The church bells in Erfurt rang out on Thursday shortly before 11am – the time a decade ago when 19-year-old Robert Steinhäuser started shooting at his former school there. A day of commemoration was planned in the Thuringian city.
It was April 26 when Steinhäuser took a pump-action shotgun and a large-calibre pistol to the Gutenberg Gymnasium and spent two hours roaming the building, picking out 12 teachers and shooting them. He also killed two students, the school secretary and a policeman before locking himself in a cupboard and shooting himself.
The case was the biggest school shooting in Germany and left the country in shock.
A gun law reform which was, ironically, due to be discussed in parliament that day, was withdrawn and strengthened before being passed.
Since then sports shooters under the age of 25 have to undergo a medical-psychological examination to determine whether they are suitable gun keepers, while age limits for buying and owning guns were raised.
Sports shooters have to be at least 21 rather than the previous limit of 18, while hunting gun licenses are limited to those over 18, rather than 16.
Much attention was also focused on the possible role that violent video games might play in making young men more inured to violence, with some regional attempts to limit access to first-person-shooter games.
As the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper pointed out on Thursday, the fact that Steinhäuser had bought his weapons with a relatively simple fraudulent tweak to his gun license, was not tackled.
Seven years later, in March 2009, the 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer killed 15 people, mostly at his school in Winnenden, before committing suicide – he had taken one of his father’s 15 weapons. Although most of Kretschmer’s guns were locked away, he had kept the pistol near his bed.
The case prompted calls for a law to stop guns being kept in private homes – restricting them to gun club safes. Such proposals have been rejected by most mainstream politicians – but were revived on Thursday by an action group from Winnenden.
“Much has changed since Erfurt, but it is a long way,” Gisela Mayer, spokeswoman for the group. She said “laws of the highest possible security,” were needed.