When German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble finally made himself available to reporters on Thursday afternoon to comment on the shooting rampage of 17-year-old Tim K. that left 15 dead, he softly answered into the microphone that he was "speechless" and asked: "What is wrong with our society?"
The responses voiced have included: measures to tighten gun restrictions and change where privately owned weapons are stored; trying to make schools safer with measures such as electronic cardswipe devices for entry, metal detectors and more psychological counselors; and curbing youth access to violent video games.
Hans-Peter Uhl, for example, who heads the parliamentary group of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, called for a blanket ban on certain video games. "We need a ban on both manufacturing and distributing these killer games," Uhl told the Thüringer Allgemeine newspaper. "And we need one that isn't limited in terms of age, but one that is across-the-board."
Meanwhile, Hermann Sheer, a member of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) from the voting district where the massacre took place called for a complete ban on all private weapons ownership. He told the daily Die Tageszeitung that would be "the only effective means of preventing people from going on shooting sprees."
Others, however, didn't express faith in such measures. In his press conference, for example, Schäuble added that: "After Adam and Eve came Cain and Abel."
Franz Müntefering, the head of the SPD's national party, echoed Schäuble's sentiment in an interview with the Nürnberger Nachrichten newspaper. "There will always be people who go off track and become violent," Müntefering said. "We will never be able to prevent violence 100 percent by, for example, turning our schools into fortresses."
In Friday's papers, some German commentators weigh in on the remedies to prevent future shooting tragedies. Others, however, express little hope that anything can be changed without a massive incursion to free speech, certain ownership rights -- and, perhaps, a change in human nature.
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"Schools are vulnerable institutions. But they shouldn't be turned into bunkers, and they can't be turned into fortresses without their ability to teach suffering. After the murders in Winnenden, it's understandable that people would start discussing things like swipecards and metal detectors. But there is no such thing as absolute security, and every added bit of preventative technology brings with it the danger of making people feel even more vulnerable. If you go into one of the schools in the United States that has been outfitted to become a high-security facility, you feel anything but safe and secure. Instead, you feel completely lost at sea."
"Schools need to work harder to be places where students feel appreciated and where their feeling of belonging can be nurtured. Of course, schools cannot replace the emotional stability a family should supply. But, it can still do something to help youths find some sense in life and be capable of dealing with setbacks and feelings of aggression."
"Schools also shouldn't just be about preparing people for careers. They should also help children and youths to confirm, appreciate and protect life -- both theirs and those of others. But is that asking too much from schools? Many teachers complain that they somehow have to compensate for things that go wrong in society … The complaint is justified, but the schools don't really have any other choice than to take on this problem. Schools aren't therapeutic establishments. But teachers can't just simply ignore the issue of how things are going for their students, either."
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"The day after the massacre, there was already no lack of suggestions for how to prevent such events. The police union calls for technical access controls to schools, the teachers' association calls for further limits on access to weapons, and psychologists urge the creation of more jobs for school psychologists."
"One accusation that needs to be taken more seriously is the one that says it's not just an issue of a lack of school psychologists, but also the lack of people who are specifically trained to recognize these human time bombs."
"The unfortunate thing … is that each new school killing spree confirms that there have been definite opportunities for recognizing and even preventing them in time. Just like (those who have committed other school massacres in Germany, Tim. K) was reportedly a "a seemingly completely harmless and friendly young man." But now it emerges that his peers viewed him as a gun freak and that the games he played included not only ping-pong, but also openly practicing pistol firing. And he secretly acted out his murderous desires on his computer, while at the same time withdrawing more and more from the kids at his school who constantly ganged up on and harassed him. That is exactly the kind of 'inconspicuousness' that should have "set off all the alarm bells." … But, in Winnenden, there was no alarm system -- neither at school, nor in the culprit's home."
The conservative Financial Times Deutschland writes:
"Politicians are demanding that gun control laws be made stricter or that metal detectors be introduced into schools. Teachers' associations are arguing for making it harder to get access to -- or completely outlawing -- 'forms of media that glorify violence.' The head of the police union wants swipe cards that control access to schools."
"At the end of the day, there is no substance to these constantly repeated suggestions. None of them can prevent something like the events of Winnenden. There are many things you just can't be effective in a free society."
"The majority of those leading the current debate already know this. Often enough, they have no doubt that their demands will lead to nothing. But, they do satisfy the media's need for material after an emotional shock as big as that created by this shooting spree."
"The knee-jerk comments keep up the illusion that society has grown from such a deed and that it can react to it in an appropriate way. In that sense, they also have a consoling function."
The business daily Handelsblatt writes:
"One concrete thing coming out of this is that we now know that owning a weapon and ammunition in Germany has for a long time not been as well-regulated as the lobby for people who own weapons for sport wants us to think."
"Sure, there are weapons permits that require people to prove their competence and need in order to get one. But to prove one's need, you only need to show that you use weapons for sport, and the number of people in Germany who claim to be sports gunmen now numbers around 10 million. And that's a condition resulting from political influence. We have no grounds for mocking the US gun lobby -- the National Rifle Association -- when we see the stockpiles of completely legal weapons that German sports gunmen have in their homes."
"How is it that a sports gunman can have several thousand rounds of ammunition in his house for a 9 milimeter pistol? That is no harmless leisure-time instrument for sport-related activities; that is an absolutely deadly weapon of war. Ammunition like that belongs in barracks and not in private residences."
"Making tougher laws is not a panacea. But it is a small, sensible step, which we can and should make quickly."
-- Josh Ward, 2:00 p.m., CET
Stay informed with our free news services:
|All news from SPIEGEL International||Twitter | RSS|
|All news from Germany section||RSS|
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2009
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH