FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Gun Control in Old East German

My brother-in-law Werner was a passionate hunter. Until his early death he lived in East Germany, called the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or DDR (in English GDR), which disappeared 28 years ago. I lived there, too, for many years, and it was there that my brother-in-law took me with him on a few hunting trips. I made clear that I did not at all like the idea of shooting a deer, a gracefully beautiful animal. As for the wild boars, hardly beautiful creatures to any eyes but those of their mates and offspring – I didn’t like the idea of shooting them either. I went along partly out of curiosity, partly for the chance to do some bird-watching while he was watching for prey.

Werner had an amazingly sharp eye for distant grazers, he was skilled with his gun, but also with words as he tried to convince me that hunting, despite its death and blood, was a necessity. With no natural enemies (until recent years when some wolves were re-introduced) an overgrown deer population would bite and ruin acres of young woodland, and the very fecund wild hogs can ruin many potato fields. Their numbers had to be kept in check by humans, he insisted. This did not justify excited hobby hunters banging away at all that moved but, he claimed, did justify a strictly planned improvement of animal ranks.

I suspect that even this rationale would anger vegetarians and vegans, and I will not argue. But the interesting aspect for me was a system which many would see as a restriction of freedom, typical for such a Communist-run state. Weapons and ammunition were strictly controlled. Rifles, though privately-owned, were locked up at the hunting clubs, usually connected with the forest rangers’ home and station. To get licenses as club members, hunters had to attend classes and pass exams on identifying wild life, avoiding unnecessary cruelty or neglect, shooting ability – and a few old traditional rites for hunters, once restricted to nobility or men of wealth. The rifles could be picked up and returned on an agreed-upon calendar, which governed which animals in which seasons were OK for hunting and which were not: ill animals, yes, for example, but no does with fawns or wild sows with offspring. The rules were strict; every bullet had to be accounted for, whether a hit or a miss!

Corresponding rules were in force for shooting clubs. Schooling and licenses were required, weapons were kept not at home but at the clubs, ammunition was apportioned and had to be accounted for.

Yes, these were indeed restrictions on freedom, and most likely had an explanation not only in terms of forestry or sports but also politically, with no unauthorized weapons in possibly rebellious hands.

This recalls, in reverse, the reasons why some Americans oppose any controls or limitations even on assault weapons, which are certainly not bought for hunting or sport or to protect against robbers. When some NRA-fans raise posters proclaiming that “AR-15’s EMPOWER the people” we can easily guess what kind of people are meant and what kind of power. No, guns are not only for stags, pheasants or shooting range targets and for people in official uniforms.

The strict weapons’ laws for Werner’s hunting, undoubtedly a restriction of his freedoms (of course a Second Amendment was lacking) also meant that there were virtually no shooting deaths and never a single mass shooting, in schools or anywhere else – not even, as it turned out, in  the course of regime change, which occurred in 1989-1990 without any bloodshed.

Were the rules far too stringent? My hunting enthusiast brother-in-law never complained to me about restrictions on his hunting rights (whose rules now no longer apply). He was, by the way, a teacher, who never dreamed of having a gun in a classroom. And his death, before he was 65, was not due to any hunting or weapons’ mishap but rather, almost conclusively, to his addiction to cigarettes, whose use was completely uncontrolled. Being no hunter, sport shooter or smoker, and no longer in a school, I can reserve judgement in these matters.

 

More articles by:

Victor Grossman writes the Berlin Bulletin, which you can subscribe to for free by sending an email to: wechsler_grossman@yahoo.de.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 18, 2019
Timothy M. Gill
Bernie Sanders, Anti-Imperialism and Venezuela
W. T. Whitney
Cuba and a New Generation of Leaders Respond to U.S. Anti-People War
Jonathan Cook
How the Goliath of the Jerusalem Settler Movement Persuaded the World It’s Really David
William Hartung
Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids
John G. Russell
The Devolution Will Be Televised: Our Body-cam President
Judith Deutsch
Psychology Stories: Children
Dean Baker
The Coal Industry is Not a Major Employer
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Gangster: Adani’s Pursuit of Scientists
Thomas Knapp
National Polls Don’t Mean Much. Here’s Why.
Thomas Mountain
Africans Solving African Problems; Bringing Peace to Sudan
Ann Garrison
History Is Happening: WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate
Elliot Sperber
Don’t Open the Door 
July 17, 2019
Manuel García, Jr.
Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change
Charles Pierson
Sofi’s Choice
Gary Leupp
Epstein, Jane Doe, and Trump
Rebecca Gordon
I Had an Abortion and Now I’m Not Ashamed
Peter Bolton
In the US and Brazil, Two Trends Underline the Creeping Fascism of Both Governments
Michael Kidder
“Go Back Where You Came From:” an Episode From Canada
Steve Early - Rand Wilson
How Big Strike 30 Years Ago Aided Fight for Single Payer
John W. Whitehead
Sexual Predators in the Power Elite
Michael Welton
Teach the Children Well: the Unrealized Vision In Teaching and Learning in the Residential Schools
Khury Petersen-Smith
Iran’s Not the Aggressor, the US Is
Russell Mokhiber
Kip Sullivan and Dr. Matthew Hahn on How Value Based Programs Are Undermining Medicare and Single Payer
George Ochenski
A Fearless and Free Press is Essential to Our Democracy
Lawrence Wittner
Billionaires and American Politics
Dean Baker
Cheap Shots at the Trump Economy
July 16, 2019
Conn Hallinan
The World Needs a Water Treaty
Kenneth Surin
Britain Grovels: the Betrayal of the British Ambassador
Christopher Ketcham
This Land Was Your Land
Gary Leupp
What Right Has Britain to Seize an Iranian Tanker Off Spain?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Democratic Virtues in Electing a President
Thomas Knapp
Free Speech Just isn’t That Complicated
Binoy Kampmark
The Resigning Ambassador
Howard Lisnoff
Everybody Must Get Stoned
Nicky Reid
Nukes For Peace?
Matt Johnson
The United States of Overreaction
Cesar Chelala
Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon
Martin Billheimer
Sylvan Shock Theater
July 15, 2019
David Altheide
The Fear Party
Roger Harris
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela
John Feffer
Pyongyang on the Potomac
Vincent Kelley
Jeffrey Epstein and the Collapse of Europe
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Hissy-Fit Over Darroch Will Blow a Chill Wind Across Britain’s Embassies in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
Juggling with the Authoritarians: Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Fake Book
Dean Baker
The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail