What Are Munich, Germany's Gun Laws Like? They're A Lot Stricter Than America's

As yet another public shooting unfolds — this time in Munich, Germany — it is worth taking a look at the kind of measures that are put in place to protect the public from the threat of a mass shooting event. So, what are the gun laws in Munich like? They're a lot stricter than in the United States, that's for sure.

Germany, unlike the United States, requires that the sale of guns be restricted to people only to people who have legitimate reasons for owning one — and to "feel safe" isn't one of the allowed reasons. Framing gun ownership as a privilege, rather than an absolute right, is a different way to conceptualize the responsibilities that gun owners have if they want to continue to have this privilege. One must be a member of a sport shooting club, a hunter, or have a special collector's license in order to purchase firearms.

There are other, significant trade-offs that German gun owners must comply with should they want to keep their guns. Since 2013, Germany has kept a national registry of all firearms and licensees — something that still isn't set up in the United States. Additionally, all firearms must be stored in a locked safe at all times. Police conduct random spot checks on all gun owners to make sure that everyone is remaining in compliance. Failing a spot check means that the firearms can be confiscated.

Applicants must also wait one year to receive their license, young adults under the age of 25 must pass a psychological wellness examination, and any gun license holder caught driving drunk, or displaying erratic behavior, must submit to a psychological evaluation as well. These additional protections were enacted in the wake of the 2002 Erfurt and 2009 Winnenenden school shootings.

Despite the fact that most of these laws would be perceived by Americans as way too draconian and restrictive, Germany, a country of just over 80 million inhabitants, has the fourth highest amount of firearms per capita, behind the United States, Finland, and their Swiss neighbors to the south. According to 2014 statistics, there are roughly 1.5 million registered gun owners, and 5.5 million registered firearms, in the country.

So, despite having a pretty serious amount of guns in the country, only about 1.8 percent of the population is allowed to buy and store firearms for their personal use. Despite the persisting popularity of traditional hunting and sport shooting, most Germans have negative associations when it comes to firearms; after all, Germany was the site of fevered fighting in close quarters during the First and Second World Wars, and many adults still remember the turbulence and chaos of the caused by the Stasi-sponsored Red Army Faction in West Germany during the 1970s.