Why were there no mass shootings in the now-defunct (East) German Democratic Republic?
A family gathers at a memorial outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Monterey Park, Calif. A gunman killed multiple people at the ballroom dance studio late Saturday amid Lunar New Years celebrations in the predominantly Asian American community. | Ashley Landis/AP

Horrified at the continued string of shootings in the USA I am forced to reflect about the situation I knew in the long defunct (East) German Democratic Republic. My late brother-n-law was a passionate hunter, and hunting, unpleasant as it is to many, was considered necessary to limit excessive numbers of deer, to save young trees and woods, and wild boar, and to save needed vegetable and potato fields.

He had taken and passed the courses on proper use of weaponry, shooting ability, ecology and hunting rules (no does with fawns, for example), which provided him with a license and the right to own a weapon – a hunting weapon.  But he was not allowed to keep it at home; he fetched it, when he went hunting, from the local forest ranger, along with an allotment of ammunition which he later had to account for, bullet for bullet.

When the hunting was finished he also turned in a good edible portion of the meat (which was distributed to publicly-owned restaurants).

He was a good shot, avoided cruel wounding, and accepted these rules without any complaints I ever heard. For those interested in sport shooting at shooting ranges, similar rules were involved. There was a license test (as with driving), no weapons in the homes, regular shooting ranges and accountability for all ammunition used.

Was this a limitation of freedom? Of course it was.

Was it also aimed against possible insurrection or protest? Quite possibly.

Did it prevent, almost totally if not totally, the shooting of human beings, often enough schoolchildren? Very definitely.

Did it preclude profiteering from any such killing? Absolutely 100%.

Are there two sides to everything? I guess maybe so. Those rules are now defunct.

Just a side thought: If there were restrictions – or rather bans – on profiteering from giant weapons – stealth drones, bombers, missiles, aircraft carriers – would we have a more peaceful world? I suspect we would.


Victor Grossman
Victor Grossman

Victor Grossman is a journalist from the U.S. now living in Berlin. He fled his U.S. Army post in the 1950s in danger of reprisals for his left-wing activities at Harvard and in Buffalo, New York. He landed in the former German Democratic Republic (Socialist East Germany), studied journalism, founded a Paul Robeson Archive, and became a freelance journalist and author. His latest book,  A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee, is about his life in the German Democratic Republic from 1949 – 1990, the tremendous improvements for the people under socialism, the reasons for the fall of socialism, and the importance of today's struggles.