Germany considering stricter gun control rules amid spike in far-right crime

Germany’s government this week advanced a series of proposals for stricter background checks for guns in the wake of a series of violent anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant crimes, according to The New York Times.

Recent incidents include the assassination of a conservative politician whose name appeared on a neo-Nazi hit list and the killing of two people at a synagogue on Yom Kippur.

“The threat from far-right extremism and far-right terrorism, and with them anti-Semitism, is high in Germany and we can’t stress it often enough,” Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister, said at a news conference. The proposals must still be approved by Parliament.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government also advanced legislation that would toughen Germany’s 2018 law barring hate speech online, which fines Facebook, Google and Twitter up to 50 million euros for failure to remove “obviously illegal content” within 24 hours.

The new proposal would require the platforms to not only remove any such posts but also report it to the authorities, and the nation’s federal police plan to create a new department collecting reported content and IP addresses for such posts.

Even under Germany’s current gun laws, which require training and a permit to buy a gun, nearly 800 people considered far-right extremists held gun permits as of 2018. It would also make any attacks on local politicians or first responders a separate crime at a time when emergency medical personnel responding to attacks are increasingly a target.

German intelligence services believe about 24,100 people in the country are right-wing extremists, about half of which are potentially violent.

Critics have said the proposals are too reactive and do nothing to arrest the radicalization process itself, noting that the suspect in the synagogue attack, Stephen Balliet, had no criminal record and is believed to have self-radicalized online.

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