keep working on more restrictions after such events.
There's almost no counterweight. The hunter lobby cares only about hunters and the marginal sports marksmanship lobby cares only about CO2 rifles and pistols.
There's in theory a pro-gun lobby, but that's in practice unknown even among gun fans.

A handful of rather irrational politicians coupled with a handful of anti-gun bureaucrats seem to be responsible for a lot of absurd weapons law regulations.

The British have a problem with knife stabbing among youths - so since last year we've got regulations that make carrying a knife longer than 12cm a bad idea. Flick knifes are illegal anyway if I remember correctly.
My favourite knife has a 5" blade. Shit happens. Well, the police shall turn a blind eye to it if I use it on trekking.

Real guns need to be locked away in expensive safes - but the father of the last idiot who did a gun rampage didn't follow the law, so we are likely to see a requirement to allow inspections of homes for checking the proper storage of the weapons. Those who wouldn't comply with such inspections would lose their license.
This is so seriously bad that we see resistance to this plan even in the chancellor's party.

Another possible new regulation (changes in weapons law always add bureaucracy and restrictions, there's never a step to more freedom) is about paintball/gotcha.
Seriously, they want to forbid this game "because it simulates "killing" and is therefore allegedly "immoral".

OK, so how do they want to handle the Bundeswehr and our conscription then if simulating killing "immoral"? And why should an "immoral" activity be illegal if there's absolutely no victim?

Btw, what about water pistols? Are they also "immoral" enough to become illegal?

I don't believe that the state should care about morality issues unless it's about cheating in economic actions. Yes, this includes a couple of sexual taboos as well.
The state should not watch our morality - we don't want to be that close to people like the Taliban.

The moral argument is a very poor one anyway. They beat on the poor paintballers because they're too young to have members of parliament amongst themselves (compare with hunters...). The paintballers have absolutely zero relevant lobby - even less than the allegedly existing but invisible "weapons lobby".
In fact, I suspect that the paintballers are mere scapegoats because politicians don't know how to prevent gun rampages (nobody does). They want to look as if they were doing policy, though - and so they just add a few prohibitions and get their time on air. Prohibitions cost nothing - unlike training programs, for example.
Well, prohibitions cost freedom. Hopefully, they will cost votes as well.

The weapons law of Germany is over the top. It's not just restricting firearms, but used for a kind of "totally unarmed civilian society" crusade. We lack a political counterweight, a counter-lobby.
The situation is worse than for the computer games industry that's under permanent fire for its first person shooters. Maybe our weapons law will soon forbid those for their "immorality" as well.

The overall choice of the limits for civilian armament should be defined by the majority (well, their representatives). That's how democracy works.
The turnout becomes ugly if asymmetric influence and disinformation rule the playing field, though. The result are unnecessary and absurd limitations of our freedom.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: The absurdity of the attempt to forbid paintball is easily visible to those who look at reality without an ideological lens.
The police knows no relationship between paintball and crimes, and social workers employ paintball to reduce the aggressiveness of criminal boys.

The principal similarity of paintball with Völkerball, a popular ball game for children, is another hint at the absurdity.

edit 2009-05-14:
The government presented its law proposal yesterday, but withdrew today: Paintball will not be outlawed by law before the elections next autumn.

It wasn't just the pressure by paintballers, but by many more who are fed up that has stopped the plan.
There were reports about members of parliament complaining about hundreds of angry e-mails and letters - related to paintball, internet censorship and such.

It would probably have been impossible to execute such a law because the paintballers might have gained a recognition as sport, and the politicians didn't dare to outlaw killing-simulating "sports" (like fencing), just "games". The law would - as a side-effect - probably have outlawed water gun toys as well. I didn't check for the detail, but their reasoning applied to water guns as well.
Their whole reasoning was ideology-driven and in conflict with well-established parts of our culture (boxing, fencing, chess, water gun toys) - their choice of paintballers as scapegoats was unsuccessful because too many people are fed up and the next elections will be close.


  1. Yea, that is exactly the problem. Politicians all over the world prefer to ban guns, and be seen to be doing something, rather than admit that don't know how to solve the problem.

  2. That's a common myth spread by some foreign weapons lobbies like the NRA.
    There were in fact many dictatorships in history that didn't disarm their population.

    The German weapon's law dates back to 1928 and wasn't significantly changed until 1938 as far as I know.
    The 1938 change is quite unimportant, as civilian weapons were already registered under the 1928 law and confiscated for the military in 1939 anyway.

  3. There it is the way BBC "paints" the scenario... http://tinyurl.com/qa9ljf