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“Ready to fire – Germany is armed” (ZDFinfo): The wrong focus

The TV documentary “Ready to shoot – Germany armed” (ZDFinfo) ends with a strong statement, but is not open enough in other places.

Frankfurt – In their new report, directors Michael Freund and Richard Rüb take a look at private gun ownership in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They gather voices from gun dealers, sport shooters, politicians and psychologists who report on the status of gun laws and their potentially fatal consequences.

It becomes clear that the German weapons legislation is not particularly strict in international comparison, as the figures show: In Germany, one of three weapons possession certificates is required to own weapons, depending on the type of weapon. A total of more than 1.7 million such notes are issued in Germany, with some gun owners having entire arsenals. The documentation shows a former Luftwaffe soldier whose collection includes over 1,000 firearms. Elsewhere, even the arms dealer Adrian Schäfer, who also takes over the destruction of old weapons, says: “The stocks in Germany are immense.”

“Ready to fire – Germany is armed” on December 28th, 2021 in ZDFinfo

Gun owners and lobbyists, who speak in detail in “Ready to shoot – Germany is armed”, like to talk about “sports equipment”. Like a mantra, it is also emphasized that it is not weapons that are dangerous, but people. A former police officer who offers training for combat situations in Switzerland says that one should just not “arm the bad people”. Michael Freund and Richard Rüb take their time to collect these sometimes shockingly simple positions and only gradually do people who take a critical stance have their say in the report.

“The higher the availability of weapons, the more likely it will be lethal,” explains Giessen criminologist Britta Bannenberg. This explains the high number of fatal firearms use in private households in Switzerland, where conscripts are allowed to keep their weapons after they have completed their service. The perpetrators, adds Bannenberg, are mostly men.

The advocates of private gun ownership, as becomes clear when watching the documentary on ZDFinfo, are mostly white men. Michael Freund and Richard Rüb try to break this open and also let someone like the influencer Carolin Matthie have their say. This also reveals the pitfalls of trying to report in a balanced way. Populist positions such as the Matthies, that after a murder with a firearm, “everything should not be forbidden” because you are then “back in the cave”, are reproduced without contradiction. Figures on fatal firearms use, which correlate with the number of firearms in circulation, merely frame the interviews without really being an argument.

TV documentary “Ready to shoot – Germany armed” does not develop a position of its own

In the end, “Ready to fire – Germany is armed” remains an accumulation of opinions and interests without the documentation developing its own position. Even the use of dramatic music and slow-motion recordings at the shooting range do not testify to critical reporting in formal terms. Nevertheless, Freund and Rau provide an insight into the phenomenon, which in its manifestation is a cause for concern: one in five Germans today owns a firearm. In addition, more than 30,000 weapons are reported missing in Germany and most of them are suspected of being in the illegal arms trade. The documentation relates these numbers only to the previous year and determines an increase. As a clearer comparison it could be said that this number would be enough to equip the entire Belgian military with weapons.

The ZDFinfo documentation repeatedly shows the consequences of legal and illegal possession of weapons by referring to attacks from recent years and showing how the shooters got hold of the tools. It is noticeable that the perpetrators mostly got hold of the weapons legally. Stephan Kramer, the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Thuringia, points out that “right-wing extremists in particular try to obtain weapons legally”, mostly through shooting clubs and hunting licenses. Unfortunately, “Ready to fire – Germany is armed” only scratches the political implications of this fact. Cases like that of the right-wing extremist soldier Franco A. and the Hannibal network show the extent to which the right-wing scene has been arming for years and how inappropriate the plea for free access to weapons, to which the documentation allows so much space, are.

“Ready to fire – Germany is armed” (ZDFinfo)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021, 11.10 p.m., ZDF media library (video available until June 27, 2026)

Said Etris Hashemi believes that having his own weapon as protection against assassins is the “completely wrong point”. Hashemi, who barely survived the Hanau attack but lost his brother, instead advocates a “friendly society where we live together”. The fact that Michael Freund and Richard Rau end with his words is a strong statement in this documentary, which is not very open-minded in other places. (Jendrik Walendy)

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