|Previous||EuroHacker Magazine, issue #3||Next|
The history of property rights is a long and depressing one, especially in Germany. When the first Empire was founded by Charlemagne, quite a few traditions were butchered as well as those people who carried them. The concept the Christian Rulers stuffed down our throats was that the right to live, to own anything, how to earn one's living was a privilege, granted by the sovereign - the emperor lieutenant for the Christian god. People, except for the highest ranks of nobility, especially the emperor's family, were property of the emperor. Slaves. Any property given to them was a loan, subject to change without notice. Reformation did not exactly change this concept. It took the industrial revolution and a French invasion to abolish this atrocity between 1810 and 1817.
Even when the Second Empire was founded in 1871, nothing substantially changed.
After World War 1, changes came, but Germans screwed up, as usual. The Kaiser was sent into exile, but any revolutionary impulse came from commies who did not exactly intend to establish a free society. When the Freikorps settled the dispute, Germany would enjoy a brief period of relative freedom. Civilian gun ownership was not a topic of the 1919 Versailles treaty, which reduced the size of the German Army to 100,000 men, forbade certain types of heavy firearms, and certain calibers of sidearms (thus accelerating the development of modern firearms in order to cheat a way around the restrictions). Civilians as well as organizations could buy practically anything from pistols to machine guns. Stahlhelm, SA, SS and the Rotfront-Kämpferbund (a communist party militia) made use of this freedom, only in order to abolish it ASAP.
Bad turned to worse when the Nazis took over. The explicit goal of the Nazis was to restrict gun ownership to NS-organizations such as the SA, SS, NSKK and the Wehrmacht. Civilians were to be disarmed, Jews first.
"All military type firearms are to be handed in immediately ... The
SS, SA and Stahlhelm give every respectable German man the opportunity
of campaigning with them. Therefore anyone who does not belong to one of
the above named organizations and who unjustifiably nevertheless keeps
his weapon ... must be regarded as an enemy of the national government."
--SA Oberführer of Bad Tölz, March, 1933.
This is a typical opinion of the NS goons. Private gun ownership would be subject to registration in 1938 and eventual confiscation. An irony of history was that in 1968, the Waffengesetz from 1938 found its way into the Gun Control Act of the United States in almost literal translation.
After WWII, there was a period where private ownership of any kind of firearms was verboten by capital punishment (up until 1949) or long prison terms (until 1954). Until the sovereignty was restored in 1954, hunting and sports shooting were impossible in post-war Germany. As far as we know, not one hunter or sports shooter has been subject to capital punishment, we just kept our treasures hidden.
From 1954 on, it was rather easy to obtain a "Waffenerwerbschein", a gun purchasing license. You had to be of legal age, 21, and obviously not be a felon. If you had a hunting license, rifles and shotguns could be purchased from the age of 16, pistols or revolvers from 18 years of age. Certain firearms, looking like full-auto guns, were prohibited by the Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz (KWKG), the "law to control military weapons", as were real full-auto guns.
The situation tightened up in 1972, when a bunch of whacko commies lit a few fires in warehouses and held up a few banks. Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof never were a real menace, neither to the state nor to anyone else, they were just a good excuse to set another jackboot on the neck of the ordinary citizen. The Bundewaffengesetz from 1973 set the stakes for private gun ownership quite a bit higher. From now on, Germans had to apply for a gun license before they could purchase anything with a muzzle energy beyond 7,5 Joules. To obtain a Waffenbesitzkarte, background checks are mandatory, the shooter must either have a hunter's license or be member of a sports shooter's association (mandatory waiting period of six months) and he must explain why he needs a weapon and put himself at the mercy of an office clerk who, in most cases, has no idea what the shooter is talking of and who is trained to hate the general idea of private gun ownership as well.
When the gun owner candidate signs the application form, he forsakes several elementary rights he used to have the very second before. Search of his home is now possible without a warrant, the privacy of his telephone line is gone forever, a traffic fine for exceeding the 0.8 0/00 blood alcohol level (since 1999 it's .5 0/00). Even a suspicion or enunciation of a felony will bring him into deep shit.
When applying for a gun license, better never mention heresies like "self defense". In Germany, there is an article in the penal code about self defense(&167; 32 StGB), but you'd better not rely on it. To obtain a firearm in order to protect your life is practically impossible. Still the opinion prevails in the German administration that the lives of its subjects belong to the state.
On the other hand, you'd better not rely on the state to protect you. As Innenminister (Secretary of the state) Otto Schily, SPD, declared publicly, the task of the police is to protect the state, not the individual.
The constitution is not exactly helpful, either, as any property is considered a privilege, to be used for the sake of the common good, whatever that might be. As long as this is legal standard, there will be no chance for freedom in Germany. As the new European Constitution is concerned, we'd better expect things to get a lot worse.