How can you legally carry a gun?

Arms in private hands

Gun ownership is strictly regulated in Germany

The German Weapons Act basically assumes that private individuals do not have to own or carry weapons because the state is responsible for defending the rights of individual citizens. In addition, there are groups of people, such as hunters, gun collectors or sport shooters, who want to own guns and / or do sports with them. For these, the handling of weapons must be regulated.

The Weapons Act therefore contains a large number of permits, regulations, special cases, exceptions and regulations for different groups of people, ages and types of weapons: a complex set of rules that we can only present in its basic features.

In Germany, only the police and the military are allowed to carry and use firearms in order to defend and protect the state and the citizens. Quite different in the USA: here, according to the constitution, everyone is allowed to carry weapons.

The Weapons Act defines who in Germany as a private person is allowed to own and use firearms. A distinction is made between simply owning and carrying weapons:

Different gun ownership cards entitle you to own guns. Anyone who wants to carry a weapon needs a small or a large gun license.

Gun ownership card: prove that you are suitable

Target marksmen, hunters and gun collectors need one in Germany Gun ownership card. To get it, the applicant must meet different criteria:

  • He must be "reliable and personally suitable"
  • he must have a certificate of competence
  • and he has to prove his need, i.e. that he is a hunter or a marksman.

Anyone who has committed criminal offenses or is a member of a prohibited organization is classified as "personally unsuitable or unreliable". Mental illness or drug addiction are also considered exclusion criteria - provided the examiner knows about them at all.

People up to the age of 25 must generally submit a specialist doctor or specialist psychological certificate about their mental and physical suitability if they want to own weapons.

There are around 1.4 million legal gun owners and almost six million registered private guns in Germany.

Every weapon must be registered

The weapons authorities enter all weapons that someone buys and owns on the weapon ownership card. For every weapon that a shooter buys, he must obtain a permit from the weapons authority. The weapons must be registered and registered centrally.

The owner is legally obliged to store the weapons properly. Depending on the type of weapon, there are safes of different strengths for this purpose. As a rule, the ammunition must be stored separately and also securely.

The holder of a gun ownership card can accumulate an unlimited number of guns in the course of his life. Gun ownership cards are valid for an unlimited period and are only withdrawn if the owner has committed a criminal offense.

The police can carry out checks on gun owners to check that all guns are registered and properly stored. The implementation of the control varies, in some federal states it is announced in advance. Many opponents of guns are calling for gun owners to be controlled more closely.

Only a few are allowed to carry weapons in public

Only with that Major or general gun license However, you can also use sharp firearms in public. There are also special requirements for this. For example, you have to have taken part in a specialist training course, have an official certificate of good conduct and show personal suitability.

What is decisive, however, is that a justification must be available that documents a particular risk to the applicant and proves that a weapon can reduce this risk.

This large gun license is only issued very rarely - for example for bodyguards, cash transport escorts or particularly endangered persons such as judges or public prosecutors. Transporting weapons to the hunting ground or the shooting range does not count as carrying weapons and is subject to special conditions.

The big gun license is only valid for three years. There are around 12,000 of them in Germany (as of 2016), most of them in the field of security companies.

The small gun license for alarm guns and Co.

The Small gun license was only introduced in 2003. It is issued by the police or another regulatory authority. The applicant must be 18 years old and reliable as well as physically and mentally suitable, i.e. not have any addiction problems, for example.

The information is compared with registers such as the federal central register and the public prosecutor's office.

With the small gun license you can carry irritant weapons, alarm weapons and signal weapons with you in public - but not at public meetings or events. This also applies to the large gun license.

These weapons carry a PTB mark. It documents that they are classified as alarm weapons by the Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt. These weapons may only be used in self-defense.

You can buy all these weapons without the small gun license. You don't need a gun license for the pepper spray in your handbag, but you can only officially use it against animals.

If you use such weapons against people, you make yourself liable to prosecution - a judge has to determine whether this happened in a self-defense situation.

More and more applications for the small gun license

Applications for the small gun license have risen sharply since 2015. At the end of 2016 there were around 450,000 small gun licenses. The police blame the overall increase in the number of break-ins and the deletion of police stations.

For personal safety, for a feeling of security - this is what most applicants cite as a reason for considering arming themselves.

The gun law has hardly been tightened

After the attacks in Paris in November 2015, the EU Commission proposed tightening gun laws across the EU. In 2016 different proposals were discussed in the EU.

The main concern was the ban on semi-automatic weapons similar to war weapons, the limitation of the magazines to a certain number of shots and a stronger check of the weapon owner. All of these proposals were overturned in the course of the negotiations.

All that remained were suggestions for regulations that relate to the conversion of so-called decorative weapons. These are weapons that have been made unsuitable for theater performances or museum purposes, for example, but - as has been shown in some attacks - can also be dismantled.

In addition, weapon parts must be marked and registered more strongly. The number of cartridges in the magazines was only slightly restricted. Only former war weapons converted into semi-automatic weapons were banned - other semi-automatic weapons remain allowed.

Author: Hildegard Kriwet