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The German Weapons Act (German: Waffengesetz) is a gun regulation law enacted in Germany in 1972. It includes, and modifies, previous gun regulation laws. It regulates the handling of knives, firearms and ammunition as well as acquisition, storage, commerce and maintenance of weapons. It also defines certain forbidden items such as Nunchakus, Switchblades and Brass knuckles and bans their possession, bringing into circulation etc. In comparison, the German Weapons Law is one of the tightest in Europe.
The last amendment became effective on April 1, 2008. The intention of that amendment was to ban certain kinds of weapons like airsoft-guns, tasers, so-called Anscheinswaffen (dummy-guns) and knives with blades longer than 12 cm from public places. They may still be carried in sealed wrappings and for professional or ceremonial purposes. Their use on private premises and in non-public places like gunclubs is not restricted.
In 1919 and 1920, to stabilize the country and in part to comply with the Treaty of Versailles, the German Weimar government passed very strict gun ownership restrictions. Article 169 of the Treaty of Versailles stated, "Within two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, German arms, munitions, and war material, including anti-aircraft material, existing in Germany in excess of the quantities allowed, must be surrendered to the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to be destroyed or rendered useless."
In 1919, the German government passed the Regulations on Weapons Ownership, which declared that "all firearms, as well as all kinds of firearms ammunition, are to be surrendered immediately." Under the regulations, anyone found in possession of a firearm or ammunition was subject to five years' imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 marks.
On August 7, 1920, the German government enacted a second gun-regulation law called the Law on the Disarmament of the People. It put into effect the provisions of the Versailles Treaty in regard to the limit on military-type weapons.
In 1928, the German government enacted the Law on Firearms and Ammunition. This law relaxed gun restrictions and put into effect a strict firearm licensing scheme. Under this scheme, Germans could possess firearms, but they were required to have separate permits to do the following: own or sell firearms, carry firearms (including handguns), manufacture firearms, and professionally deal in firearms and ammunition. This law explicitly revoked the 1919 Regulations on Weapons Ownership, which had banned all firearms possession.
Stephen Halbrook writes about the German gun restriction laws in the 1919-1928 period, "Within a decade, Germany had gone from a brutal firearms seizure policy which, in times of unrest, entailed selective yet immediate execution for mere possession of a firearm, to a modern, comprehensive gun control law."
The 1938 German Weapons Act, the precursor of the current weapons law, superseded the 1928 law. As under the 1928 law, citizens were required to have a permit to carry a firearm and a separate permit to acquire a firearm. Furthermore, the law restricted ownership of firearms to "...persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a (gun) permit." Under the new law:
Under both the 1928 and 1938 acts, gun manufacturers and dealers were required to maintain records with information about who purchased guns and the guns' serial numbers. These records were to be delivered to a police authority for inspection at the end of each year.
After 1945, the Allied Forces commanded the complete disarming of Germany. Even German police officers were initially not allowed to carry firearms. Private ownership of firearms was not allowed until after 1956. The legal status returned essentially to that of the Law on Firearms and Ammunition of 1928. The regulation of the matter was thoroughly revised in 1972, when the new Federal Weapons Act (Bundeswaffengesetz) became effective.
In Germany the possession of any firearm with a fire energy exceeding 7.5 Joule requires a valid firearms ownership license for any particular weapon. The current Federal Weapons Act adopts a two-tiered approach to firearms licensing.
A firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte) must be obtained before a weapon can be purchased. Owners of multiple firearms need separate ownership licenses for every single firearm they own. It entitles owners to purchase firearms and handle them on their own property and any private property with property owner consent. On public premises, a licensed firearm must be transported unloaded and in a stable, fully enclosing, locked container. A weapons ownership license does not entitle the owner to shoot the weapon or carry it on public premises without the prescribed container. Firearms ownership licenses are valid three years or less, and owners must obtain mandatory insurance and a means to securely store the weapon on their premises (a weapons locker). Blanket ownership licenses are sometimes issued to arms dealers.
A number of criteria must be met before a firearms ownership license is issued:
Persons who are
are barred from obtaining a firearms ownership license.
Firearms carry permits entitle licensees to publicly carry legally owned weapons, loaded in a concealed or non-concealed manner. A mandatory legal and safety class and shooting proficiency tests are required to obtain such a permit. Carry permits are usually only issued to persons with a particular need for carrying a firearm. This includes licensed hunters, law-enforcement officers, security personnel and persons living under a raised threat-level like celebrities and politicians.
The weapons law does not apply to military use of weapons within the Bundeswehr.
The identity card of German troops contains a term allowing them carrying weapons. Nevertheless, issuance of guns and especially ammunition is also very strictly controlled within the armed forces.