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Will Germany tighten gun laws following alleged plot to overthrow government?

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The Local ([email protected])
Will Germany tighten gun laws following alleged plot to overthrow government?
Assault rifles from World War II in the armoury of the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) in Rampe, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Büttner

The foiled plot to attack the German parliament which resulted in police raids across the country last week has reignited the debate on German gun laws. Here’s what you need to know.

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What’s going on?

Last week, German police arrested 25 members of a far-right "terror group" suspected of planning an attack on the German parliament.

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The raids targeted alleged members of the "Citizens of the Reich" (Reichsbürger) movement suspected of making plans to violently force their way into the German parliament with a small armed group.

The Reichsbürger movement is a group of far-right extremists who question the legitimacy of the Federal Republic of Germany and refuse to follow its laws and instead, believe in the continued existence of the Third Reich.

READ ALSO: Who was involved in the alleged plot to 'overthrow German democracy'?

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution now believes the movement to have 23,000 members and ten percent of them are considered to be ready for violence; last year alone, 239 acts of violence by Reich citizens were recorded.

The Welt newspaper reported on Monday evening that a total of 93 weapons were seized in the raids last week - among them were 19 handguns, 25 long guns as well as knives, crossbows, and alarm pistols.

What is the government proposing?

Since a Reichsbürger killed a police officer in 2016, the German authorities have stepped up their efforts to disarm members of the scene.

By the end of 2021, 1050 "Reich citizens" had had their weapons permits revoked, but around 500 people associated with the movement still hold such permits.

READ ALSO: What is Germany’s extremist Reichsbürger movement?

"Despite the reforms of recent years, enemies of the constitution can get hold of legal weapons too easily," said Marcel Emmerich, chairman of the Green Party in the Interior Committee. He called for a "principle of rule denial" which would mean that those known to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as extremists must not be granted a weapons permit.

A 9 mm calibre pistol, cartridges and a magazine on a weapons possession card. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser now wants to tighten gun laws and warns of a growing danger from the Reichsbürger scene. "We are not dealing with harmless nutcases, but with terror suspects who are now all in custody pending trial," the SPD politician told Bild am Sonntag.

Faeser already presented an action plan against right-wing extremism last March, the main aim of which is to prevent extremists and mentally ill people from coming into possession of weapons. Now, she looks set to push on with these proposals, as she announced that the government will "further tighten gun laws in the near future".

According to the action plan, the Federal Ministry of the Interior wants to develop procedures to revoke and deny weapons permits by setting up a new forum in which the constitutional protection, weapons and police authorities can exchange information and in which administrative courts can also be involved. 

Will the plans be met with resistance?

While the Greens support Faeser’s plans, the FDP considers the existing rules sufficient for disarming Reichbürger. Faction vice chairman Konstantin Kuhle said the state should not turn against law-abiding sport shooters and hunters and that instead, the weapons authorities need more personnel. 

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Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) is also calling for more controls on the Reichsbürger scene and gun ownership. "What is certainly clear is that the number of controls must be increased," the CSU politician said.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Bavarian security authorities took away 911 firearms from so-called Reichbürger in the state between October 2016 and the middle of this year. This included cases in which the authorities revoked weapons licenses and possession cards.

There will soon be a new recommendation to the mayors and district councils in Bavaria on how they should "deal with this issue," Herrmann said. In Bavaria, the municipalities and district administrations are responsible for carrying out checks on registered gun owners.

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