Sunday, May 10, 2009

Germany to ban paintball in wake of high school shooting

The German government is to ban paintball in response to the school shooting in which 16 people were killed in March.

Experts from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have agreed to outlaw all games in which players shoot at each other with pellets.

The governing parties say paintball trivialises violence and risks lowering the threshold for committing violent acts.

Infringements to the new rules, which the cabinet hopes to pass before a general election in September, could incur fines of up to 5,000 euros (£4,400).

A 17-year-old shot dead 15 people in the southwestern town of Winnenden, before killing himself in March, stunning many Germans and leading politicians to call for tighter gun rules.

The teenager shot many of his victims in the head with his father's legally registered pistol. His father, a member of a shooting club, had 15 guns at home – fourteen were locked in a gun closet as required by law but the pistol was in the bedroom.

Germany toughened its gun laws in 2002 after Robert Steinhauser, 19, shot dead 16 people before turning the gun on himself at a high school in the eastern German city of Erfurt.

The changes raised the minimum age for gun ownership to 21 from 18 and required gun buyers under 25 to present a certificate of medical and psychological health. Gun laws already required applicants to pass rigorous exams that can take up to a year.

The new rules would also grant authorities more rights in conducting checks with people owning guns, the sources said.

Sources in the SPD said the parties were also moving towards on agreement on the creation of a nationwide weapons register and were considering setting up biometric security locks for weapons' stores.

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