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Mall shooting draws calls to tighten Germany's already strict gun laws

Germany may have some of the world's most stringent gun control laws, but some of the country's senior leaders are calling for tighter controls on weapon sales following Friday's shooting rampage in Munich.

'We must continue to do all we can to limit and strictly control access to deadly weapons'

Emotional Munich residents visit a memorial to the nine people killed in a shooting rampage Friday at a major mall. The shooting is driving renewed calls for debate over gun control in Germany. (Richard Devey/CBC)

Germany may have some of the world's most stringent gun control laws, but some of the country's senior leaders are calling for tighter controls on weapon sales following Friday's shooting rampage in Munich.

"We must continue to do all we can to limit and strictly control access to deadly weapons," said Sigmar Gabriel, head of Germany's Social Democratic Party and the country's vice-chancellor, adding that gun control is an "important issue."

But at Munich's storied Hauptschuetzengesellschaft gun club, which dates back to 1406, gun enthusiast and board member Herrman Todt cast doubt on tightening the country's firearms legislation.

"If I want to buy a weapon in an illegal way, I can do it. Making the current laws tougher will not change anything for someone who can buy a gun on the black market," Todt said at the club's shooting range, just a few kilometres from the shopping mall and McDonald's where nine people were killed Friday evening. 

German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, right, talks with Justice Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin on Saturday. Gabriel is pushing for an examination of new ways to limit access to firearms. (Stefanie Loos/Reuters)

Munich police say there is evidence that the 18-year-old perpetrator of Friday's shooting attack purchased the 9-millimetre Glock pistol via the dark web, a parallel World Wide Web which cannot be accessed via traditional search engines.

Mandatory psychiatric testing

Germany's gun control laws were enhanced after school shootings in Erfurt in 2002, in which 16 people were killed, and Winnenden in 2009 that left 15 dead.

Germany is the only county that requires those under 25 to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before purchasing a firearm.

Hermann Todt, a board member of the Hauptschuetzengesellschaft gun club in Munich, says tightening firearms laws 'will not change anything for someone who can buy a gun on the black market.' (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, noting that Germany's gun laws were already strict, promised a review to determine how the Munich attacker obtained his firearm.

"Then we have to evaluate very carefully if and where further legal changes are needed," de Maiziere told the German tabloid Bild.

German media reports have identified the attacker as David Sonboly, who was born in Munich and held dual German and Iranian citizenship.

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      Police say Sonboly suffered from mental illness and had received psychiatric treatment in the months before he carried out the rampage.  

      Sonboly killed himself about one kilometre away from the scene of the shooting, investigators say.

      City still reeling

      Munich residents continue to visit the shopping mall, where memorials to victims, comprising flowers, candles and handwritten notes, grow larger by the hour.

      Most stand in silence for a few moments, to remember the nine people killed — all but one of them young, aged 14 to 20. Some wipe tears from their eyes, evidence of a city, and country, still reeling from the attack.

      Police tactical officers stand guard outside Munich's main train station following Friday's shootings. Early indications are that the perpetrator purchased a 9-mm handgun on a clandestine part of the internet. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)

      In church services across the city, prayers are being said for those who perished and for the community as it begins to heal.

      "On this day we remember that Jesus is forgiving us and that he is supporting us in those hard times," said Hans-Georg Plaschek, the senior priest at Munich's Frauenkirche cathedral.

      Plascheck continued, "This is why we demonstrate compassion with the victims, the dead and the wounded, physically and mentally, and, even if it might be hard also, with the perpetrator."

      Many Munich residents have reacted to the shootings with a mixture of shock and grief. But for others, there is resolve to move forward.

      "Maybe we are a little bit more cautious about what exactly do we do, but we will not let the attackers change our lives," said Eckart Quarze, who attended the church service with his family.

      "We will still live our lives and we think this life and freedom and this democracy that we have here needs to be defended against those crazy individuals."

      Young women mourn outside the Olympia shopping mall in Munich on Sunday. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

      About the Author

      Derek Stoffel

      World News Editor

      Derek Stoffel is a former Middle East correspondent, who covered the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and reported from Syria during the ongoing civil war. Based in Jerusalem for many years, he covered the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. He has also worked throughout Europe and the U.S., and reported on Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.

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