German Angst – The German predicament

Opinion piece from world of production issue 01/2016. Friedrich Gepperth, President BDS, Association of German Sport Shooters 1975 eV

If there are fierce and, at times, irrational reactions to events in Germany, our European neighbours or partners on the other side of the Atlantic like to call it 'German Angst'. This is at times a bit unfair because there are hysteria and misjudgements everywhere in the world, but perhaps, at least sometimes, it is not completely unjustified.

Being afraid happens regularly in Germany: food is contaminated, acrylamide makes biscuits and fries carcinogenic, the plasticizer used in packaging are harmful to the fertility and the tap water contains antibiotics. In the meat are hormones and even those who eat a vegan diet or at least vegetarian still have to fight against lactose in milk products and gluten in the bread. Aluminium in deodorant causes Alzheimer's, genetic engineering is threatening us and TTIP not only eliminates democracy, but also brings chicken loaded with chlorine onto our dinner plates. That the Germans are becoming healthier, older and more vital despite all this, as proven with all kind of statistics, but also with the experiences from friends and family, does (mostly) not disrupt the evoking of doom and gloom.

With all this anxiety, it is not surprising that in Germany some people are afraid of guns, especially those who have never seen one, except in news and feature films. The times when everyone could easily get a weapon have long since given way to those in which applications for arms, justifications, and proofs are required. From a sport shooter perspective, this is sometimes annoying, but mostly not tragic. Because our members can easily prove that they have weapons for the sports exercise of the approved (!) Sports regulation in the federally recognized (!) Association of German Sport Shooters 1975 e. (BDS).

It cannot be explained however, that a few millimetres too little at the barrel can mark the boundary between permitted and forbidden rifles. Or that it is significant for safety how far a magazine protrudes. It also does not seem to be necessary to explain why the reasoning and examination expenditure increases sharply with each further weapon, so that the third weapon is examined in more detail than the second. If someone is not trusted to own a weapon, the first one is already too much and when you are a responsible gun owner, then it doesn’t matter if the 3rd or 15th won’t do any harm - and safe storage is a topic of utmost importance to the BDS and doesn’t allow for any carelessness. It is quite incomprehensible when events somewhere in the world are taken as an occasion to demand even more rules and restrictions in Germany. Some are not ashamed to bring in child soldiers with hand-made Kalashnikovs in order to demand more stringent regulations for the purchase of high-quality repeaters for hunting and sport.

As if the dictators and warlords in the world had ever waited for German sporting guns, when in some countries they could easily order military equipment including tanks. Even if violent crimes are committed in the US, one does not have to wait long for the fact that someone in Germany demands more stringent weapon laws. I am not one who acts as a defender of foreign legal systems, but I realize that any grievances somewhere on the globe should trigger actions there and not with us! Firearms of sportsmen, hunters and gun collectors in Germany are practically not involved in crime. Fortunately, the Federal Republic does not have a particularly high degree of criminality anyway, even less in the case of violent crimes. In the few cases, that sadly happened, legal weapons are involved in the very low single-digit percentage range, the hunters and marksmen in the per mille range.

Nevertheless, the legal gun owners are the focus of media and politics. In hardly any different area of life, unfortunate individual cases are thus declared to be an overall problem, and attempts are being made to combat crime by restricting lawful citizens as in the case of the right of gun ownership. If similar strict standards were applied in everyday life, in road traffic and household items, alcohol, cars and bread knives would be forbidden already.

The askew world views, removed from cause and effect, do not only pose issues to weapon owners, which already face bureaucracy and mistrust, but also to industry and trade. In today's world of nearly full employment, appreciation for entrepreneurship has fallen considerably. Employers, medium-sized enterprises and craftsmen are being overstated with more and more statistical, proof, reporting and recording obligations. In the field of arms manufacture and arms dealing, there are also those who are concerned with the right to arms and ammunition.

The flood of paper work hinders economic activity and this is particularly tragic because it often does not even increase safety. Bureaucratic placebos create only a semblance of security and are not worth the effort they cause. Instead of this, a better, more grounded understanding of the topic at hand should prevail. Additionally, law-abiding arms dealers, gun manufacturers and gun owners deserve more trust. Instead of "German Angst" we would wish for more “German Rationality”.

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