The man owned a virtual arsenal of firearms and ammunition, which was ineffectively secured. So it was fairly easy for his son, Tim, to arm himself and kill 15 people before turning a weapon on himself.

Subsequent to this horrific act, regulations have been rewritten to allow authorities to inspect gun collections in private homes, unannounced, to make sure they are secured properly. And now, charges are about to be filed against the gun-owning father.

It was a crime that plunged Germany into grief and shock. On March 11, 2009, Tim K., a 17-year-old from the small, Baden-Württemberg town of Weiler am Stein, killed 15 people in a shooting spree that started at his former high school in Winnenden. He then shot himself.

Now, public prosecutors plan to file negligent homicide charges against Tim K.’s father. The Beretta pistol that K. used in the bloodbath was taken from the bedroom of Tim K.’s parents, where it had not been locked up in the manner prescribed by German law.


Details here

I like the idea of unannounced inspections of gun owner’s homes to see if their guns are properly stowed. I’m sure the gun owners won’t mind. They are never doing anything wrong, I’m sure, so this should not be a problem for most. What do you think?

Comments

  1. #1 Charles
    November 12, 2009

    This is a terrible idea. Stricter regulations concerning gun safety and storage are reasonable and should be subjected to debate. What should not be subject to debate are unannounced visits to people’s homes by the government to ensure compliance with the law. This would be yet another exception to Fourth Amendment rights that have already been weakened by the existing exceptions (hot pursuit, etc.). There are good reasons why the government is required to obtain a warrant in order to conduct a search. And protecting the public from unannounced governmental intrusions and arbitrary searches is a right worth protecting, even if there are other societal costs, e.g. some improperly secured guns. The government needs to demonstrate probable cause that a law is being violated, before, conducting a search. Owning a gun collection is legal, is a Constitutionally protected right (as the law is presently interpreted), and clearly does not constitute probable cause that crime is being committed. If we do away with the probable cause requirement for owners of gun collections, and allow impromptu warrantless searches, what other legal, but regulated, activities could also be subjected to these same types of searches? If the proper storage of gun collections is a significant enough concern that the government needs to be involved in regulation and inspection, then let’s debate the real issue, should people be allowed to own gun collections? Let’s debate the real issue, should the Second Amendment be repealed or our interpretation of it modified to suit modern times? I’m okay with having this debate. I’m not okay with creating new exceptions to the Fourth Amendment to make an end run around the Second.

  2. #2 Jason Thibeault
    November 12, 2009

    They have the Fourth Amendment in Germany now too?

    You could always revise the Second Amendment. The Constitution is not immutable. Look at alcohol prohibition.

  3. #3 Flaky
    November 12, 2009

    In the future, private homes are inspected unannounced, because nobody has the right to keep anything hidden from the judges in Megacity 1. What do good citizens have to hide from the authorities anyway?

  4. #4 Ben Zvan
    November 12, 2009

    So what’s the problem? The criminal has been executed, so we can all sleep well now…right?

  5. #5 chris
    November 12, 2009

    …what other legal, but regulated, activities could also be subjected to these same types of searches?

    What other legal, but regulated, activites, when the regulations are improperly observed, result in the murder of 15 innocent people? My son can’t go on a shooting spree with my unsecured DVD copy of MILFs Like It Big 7.

  6. #6 edivimo
    November 12, 2009

    You’re right, someday I’ll buy a gun and will be my responsability assure that no one except me can access to it.

  7. #7 Ben Zvan
    November 12, 2009

    Charles: It would be interesting to see statistics on how guns are stored. If less than 60% of guns are not stored securely, I would call gun ownership in itself ‘probable cause.’

  8. #8 P. cause.
    November 12, 2009

    It is all up to the gun nuts, I mean gun enthusiasts, to keep it clean.

  9. #9 clheiny
    November 12, 2009

    Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. There should be mandatory surprise inspections of gun owners’ homes to ensure that their offspring are all locked in safe storage.

  10. #10 Spiv
    November 12, 2009

    [quote]What other legal, but regulated, activites, when the regulations are improperly observed, result in the murder of 15 innocent people? My son can’t go on a shooting spree with my unsecured DVD copy of MILFs Like It Big 7.[/quote]

    Automobiles, Fertilizer, and Matches all come to mind. Why do you ask?

  11. #11 Jason Thibeault
    November 12, 2009

    Automobiles, Fertilizer, and Matches all come to mind.

    My knife-throwing machine that I just postulated elsewhere, which can throw a hundred knives in a space of a few seconds, probably should be regulated, too. Especially since I could probably modify its design to gravity-feed porn DVDs instead.

  12. #12 Thom
    November 12, 2009

    How on Earth could one actually think it is a good idea to throw out privacy and civil liberties because a single individual committed an admittedly heinous crime with an unsecured firearm? How many guns and private gun collections are there in Germany? How long have there been guns and gun collections? My estimation is that there are a vast number of guns and an equally large number of gun-owners with multiple firearms and that there have been both for a long time.
    The murders in question are an edge-case that, within the greater framework of law enforcement, is such an anomaly that it is statistically insignificant. Certainly not an event with the magnitude requiring spot inspections of private homes.
    I thought this blog was about rational thinking and science, not histrionics. As long as there are crazy people and weapons, of any sort, violent crimes will be committed. The number of violent criminals will always tend toward zero, but there is no way to be rid of them completely. Blaming the degree of security placed on a weapon with the commission of a violent crime is like blaming the locksmith for letting a burglary happen. If the guns are “properly” secured, it just means that more effort will have to be exerted to get them.
    I am a socially liberal gun owner and I find it offensive that just because I am interested in a complex and scientifically rich hobby that I am a “nut.” Perhaps if more than name calling and ignorance is brought to the table, real solutions can be achieved.

  13. #13 Roadtripper
    November 12, 2009

    Words to live by: “Thanks for stopping by, officer. Come back when you’ve got a properly-filled out warrant with a full signature from a real judge.”

  14. #14 equisetum
    November 12, 2009

    “How on Earth could one actually think it is a good idea to throw out privacy and civil liberties because a single individual committed an admittedly heinous crime with an unsecured firearm?”

    How about “Because the injury to the privacy and civil liberties of the people killed far outweighs the injury done to the gun owner.”
    After all, it’s not like anyone *needs* a gun, at least not here in Germany.(Background: Ex-pat American; seven years in Germany)
    I don’t know *anyone* in Germany that owns a gun. In the States, I didn’t know anyone who didn’t (including me. Long time multiple gun owner; sold ‘em when I moved here.) Arguably, the second amendment guarantees the right to own a gun. It does not guarantee the right to act irresponsibly.
    It’s an *entirely* different culture here, and I myself, after seven years of living here, still haven’t quite got a handle on it. But I suspect that part of the reason that such legislation (spot checks) can pass here is the same reason why Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman would never be taken seriously: We just don’t have enough paranoia in the population.
    (Not that the paranoia in the U.S. isn’t to some degree justified; a few minutes on Ed Brayton’s blog should prove that. But the last few years it’s gone waaaay over the top.)

  15. #15 skeeto
    November 12, 2009

    “They are never doing anything wrong, I’m sure, so this should not be a problem for most.”

    Tongue-in-cheek? I hope so! Otherwise you’re misunderstanding the whole concept of privacy and the 4th amendment.

  16. #16 NewEnglandBob
    November 12, 2009

    What should not be subject to debate are unannounced visits to people’s homes by the government to ensure compliance with the law.

    I am against guns but I agree with the above statement made by Charles.

  17. #17 Thom
    November 12, 2009

    “Because the injury to the privacy and civil liberties of the people killed far outweighs the injury done to the gun owner.”
    So what you are saying is that if you are dead, your rights are more important than those who are alive?
    I think what you mean is that it is extremely important to protect those who are alive from maniacs with firearms. On this we both agree.
    However the security theater that spot inspections provide will in no way prevent any murders. How exactly does a spot inspection protect anyone from a sociopath who follows all the rules up until the point that they snap and go on a rampage? It doesn’t. Nor does taking away the guns, you can not legislate crazy. We don’t have mass killings because there are guns, we have mass killings because the mechanisms that lead to mass killings by an individual are poorly understood in both the mental health and law enforcement communities.

  18. #18 BAllanJ
    November 12, 2009

    There might be a way for the government to farm out this inspection thing… require any gun owner to have the gun insured against unlawful death or injury… If the insurance company is going to have to fork out $1M per death caused by a gun, then they are only going to offer reasonable rates to folks who can prove that they are responsible owners… to get the lower premium you may have to sign up for random inspections by the insurer. If you don’t want to be inspected, don’t sign up, then pay bigger premiums or sell the gun.

  19. #19 BAllanJ
    November 12, 2009

    Of course, you need a gun registry to do that, something my Canadian government is dismantling as we speak.

  20. #20 Anonymous
    November 12, 2009

    How exactly does a spot inspection protect anyone from a sociopath who follows all the rules up until the point that they snap and go on a rampage? It doesn’t.

    wrong wrong wrong. stupid wrong

    In the case cited, it would have worked perfectly. Spot inspections are not designed to locate violators. They are designed to cause potential violators to not be violators because there MIGHT BE A SPOT INSPECTION. Had there been spot inspections in place in this case, the dumb fuck father probably would have had his precious gun collection locked up and the ammo secured and all those people who were shot to death by dumbfuck’s crazy son would still be alive today.

  21. #21 jon
    November 12, 2009

    I’m generally pro gun control, and there’s a particular population of people with guns in whom I have very little faith – police. The only barriers keeping many individual policemen and even many police agencies from acting like thugs are the privacy protections we enjoy in the US. Let’s not give them one more excuse for bashing in my door.

  22. #22 Thom
    November 12, 2009

    “wrong wrong wrong. stupid wrong”
    How is my statement wrong? You are arguing that a spot inspection would have prevented the 17 year old from gaining access to the pistol. Even if the gun were properly secured what mechanism do you propose to keep the kid from finding the key to the gun safe? And again, a sociopath who can pass a spot inspection will still kill.

    “In the case cited, it would have worked perfectly.”
    There is zero evidence to back this up and it is a completely fallacious argument. This whole debate centers on the idea that simply enforcing another barrier between the firearm the sociopath will stop them. That isn’t how it works, mass murders of this nature tend to be planned affairs and even with spot inspections it is totally unreasonable to think that someone whose father is a gun collector and is aware that there are guns in the house will be unable to gain access to them. We are not dealing with sane people when it comes to situations like this and spot inspections are not the cure.

    “Spot inspections are not designed to locate violators. They are designed to cause potential violators to not be violators because there MIGHT BE A SPOT INSPECTION.”
    And this prevents the sociopath from simply using a car or bomb or knife as a weapon how? Everybody is all-on about the guns, but the problem is not the method of murder it is the fact that someone is going to do it. The question we need to be asking is “why do people commit these crimes and what can we do to help them?” You don’t seriously think some ridiculous legislation like this is going to keep people from killing, do you?

  23. #23 Joshua Zelinsky
    November 12, 2009

    I like the idea of unannounced inspections of gun owner’s homes to see if their guns are properly stowed. I’m sure the gun owners won’t mind. They are never doing anything wrong, I’m sure, so this should not be a problem for most.

    We find this logic utterly unacceptable for warrantless wiretapping or warrantless searches. How is this situation substantially different?

  24. #24 Irene
    November 12, 2009

    Thom, I agree with Anon. It is my judgment, and it is reasonable, that this child would not likely have killed those people without access to these guns. The argument that a person who wants to do a very bad thing will do it no matter what is placed in his way to stop it is untenable and ridiculous.

  25. #25 Irene
    November 12, 2009

    Joshua, I suspect you are missing the snark.

  26. #26 Thom
    November 12, 2009

    “The argument that a person who wants to do a very bad thing will do it no matter what is placed in his way to stop it is untenable and ridiculous.”
    How so? We aren’t talking about shoplifting here, we are discussing someone who is willing to kill. This is about as extreme a human behaviour as you can get. The issue that you are ignoring is that when someone decides to kill, the weapon is NOT the motivator. You really think people won’t kill because they can’t get at a gun? That is ridiculous.
    The problem is preventing people from getting into a place mentally where they are willing to kill, people who clearly need help. Brushing the bigger social issue under the rug with feel-good legislation solves nothing.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    November 12, 2009

    You really think people won’t kill because they can’t get at a gun?

    Actually, that is well documented. For convenience, the gun nuts who are commenting here have labeled this kid as a psychopath and so we are expected to assume that he is all about killing and would kill no matter what.

    What we do know is that mental health is flexible and complex. This kid may not have killed had there been no access to the guns, even Hasan may have not killed had things happened some other way that week.

    There is no basis in psychology whatsoever for the assertion that a person who kills would have killed no matter what all the time. These sorts of killings actually follow a pattern not unlike suicide (and they are often overlapping or linked behaviors). They happen or don’t happen depending on a number of factors, and availability of a firearm exacerbates the situation.

    If you think about it a little bit (I know that is hard, but you can try) you might realize how utterly offensive the claim you are making is.

    The problem is preventing people from getting into a place mentally where they are willing to kill, people who clearly need help. Brushing the bigger social issue under the rug with feel-good legislation solves nothing.

    That is true, and belies your earlier point as a matter of fact, but more effective gun control is not a feel good social issue. It is a pragmatic safety issue.

  28. #28 katydid13
    November 12, 2009

    I have to say that I value my rights too much. A couple summers ago in DC, they went door to door in some neighborhoods asking to search house for illegal weapons (at that time there was pretty much no such thing as a legal handgun in DC if you were not law enforcement). I don’t have any guns, there is no chance that they could have found an illegal weapon in my apartment and I still would have told them to come back when they had a warrant.

    I would however, be happy to revisit the second amendment.

  29. #29 thom
    November 12, 2009

    “There is no basis in psychology whatsoever for the assertion that a person who kills would have killed no matter what all the time.”
    No there is not, but you are engaging a logical fallacy. Someone who has decided to kill will do so using the means of their choosing. Premeditated murder is not dependent on the weapon, this is also well documented. My argument would not stand in the case of a kid who accidentally shot a friend with a weapon to which they shouldn’t have had access or in the case of crimes of passion, which, as is well documented, are prevented by limiting access to weapons. However someone who is determined to kill will take great pains to accomplish their goal. And that is what we are discussing.
    You’re arguing a position that seeks to take the rights from someone simply because you think it increases the greater good, with no evidentiary backing. The law seems reasonable to you and affects those who you clearly don’t like, so it is easy to support. The fact of the matter is that it most likely would do nothing to prevent premeditated murder. Are you seriously arguing that the government should be able to search your home whenever it wants to make sure you are within compliance? Do you really not value your right to a warranted search based on probable cause?
    Just because I own and support firearms does not make me a nut.

  30. #30 Rich Wilson
    November 12, 2009

    oh, this is good: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,574546,00.html


    the cards contain a discrete reference to his religion: “SoA(SWT)

    Watchdogs say the first letters are shorthand among militant Muslims to “soldier of Allah.” The last letters refer to “Subhanahu Wa Ta’all,” which means “glory to God.”

    I wonder if Fox would report that his business cards had: Soldier for Christ (WWJD)

  31. #31 Monimonika
    November 12, 2009

    You really think people won’t kill because they can’t get at a gun?

    I agree with Greg Laden on the weakness of this argument. While I can’t possibly know what Tim K. was thinking or going through at the time, I can very well imagine the possible reasons why I (if I were in a mass murdering and suicidal mood) would hesitate in killing when there’s no gun available.

    First, it would be easier to commit suicide with a gun to the temple, thus escaping the social consequences of a murder spree. Death by a knife wound, even to the neck or heart, would probably take too long (and be painful). Vehicular suicide, unless it’s off a sufficiently high bridge or cliff, would not guarantee death, especially with all those crash tested safety features. Plus, I’d have to make sure I have the space (and opportunity) to maneuver the vehicle around to get into a good position for my death ride.

    Second, it’s easier with a gun to kill/maim multiple people selectively in a short amount of time. A knife is not that efficient or easy to wield on multiple people (especially when they’re out of my reach). A vehicle would be great in a crowded area, but it would be hard to get those people I hate into such a convenient place for my car to drive through.

    Third, a gun is portable and easily concealed. Knives are also nice to conceal, but a vehicle is just way too obvious to steal away and is severely limited as to where it can be taken to.

    Home-made bombs might be a way to go, but I’m not really up to snuff on chemistry.

    Of course, this is all assuming that my goal is to kill multiple people (preferably specific targets, as well as maybe some unlucky others) and to commit suicide. If the goal is simply to just kill somebody, a lack of a gun is of course not going to be much of an obstacle.

    If some of you worry that I’m a potential danger to society, relax. I have never fired or held a gun (unless you count Nerf) in my life, can’t aim worth shit in first-person shooter games, am too afraid of insurance costs to injure someone with my car, wince when I see living creatures get gashes or cuts, and can’t even make a fist properly due to my long fingernails. Also, I am fortunate to have a great family with which I’d like to grow old with.

  32. #32 Greg Laden
    November 12, 2009

    Someone who has decided to kill will do so using the means of their choosing.

    So, a 14 year old decides in a moment of depression to kill, and decides to use a fir truck to run over his friends at school.

    But he can’t get to the fire truck. According to your logic, he still manages to use the fire truck. How does that work?

    A person who tries to kill tries to use the means that are available. Had dad’s guns been locked up he would have had to use the serving spoon and that would not have resulted in so many deaths.

    You’re arguing a position that seeks to take the rights from someone simply because you think it increases the greater good

    Are there any circumstances where rights are restricted where this is not the case, or at least, ideally the case? Did you ever take a civics class?

    Are you seriously arguing that the government should be able to search your home whenever it wants to make sure you are within compliance?

    No, I’m not. I actually think the tools are there already.

    I don’t think someone should be able to own a massive arsenal in their home. Only small arsenals please. And, I think that if someone is strongly suspected of being in serious violation, existing law allows the police to investigate.

    However, if guns continue to be a problem we are eventually going to have to chose between the second amendment and the fifth amendment, and when that happens, the second amendment has to go. Sorry,but your toys are not that important to the rest of us!

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    November 12, 2009

    To expand on Monimonika’s point, consider the psycho theory (of Thom’s). A psycho will kill no matter what. In the present case, we have a psycho, a one in a million person, and we have a guy with freakin’ arsenal of guns and ammo, another one in a million person.

    Do we really think this is a coincidence? There is probablya cultural/psychological link between the two AND a link of opportunity and teenage depression as well. The fact that the guns were there and unsecured is totally related to the fact that the murders happened. Serious consideration of other possibilities is self serving wishful thinking by boys with their toys.

    Put the toys down, boys .

  34. #34 itzac
    November 12, 2009

    This bugs me. Are the inspectors allowed to check for other questionable activities during an inspection?

    I think a better way to do this would be to do a spot check randomly in the first few weeks after you first get a license and register your first weapon. Maybe repeat every three weapons after that. I just wouldn’t want to see this become a way for police to justify entering places on a whim.

    I guess it’s worth mentioning that there are conditions under which this sort of thing happens in the US. I think foster homes and the like are subject to similar rules. Obviously restaurants and workplaces are also subject to occasional random inspections.

  35. #35 Greg Laden
    November 12, 2009

    I love the fact that no one has asked me for a reference for my assertion that they are doing spot checks in Germany. It is not mentioned in the story I linked to.

    I know only because someone told me, and I don’t have the details of how it is done.

  36. #36 itzac
    November 12, 2009

    Greg, I’m generally on your side with this, but I think it’s worth pointing out that even if the weapons had been secured, that doesn’t mean the boy would not have had access to the keys.

  37. #37 Sevesteen
    November 12, 2009

    Why limit this to people who admit that they have guns? Wouldn’t it be more effective if you just spot checked everyone?

  38. #38 MadScientist
    November 13, 2009

    @Flaky #3: Do you really want cops knocking on your door any time of day and wandering about having a good look around? I sure as hell don’t. They should not be knocking on my door without reason to suspect that I am involved in illegal activities and not without a warrant signed by a judge. That sort of thing does go on in countries ruled by despots – and it’s not pretty. Do you really want to concede such powers to the cops? After all, we know all cops are good, honest, civil and well-educated people, don’t we? Is this just another small freedom that you want to trade for your perceived security, or do you see it as depriving others of a little freedom for your security since you don’t own firearms and believe that you are therefore not subject to such searches?

  39. #39 MadScientist
    November 13, 2009

    @Anonymous #20: I’m afraid you’re the one who is wrong. Irresponsible gun owners are likely to remain irresponsible despite legislation. If the number of irresponsible gun owners is small, then you need an extremely high rate of inspections to have any significant chance of finding any offenders. Small # of inspections + rare event = almost guaranteed never to find an offender = almost 100% failure of this “good idea”. It is a simple matter of very simple statistics. I’ve often complained about this very sort of thing with the airport ‘random’ explosives residue check. If we base the probability of explosives being smuggled on board with harmful intent on historical information, the chances of such concealment are extremely small. The chance of detecting such concealment with the current sampling rate is so damn close to zero that terrorists with any understanding of statistics have little to worry about. It is a show to con the innumerate into a sense of security. “Don’t worry, we might inspect your gun owning neighbor to make sure his psycho son doesn’t murder you.” Yes, that will make everyone feel so much better while not actually being any more secure – but then again, what you don’t know or don’t understand can’t hurt you, eh?

  40. #40 TKW
    November 13, 2009

    Take the current people running health insurance and put them in charge of gun-crime insurance. Require insurance to own a gun.

  41. #41 Mike
    November 13, 2009

    The most heinous crimes ever committed in the United States have only occurred because the criminals communicated with each other or with other people to carry out their plans, such at the 911 hijackers or Timothy McVeigh. Therefore, any person who communicates with another person in any form, whether through voice, written, electronic, or signs shall be subject to unannounced searches at any time to ensure that no criminal activity is occurring. Because if criminals were never able to communicate to carry out their plans, the number and severity of crimes committed would be drastically reduced.

  42. #42 Monado, FCD
    November 13, 2009

    Well, personally, I’d like to know that health inspections of restaurants and safety inspections of factories and rental properties were all conducted unannounced, even though it’s legal to run a restaurant, etc.

  43. #43 Greg Laden
    November 13, 2009

    Therefore, any person who communicates with another person in any form, whether through voice, written, electronic, or signs shall be subject to unannounced searches at any time to ensure that no criminal activity is occurring.

    Welcome to the world of George Bush

  44. #44 Norm Ellison
    United States
    December 20, 2012

    People have their homes inspected all the time for all sorts of reasons: termites, electrical wiring, structural integrity, plumbing, and house appraisals to name just a few. There are private companies you can call today to inspect your home for child safety. What is the big deal with a law stating that your home meet some basic standards in order for you to keep a gun? I could even see this as an expanded role for local building code enforcement. It’s post Sandy Hook people, let’s all start talking about reasonable things we can all do.