BERLIN — Imagine a vast registry that details every legal gun owner in the country, along with information about all of their firearms.
Now imagine the gun lobby not making a fuss about it.
That's what has happened in Germany, where a new gun database went into service at the beginning of the year.
Until recently, some records were kept on index cards across what used to be 551 separate local registries. Now law enforcement officials can sit at their computers and scroll through lists of owners and their guns in seconds.
Hunting is popular in Germany, and gun manufacturers are plentiful and powerful. But the push toward increased regulation and oversight, spurred by a string of school shootings in recent years, has come with little opposition from gun groups. Many gun advocates say that if cars can be registered and regulated, so can weapons.
Now German law enforcement agencies know that there are 5.5 million legally registered guns in their country of 80 million people.
German gun owners must be licensed and pass strict safety exams to use their weapons. Police in Germany have the power to drop by gun owners' homes to check that the firearms are locked up according to regulations. And few people are allowed to carry guns in public.
“This is something that is sort of unanimously supported when it comes to political parties,” said Jan Arend, an official in Germany's Green Party who has worked on shaping gun legislation. “I can imagine what the outrage would be in the United States.”
In 2010, the latest year for which data are available, 26.3 percent of homicides in Germany were committed with a firearm, according to United Nations statistics; in the United States, that figure was 67.5 percent.
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