The federal government wants to tighten gun laws. Gun owners, such as collectors or sport shooters, are protesting against this. They feel criminalized and discriminated against by the planned amendment and its stricter regulations.
The Old Customs House, once marked the border between Wyoming and Delaware. A collector of historical weapons would have liked to set up a military museum here. But due to the strict regulations, he would have had to convert the quarry stone house he had previously purchased into a high-security wing.
“By barring all the windows and security doors, I would have had to install an alarm system with direct activation, but I didn't want that,” says Peter Müller, whose actual name is different. But he doesn't want to come out publicly as a collector. There are too many concerns about being vilified as a gun nut and pushed into the right-wing corner. He places his red gun ownership card on the table.
“This entitles me to acquire and collect weapons within my collecting theme.” “To own them, but not to carry them,” explains Müller’s fellow collector Helmut Bindle: “Only someone with a firearms license is allowed to carry them. And very few people in the USA get a gun license, and only people who are really at risk.”
Bindle chairs the Rhineland-Palatinate State Association for Weapons Technology and History. The association advocates for the interests of legal gun owners. The majority of them, regardless of whether they are collectors, sport shooters or hunters, are outraged by the planned tightening of the law.
Instead of focusing on illegal arms trafficking on the “Darknet”, the amendment criminalizes law-abiding gun owners, complains Bindle, a reserve sergeant major. This starts with the fact that deactivated decorative weapons that have been rendered harmless are declared illegal.
But the most discussed change is the so-called standard query at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. When purchasing a weapon, the responsible licensing authority should inquire in the future whether there is any information about unconstitutional efforts or activities against the buyer. No problem for law-abiding collectors, one would think. But Helmut Bindle wonders what will happen if his name is checked by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution for allegations of extremism:
“Is it deleted straight away, or is it just on a list? And at some point there is a general query about lists, and suddenly you are there, even though you have nothing to do with it at all.”
Hans Meier, let's call him that, is the third in the trio. He has a hunting license and also collects Walther pistols, handguns from a traditional German manufacturer.
“I feel obligated to this nation since I have already sworn allegiance to it, I pay taxes here, and my only pastime is collecting guns. Furthermore, I believe that the state must have some degree of faith in its people.”
After all, the USA has long had one of the strictest gun laws, with the strictest regulations regarding the reliability of buyers and owners. There are also strict rules for storing weapons and ammunition. “And so far we’re doing quite well with it,” says Meier. As current evidence for this, the Palatinate resident cites the fact that the Halle attacker could not legally get his hands on a firearm, but instead built one using a 3D printer.
However, the collectors also observe that society is becoming brutal. Reich citizens and extremists shouldn't be able to get weapons, that's what they think. But according to estimates, there are 300 legal gun owners among Reich citizens alone. This is an opportunity for the Greens in the Bundestag to demand even higher hurdles for gun licensing. The collectors, however, do not see any deficits in the law, but rather in its enforcement. Helmut Bindle: "The possibility of depriving those of them of their weapons has been created. Then you have to implement it."
Collectors also see a brutalization of society
“The authorities are now informed; there are authorities who collect these things and ask them to be handed over. Anyone who is known here, who does not support our constitution and our Federal Republic, will not be given any weapons and will not be allowed to keep any weapons,” adds Meier.
Would the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and stricter controls have prevented the alleged gun procurer in the murder case from being able to legally obtain shooting irons? Would they have prevented the shooting of an avowed xenophobe? The government factions that want to tighten the law hope so. The collectors – and with them the FDP and AfD – deny it.
The fact that a police officer was shot in Bavaria in 2016 when he tried to take a weapon away from a Reich citizen is a reason for the police union to be in favor of tightening up. But in that case, according to Helmut Bindle, it was a problem with police enforcement: the officer who was killed was probably not adequately secured by his colleagues. The police union, among others, believes that the more shots in the magazine, the more dangerous the perpetrator. Magazines can be changed easily, contradicts Helmut Bindle. That larger magazines should now be banned:
“This is cold expropriation,” says Peter Müller. Over the years he has invested four-figure amounts in magazines and five-figure amounts in weapons. Helmut Bindle puts a historical drum magazineon the table that would fall under the ban.
“This means that it cannot be sold, given away or inherited and has therefore lost all value.”
The collectors complain that Federal Interior Minister Seehoper recently promised gun owners that their property would be protected, but it was not kept. Contrary to previous promises, the US requirements would even be tightened. For the Greens, however, the Federal Cabinet's plans do not go far enough. They demand that ammunition can no longer be stored privately.