German officials urge tightening of already strict gun laws

MUNICH — Two days after the mass shooting by a violence-obsessed teen here, German politicians on Sunday urged tighter gun restrictions in a country that already has some of the toughest anti-gun laws in the world.

Germany has one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths despite high levels of gun ownership. Even so, Friday’s shooting spree that left nine dead and dozens wounded prompted German lawmakers to say more needs to be done to prevent another massacre using firearms.

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper chain that the country “must continue to do all we can to limit and strictly control access to deadly weapons.”

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, “We have to evaluate very carefully if and where further legal changes are needed.”

The gunman behind the attack outside a Munich shopping mall, Ali David Sonboly, 18, obtained his Glock pistol illegally and did not have a license, investigators said. He would have struggled to meet Germany’s stringent requirements for legal possession.

Applicants under 25 must undergo a series of tough checks that include whether the person has a history of mental health issues. They must also pass tests about gun knowledge and get approval for what the weapon will be used for. Unlike in the United States, there is no guaranteed right to bear arms.

Sonboly, born in Munich to parents who had emigrated from Iran, received both inpatient and outpatient psychiatric treatment last year to help him deal with depression and to deal with “fears of contact with others,” Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, of the Munich prosecutors’ office, said Sunday. The teen also had been planning the attack for more than a year, and a “manifesto” was found in his room, Baviarian investigator Robert Heimberger said.

The strict application process didn’t stop Sonboly from acquiring an illegal weapon, of course, but it appears to have helped Germany reduce gun-related deaths to 57 last year, down from more than 800 in 1995, according to the website That compares with about 13,445 people killed in the United States by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Germany has a population of 80 million vs. the U.S.’ 319 million. There are about 5.5 million legally owned guns in Germany, according to the nation’s National Guns Registry, putting it in fourth place behind the United States, Switzerland andFinland. In the U.S., the figure is about 300 million, according to the Guns in America website.

NPR, citing data from the Congressional Research Service, reported there are roughly twice as many guns per person in the United States as there were in 1968.

Much of Germany’s stringent gun legislation was enacted after two mass shootings at schools here. In 2002, an expelled high school student used a semiautomatic gun to kill 16 people and himself. In 2009, an ex-student went to his old school and killed 15 pupils.

Before Friday’s incident there had not been a mass shooting — defined by the FBI as four or more people killed in a single event — in Germany since the 2009 attack. There were 332 mass shootings in the U.S, last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and there have been 201 so far in 2016.

German authorities said Sonboly was obsessed with mass violence. Last year, he visited the site of that 2009 school shooting in the town of Winnenden and took pictures, Heimberger said Sunday. And Saturday’s shooting spree occurred on the fifth anniversary of an attack in Norway by anti-immigrant Anders Behring Breivik, killing 77 people, many of them teenagers at a camp.