Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gun laws in Germany

Today I ask my readers to remember the victims of the Columbine shooting. April is a cruel month for many reasons. But we are traveling and life goes on in the midst of grief and sad memories. They are never far from the surface. We find ourselves in the very places where so many died during World War II and where the awful Nazi concentration camps were located. It's sobering but important for us to remember. These countries have recovered from these atrocities but will never forget.

For a very brief time on our cruise, we will be in Germany. Specifically we will start our Danube cruise at Regensburg and on to Vilshofen and then Passau. First Regensburg. Regensburg is a medieval city in Bavaria and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city dates back to the Stone Age and once had a Roman fort. From the article:
"From the early 6th century, Regensburg was the seat of the Agilolfing ruling family. From about 530 to the first half of the 13th century, it was the capital of Bavaria. Regensburg remained an important city during the reign of Charlemagne. In 792, Regensburg hosted the ecclesiastical section of Charlemagne's General Assembly. The bishops in council condemned the heresy of Adoptionism taught by the Spanish bishops, Elipandus of Toledo and Felix of Urgel. After the partition of the Carolingian Empire, the city became the seat of the Eastern Frankish ruler, Louis II the German in 843. Two years later, fourteen Bohemian princes came to Regensburg to receive baptism there. This was the starting point of Christianization of the Czech people, and the diocese of Regensburg became the mother diocese of Prague. These events had a wide impact on the cultural history of Czech lands, as they were consequently incorporated into the Roman Catholic and not into the Slavic-Orthodox world. The fact is well remembered, and a memorial plate at St John's Church (the alleged place of the baptism) was unveiled a few years ago, commemorating the incident in the Czech and German languages.
In 1096, on the way to the First Crusade, Peter the Hermit led a mob of Crusaders that attempted to force the mass conversion of the Jews of Regensburg and killed all those who resisted.[3]
Between 1135 and 1146, the Stone Bridge across the Danube was built at Regensburg. This bridge opened major international trade routes between northern Europe and Venice, and this began Regensburg's golden age as a residence of wealthy trading families. Regensburg became the cultural centre of southern Germany and was celebrated for its gold work and fabrics."
Unlike many cities in Germany, Regensburg was not heavily damaged during World War II. More from the article:
Between 1945 and 1949, Regensburg was the site of the largest Displaced persons (DP) camp in Germany. At its peak in 1946–1947, the workers' district of Ganghofersiedlung housed almost 5,000 Ukrainian and 1,000 non-Ukrainian refugees and displaced persons. With the approval of U.S. Military Government in the American Allied Occupation Zone, Regensburg and other DP camps organised their own camp postal service. In Regensburg, the camp postal service began operation on December 11, 1946.[4]
Vilshofen is a city known for its' Oktoberfest though obviously we won't be there in the Fall. It is described as a charming Bavarian town with fine Bavarian beer.

Passau is noted for many things. It is also located in Bavaria. It's history goes back to pre-Roman times and is where the Danube joins with 2 other rivers. From the article:
During the Renaissance and early modern period, Passau was one of the most prolific centres of sword and bladed weapon manufacture in Germany (after Solingen). Passau smiths stamped their blades with the Passau wolf, usually a rather simplified rendering of the wolf on the city's coat-of-arms. Superstitious warriors believed that the Passau wolf conferred invulnerability on the blade's bearer, and thus Passau swords acquired a great premium. As a result, the whole practice of placing magical charms on swords to protect the wearers came to be known for a time as "Passau art." (See Eduard Wagner, Cut and Thrust Weapons, 1969). Other cities' smiths, including those of Solingen, recognized the marketing value of the Passau wolf and adopted it for themselves. By the 17th century, Solingen was producing more wolf-stamped blades than Passau was. In 1662, a devastating fire consumed most of the city. Passau was subsequently rebuilt in the Baroque style.
Passau was secularised and divided between Bavaria and Salzburg in 1803. The portion belonging to Salzburg became part of Bavaria in 1805. ...
From 1892 until 1894, Adolf Hitler and his family lived in Passau. The city archives mention Hitler being in Passau on four different occasions in the 1920s for speeches.
During World War II, the town housed three sub-camps of the infamous Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp: Passau I (Oberilzm├╝hle), Passau II (Waldwerke Passau-Ilzstadt) and Passau III (Jandelsbrunn).
On May 3, 1945, a message from Major General Stanley Eric Reinhart’s 261st Infantry Regiment stated at 3:15 am: "AMG Officer has unconditional surrender of PASSAU signed by Burgermeister, Chief of Police and Lt. Col of Med Corps there. All troops are to turn themselves in this morning."
It was the site of a post World War II American sector displaced persons camp.
I'm sure some of my readers are interested in the fact that bladed weapons have been manufactured in Passau for a long time.

Now, let's look at the German gun laws. Germany's gun laws are categorized as restrictive. From this article, you can see that licensing of gun owners and registration of guns is required in Germany. It is interesting to note this:
Applicants for a gun owner’s licence in Germany are required to prove genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example, hunting, target shooting, collection, personal protection (in exceptional circumstances), security. (...) 
An applicant for a firearm licence in Germany must pass background checks which consider criminal and mental61 records
Where a past history, or apprehended likelihood of family violence exists, the law in Germany does not stipulate (unless reflected in a criminal record)3 that a gun licence should be denied or revoked
In Germany, an understanding of firearm safety and the law, tested in a theoretical and/or practical training course is required3 for a firearm licence.
Also semi automatic weapons are not allowed except for special circumstances. And the most important thing is that, most likely due to the strict laws, the gun homicide rate in Germany is .02/100,000. There were 15 total handgun homicides in Germany in 2010. The gun suicide rate in 2010 was .94/100,000. Again, so much fewer than in the U.S. Gun accidental deaths are also almost non-existant.

Gun laws matter. I will feel safe, at least from bullets, while traveling in Germany. It's so good to be where common sense prevails. And while cruising on the Danube, I will also enjoy the amazing beauty of the villages and cities along the way as well as the history of the area.


  1. PART 1: You couldn't have picked a more pleasant country to visit.
    Germany is another country that I can comment on. Though not with near the authority of intimacy that I have with the Czech Republic.
    Unlike the Czechs, who lost their ability to defend themselves after the Thirty Years War, Germans did not loose theirs until the 1930s when Hitler famously declared that he had made it a safe country by banning all personal firearms. Kristall Nacht followed shortly.
    This is not an argument for either country to change their laws. Their cultures and histories are vastly different from ours. Their laws work for them.
    I have found that most German and Czech immigrants to the U.S. that I meet are gun owners, like me. Also, like me, they do not begrudge their former country for their gun laws because it works well for their respective countries.
    I was stationed in Nurnberg for a few years. It was every teenager's dream, as you can imagine. I made friends with some German teenagers, and we basically finished growing up together. After the Sandyhook tragedy I called and I asked for their opinions. Without fail they said that we should get rid of all of our guns like Germany. I then asked what shall I do, because I am in a wheelchair, if someone breaks in to rape and kill my wife and daughter. Call the police, was the answer. To be fair, they haven't visited us in Colorado, so they do not really understand where we live. So when I explained to them that we live a minimum of 45 minutes away from a sheriff at any given time, provided there aren't any inclement conditions, they reconsidered. Germany doesn't have the vastness of the U.S.
    I then asked what they would suggest if I were in bear country. The answer was "Well, that would be different."
    In both situations the Germans are willing to put a gun in my hands.
    The point is that American situations do not happen in Germany, or in Czech.
    Continued in PART 2

    Richard, in Colorad

  2. PART 2: Germany has now banned the carry of knives. The reason is that Germans are very good with knives, as well as clubs and sticks. Probably better than Americans.
    This is cultural. In the Olympics, Germany, and Europe in general, does very well in fencing. The U.S. does very well in Archery and shooting. Europeans produce the best Knights Templar movies. The U.S. produces the best Cowboy and Indian movies.
    Culture is very hard to change. It takes generations.
    One German friend of mine, Felix, went to Namibia to teach English. As you probably know, there is a sizable German population in Namibia. They are armed in Namibia. While Felix was there he visited other friends of his who owned a farm. They had a loaded rifle in the vehicle at all times. Felix was afraid, for no other reason than it was a gun. Logically he knew it was silly, guns don't kill people, people kill people. He was still afraid though. Germany has done a very good job of convincing people that guns are evil.
    In Germany guns are evil. Semi-automatic weapons are not allowed (I will take your word for it because I do not know). Yet, Germany produces some of the finest CIVILIAN semi-automatic weapons in the world for export to the civilian market throughout the world. They have a huge projectile industry, which is exported to civilian markets throughout the world as well. This is not standing by their principles. I would warn that we may commit the same sin if we are not extremely careful in our own gun debate.
    The U.S. needs to tweak it's gun laws, not overhaul them. Americans are not Europeans, if we were we would be able to play soccer as well as them. Our values, history, and culture demand different laws than Europe's. Neither is more noble than the other, but European laws could no more work for Americans than a German playing baseball or bull riding in a rodeo.
    Though I have visited a lot of European countries, I am intimate only with Czech Republic and Germany. Both I would gladly go to war for in order to protect their ways of life.
    If you get a chance, and have a car, Zweisel is a wonderful little city on the German side of the Bohemian Forest.
    My wife and I are both from small farm towns, but if we had to live in a big city...It would be Nurnberg. If you get the chance it is well worth it!

    Richard, in Colorado

  3. Thanks for your comments Richard. We appear to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Don't you find it interesting that in spite of the false assertion that if only the Jews and others had had their guns they could have stopped the Nazis, the Germans have chosen to have strict gun laws? Of all countries who might want their citizens armed just in case, they are one of the strictest. Further, your false assertion that people like me intend to take your guns is bogus. So your rights and your guns are safe. But if we don't strengthen our laws, our children may not be.

  4. We are opposites, but you are not ranting and raving. So a discussion with you seems like it might be refreshing because where I live everyone is on my side. Almost, half of my neighbors think that I am liberal because I would like to see some small changes in our laws. I was going to ask you where your "main street" is on your blog. I am awful with computers, but I would like to hear some ideas to questions that I have from someone on the other side of the isle. I do not believe that the Nazis would have been stopped, even if every Jew in the nation was an armed militant. The only thing that would have stopped the Nazis would have been an armed revolution by a majority of the populace. My point is that erosion of rights starts somewhere. Not beginning with gun rights, of course, but they are a part of it. -Richard

  5. Well Richard, I don't rant and rave. I don't know too many people who work on gun violence prevention who do. Many of us have lost someone in a shooting and just want fewer peoplevtondie. We have a right to rant, actually. I suggest that you not listen to the rants coming from the NRA lobbyists who don't even want the smallest of changesvtongun laws. Paranoia is never a good thing.

  6. You may have a different view of me than what is true. If you have lost someone, I am terribly sorry. It must be a terrible pain. The NRA I have ignored for years. They are too far right (for lack of a better word). When I speak to people on the other side, there are just as many rants.
    I personally have used armslist. I have always wondered why some people on the site insist on writing in their ads "NO FELONS". It is like they think that a felon can't act clean cut.
    I never considered that it could be used in a crime. It just never dawned on me until lately. I would like to have background checks made into law. I don't think that it changes our rights in the least. I don't like it, but I know that it must be done.
    I have heard that it is unenforceable. That is true, unless a sting is set up. However, it keeps people such as myself from selling or trading my guns to people without a background check. I, and most honest people won't take the risk. It doesn't affect advertising on armslist, I would still be able to do it. Just a check before handing it over. It is already illegal to ship across state lines, or receive it over state lines without an FFL. So I don't think that it changes too much.
    I would also like to see mental health included in the background checks. That also gets people screaming. New York is trying, but they blew it. How would you think we could get around H.I.P.A. I think that exceptions could be made. There are already exceptions for freedom of religion, it can't hurt anyone ie. human sacrifices. Background checks are an exception. Why not exceptions for medical records? Of course, a person can pass everything and still snap. You can't prevent it all, but I would like at least to see a dent in it. As you can imagine, with as little impact as possible to "My guns". Not likely, but magic fairies might exist!_Richard

  7. Richard,- it sounds like we want the same things for the most part. Reasonable gun laws can co-exist with the second amendment and always have, actually. I hope you will work to get some reasonable laws passed. Your voice is important.

  8. I know this post is a bit in the past and my post will be a bit long, but I would like to share my story with you as I am a German/American and have spent a lot of time in both countries. I, myself, am a gun owner. I have been around firearms for a very long time, since moving here to the States in 1989 when I was still young. I have hunted, I have shot for leisure, and I also carry a firearm for self defense. I have carried a firearm for more than 4 years, and luckily have yet to remove my firearm from the holster to defend myself. I had a background check completed and spent time with a firearms instructor to get my license to carry a concealed pistol. With all that background, I do enjoy my right to own a firearm.

    The last trip I took to Germany was quite a few years ago, to celebrate my grandmother's 70th birthday. Knowing the restrictions that are in place in Germany, imagine my surprise to find that someone I knew had a firearm. This person kept it at home as a way to defend themselves. I know, someone I knew had an illegal firearm, in an area that most civilized people would not dare to venture to once the street lights came on. I won't say that I would commend his choice to do something illegal, considering that I took all the necessary steps to own my firearms legally, but I also understood his need. On that note, I also want to point out that Germans in general are very passive people. You won't see the nightly bar fight at the "disco." Most of the time I spent there as an older teen was spending time with good friends in an atmosphere I loved, and just as you stated in your post above, I always felt calm and at ease when I was out having fun. I didn't fear being brought into a fight or having a gun pulled on me because I bumped someone. Also, I remember walking through the airport in Frankfurt and being quite amazed by the amount of Polizei officers that carried a bit more than just a pistol. As Richard stated, the culture and lifestyles of Germans are VERY different when compared to much of the U.S. But, as you have read from my experience, things there are changing, and unfortunately not for the better.

  9. That brings me to a very unnerving but honest point, and hopefully some answers from the other side that I have never truly had answered. In the U.S., we hear about shootings on a regular basis. The largest city near me is also our state's capital, and the news is ripe with homicides and shootings. Hence the reason that I chose to purchase and carry a firearm for personal protection. I know some of my questions may sound like they are echoed in the halls of the infamous NRA, but since common sense is something we all should strive for, my questions are based on that. My first question to you is also the broadest. Why should we pass more gun legislation? When you look at the common core of criminals, aren't they disobeying laws to make them the criminals? I'm not saying laws shouldn't exist, but in the words of a few wise people that I heard this from, doesn't a lock keep an honest man honest? Background checks have not shown to be useful at all. If you do a quick search on how criminals get guns, the first few will lead you to those guns being purchased LEGALLY at firearms dealers and then handed over to the criminal by whoever purchased it. Now that would make a strong argument for all transfers to have a background check done on all transfers, and with billions of dollars spent, that could be a possibility. But criminals have a great knack of bypassing laws, considering their trade involves the mastery of that very skill. It will remove a marginal amount of "illegal" guns from the street, I admit, but it still isn't enough. So what is the next step? What is the next big idea? My first suggestion is to actually enforce firearm laws to the fullest extent they could possibly be. The death penalty is a viable option for someone who takes another's life. Especially in a case such as the Aurora shootings. But also consider that "mass shootings" are rare compared to the shootings we hear about constantly.

    Although my opinion is just that, an opinion... I look at the difference of the American culture versus that of the Germans. Spending my childhood years and most of my teenage summers in Germany, the difference in how people view each other, I believe, is a large factor in why Germany is so different. From my personal experiences, they are more apt to value life as a whole. The parents are more involved with their children. The schools are a place for learning, not being bullied. That, I feel, is the basis of what Richard was describing.

    Unfortunately, more restrictions and laws may curb a little of the crime for a short time, but in the long run hinder the people that actually follow and obey them. I hope that I wasn't ranting and raving as those NRA followers do, and hope to learn a few things as well.

    Schoennen Tag,


  10. Of course laws work. Don't you go get one when you buy a gun from an FFL? What if we had no background checks at ? Imagine then who, would get their hands on guns? By your "logic", let's have no traffic laws or seatbelt laws or any for that matter. But as a society we have decided there are some things people should not be able to do in the interest of public safety. 2 million people have been stopped from buying guns since the Brady law passed,in 1994. We just need to expand them to private sales at the least,on the Internet and at gun shows. We know some of our mass shootings have happened because people who shouldn't have guns got them anyway. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Milwaukee spa shooting to name a few. Why not save lives if we can? You won't be affected by this. It is not just criminals who get guns in this way. It's otherwise law abiding people who became criminals in an instant .We should stop gun exchanges to,those who shouldn't have them by cracking down on "bad apple" gun dealers, stop straw purchasing, safely storing guns, expanded background checks,. All guns start out as legal sales. Let's keep,them that way.

  11. I never said that the laws we have aren't useful, and even suggested actually enforcing most of them more. And honestly, I'm not an opponent of background checks. I did get one when I bought my pistol, and honestly didn't mind waiting the 15 minutes it took to get my purchase cleared. And although it really hasn't been brought up, I would like to know what your thoughts are on adding mental health into background checks. What types of "illnesses" would bar a person from obtaining a firearm?

    As far as safe storage, I store my pistol as close to me as possible. A self-defense weapon you can't reach is a useless paperweight. This goes for any weapon of your choosing. My children don't even think about the guns in the house because to them they are just another part of daily life. They have been raised around them, considering they have seen them in corners of the house. They have shot them and are very well aware of their capabilities. This leaves criminals that break in to steal them. For now, the only firearm I own is the one I carry. It is with me at all times (minus the times where posting makes having it with me illegal). Once i do purchase a few more firearms, I wouldn't mind getting a safe for them, but as far as my personal defense weapon, I would fight tooth and nail to keep it where I can reach it quickly.

    As was said above, the erosion of rights are the fears held by many law-abiding gun owners and should be feared by everyone. Common sense to some may not be common sense to others. People such as former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg wanting to ban things such as salt and soft drinks is downright ridiculous. And considering the same with seat belts, no one but the person in that seat suffers when they decide not to wear it, short of some extenuating circumstances. But for the good of "society", seat belts are required to be worn. Again, before you feel I think the law is useless, children should always be properly secured in the seat, and ignorant parents sometimes need a friendly reminder (in other words, a ticket). Maybe I'm just rambling, which tends to happen after a long work day, but I'm making sense to myself. LOL Not meaning any disrespect or offense, but when I see or hear "common sense gun laws," I see Senator Feinstein holding a rifle in a manner that would make most responsible gun owners cringe. Reading your responses, I am seeing that in a different light, but still tend to be on the defensive. Thank you for being a bit more in the "middle" compared to many.

    1. Your fears are only shared by a minority of Americans who have managed to convince elected leaders that they are true. The majority support reasonable laws to keep us safer from gun violence. That is all this is about- no more. But you will simply not believe it. The gun lobby has instilled the fears because more fears means more sales of guns. And what difference does it make how Senator Feinstein holds a rifle? None whatsoever. That is just an excuse not to do something about the gun deaths in our country. I think you will find most of us working on gun violence prevention are in the middle. Don't believe everything you hear. My husband owns guns. I was raised in a hunting family and taught how to shoot a .22 by my Dad. My parents were avid hunters as is my brother. We have many friends and relatives who are gun owners and hunters. To a person they believe what I am doing is right and good.

  12. Okay, so I guess I'm missing something. I have admitted I am not against background checks. I have even stated I would keep my "non-essential" firearms under lock-and-key, but still seem to be getting the "you're not listening" grudge. Moving on from that, it makes all the difference in the world how a person in the position to lobby for changes to laws holds a firearm. It shows that she is not familiar with firearms and therefore has no formidable voice on the subject but seems to be yelling the loudest. She has stated numerous times that the general public should not be trusted with weapons. But yet she cannot properly hold a rifle. See http://bloviatingzeppelin.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Diane-Feinstein-with-AK-UNSAFE.jpg for an example. And she herself is a gun-owner! And the push for a complete ban on all semi-automatic firearms are coming from her corner. Why shouldn't I or anyone else fear the loss of our rights? In an article posted recently on the Huffington Post website, the statistics used show a different story of what the majority of Americans believe. Backgrounds checks do have overwhelming support, but stricter gun control laws do not. Adding to that, support for gun-control has steadily declined since the Sandy Hook tragedy. With the fact that the homicide rate has also steadily declined with the rise of legal gun ownership and you have the makings for a pretty strong argument that restricting access to firearms by law-abiding people is not going to solve the problem at hand. With your "logic", more people should be dying since there are more firearms in the hands of citizens. That is simply not the case. Can we lessen homicides with universal background checks? Possibly. Is it worth an attempt? Sure. But honestly, it needs to stop there.

    1. You are wrong. Background checks have strong support from gun owners and not gun owners. When 20 small children are massacred in a school shooting, the way one holds a gun makes no difference whatsoever. One does not have to be a gun owner to understand that there are far too many gun deaths in America. Being a gun owner is not a requisite to making laws about guns. Being a smoker is not requisite to making laws banning second hand smoke in public places. that is just an excuse used by those on the gun rights side for not wanting to support more reasonable gun laws. And yes, we can save lives. You are using the "slippery slope" argument at the end. Why can't I say that providing guns to just about anyone to carry just about everywhere is going to far and that it needs to not only stop but we need to go further. The laws are actually moving in a direction that makes it easier for shootings to happen. It hasn't stopped with just conceal and carry in some places. It's now everywhere and then we have Stand Your Ground. It should have stopped long before that. http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/211321-poll-most-gun-owners-support-universal-background-checks

    2. Andre- we will simply not agree and continuing this thread is an exercise in futility. I misread your statement that most people do support background checks. They also do support other "gun control" measures as well. Your assertion that crime rates have gone down with the rise of gun ownership has no basis in fact. The fact of the matter is that there is not a rise in gun ownership. There is a decline in the number of homes where guns are present. The people who own guns own more of them. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/us/rate-of-gun-ownership-is-down-survey-shows.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      We might as well be finished with this "conversation". We do agree on background checks at least but on most everything else, it's just not worth the back and forth.