Hans Deutsch is a German citizen living in Bavaria. He is employed in the field of education and a member of German Army Active Reserve and conducts self defense classes for civilians. He is also gun owner and avid sport shooter. In this first part of interview, Hans talks about peculiarities of firearms ownership in Germany.
Rozhovor v češtině si můžete přečíst zde: Rozhovor – H. Deutsch: Držení a nošení zbraně pro sebeobranu je v Německu tabu
Zbrojnice.com is a Czech language web that deals with practical, legal, cultural and social issues of civilian firearms ownership. This interview was conducted in English and thus you can read it also in original language version below.
Hans, how difficult is it to obtain a firearm in Germany for a person that doesn’t have a license yet? Could you shortly describe the process?
It is rather tedious to get a sporting license, at least by Czech standards. You have to take a class (IIRC around 16h) that deals with practical and legal aspects of gun ownership and finishes with a theoretical and practical test. It is not hard to pass, but there is another, bigger catch if you want to own a gun in Germany: Before you can buy a firearm, you need to become a member of an officially recognized shooting association and join a local shooting club, where you have to train regularly for at least a year. When you finally apply for a firearms license, you also have to prove that you own an appropriate safe for storage, a liability insurance and a clean criminal sheet.
Of course there are other ways of obtaining guns – you could also get a hunting license. I am not too familiar with the exact procedure, but I know that this option also takes a lot of time, effort and money. As a third option, there is the collector’s license, which may enable you to collect guns that are otherwise out of reach (under certain, rare circumstances even full-auto), but it is probably the most costly and entails a ton of bureaucracy. Also, it is detabable whether you are even allowed to fire the guns on your collector’s license.
Say, you as a firearms license holder and gun owner decide to buy a vz.58 rifle. What is the process you need to go through now?
Once you have completed the process I outlined above to get a sporting license, you need to apply for a “need” through your shooting club/association, which has to confirm that you need the gun for sporting purposes. A specific caliber and the shooting discipline you want to use it for has to be named. It is easy to get a basic contingent of two handguns and three semi-automatic rifles, but if you want to buy more than that, you have to prove that you have successfully taken part in competitions.
Once you have the written confirmation from your shooting assocation, you can take it to the authorities who in turn will make an entry into your gun license, which you can then show to the gun-owner that sells, say, a vz.58 rifle.
There are certain nonsensical limitations revolving aroung barrel length, case length and “weapons of war” that would not allow you to buy an original military vz.58, but following this procedure you could acquire a sporting model in .223 Rem. Models in 7.62×39 with a shorter barrel could be purchased by a hunter.
Are there differences in various state laws on firearms?
No, firearms are regulated by federal law. However, there are certain states (run by left/green parties) where authorities tend to apply more restrictive interpretations of the law than in the more conservative-leaning states such as Bavaria.
How difficult is it to obtain a concealed carry license? Is the licensing process different?
It is almost impossible to obtain a CC license. You basically have to prove that you are in significantly higher danger than the average person and that a gun is the right means to protect you from this danger. I have heard that it is becoming increasingly difficult even for jewellers to obtain such a license, and the only people who seem to be able to obtain one rather easily are extremely rich/influential people and (ironically) high-ranking politicians.
From your personal experience, what do German gun-owners think about the laws?
It has always baffled me how many German gun-owners are actually perfectly okay with our laws. It seems that the majority are fighting against further restrictions, but not demanding significant liberalisations.
In what way do German gun owners view armed self defense? Are there any serious efforts for relaxing laws as to either allow having a firearm for self defense at home (i.e. loaded and accessible) or even concealed carry?
For a long time, talking about armed self-defense was a total no-go for “serious” gun owners, both on Internet platforms and in clubs. Luckily, this seems to be changing at least to some degree with the advent of gun-rights groups like the German Rifle Association.
There are some weird news coming from Germany about confiscations of legal firearms held by motorcycle club members, a person who attended protest against Merkel or recently even efforts to “analyze” preppers for purposes of confiscations. What is the legal basis and justification for that?
The problem is that gun ownership in Germany is not a right, but a privilege. You actually do not have to commit a crime to have your guns taken away, but all you have to do is become “unreliable” in the eyes of the authorities. “(Un)reliability” is a very unclear term that can basically be used to take away the guns from people who seem dubious to the government – Reichsbürger (sovereign citizens) and members of 1% motorcycle clubs being the most prominent examples. It is one of the most unjust concepts in German weapons law.
This spring, German politicians were celebrating fall in registered crime rates and stating that Germany is the safest in past 25 years. Is that in line with your experience as self defense coach?
After the events of New Year’s Eve 2015, the requests for my self-defense classes at least doubled. In case of classes for girls, they probably even tripled. Our left-leaning media has long denied this, but official police statistics have by now confirmed that rape and sexual assault have become more frequent.
This rise in crime has contributed to a boom in pepper-spray and blank-firing guns. These can be carried by law-abiding citizens, though with some ridiculous restrictions. For example, you are not allowed to carry pepper-spray with the intention of using it against a human being, and you need to apply for a “small CC license” if you want to carry a blank-firing gun.
However, there may be an ever-so-slightly glimpse of hope for those of us who are in favor of “real” armed self-defense.: The right-wing AfD party has shown some promise by breaking a taboo and demanding a less restrictive issue of concealed carry licences in their official party program. Whether they stand behind this passage and can actually achieve something remains to be seen…
Any message to Czech gun owners?
Cherish your rights! Do not forget that you live in a paradise for gun-owners, and make sure that it stays this way.
Note: Interviewee’s name was changed in order to prevent possible repercussions by German authorities.