Police kill gunman at German movie theater. What are Germany's gun laws?

A gunman who took hostages in a German movie theather was shot and killed by police Thursday. No other people were injured, contradicting early media reports. 

Ralph Orlowski/Reuters
German police walk past a movie theater after a masked man reportedly opened fire in Viernheim, Germany on June 23, 2016.

A gunman who took hostages at a movie theater in western Germany was shot dead by police, Reuters reports. No other people were injured, contradicting earlier reports. 

A masked man entered a Kinopolis cinema complex in Viernheim, a town about an hour from Frankfurt, and opened fire. About 25 people were exposed to tear gas released by police as they stormed the complex, but customers were otherwise uninjured. 

Peter Beuth, the interior minister of the state of Hesse, told the state parliament that the man was "disturbed," and had a rifle or "long gun" before he was shot. 

No motive has been determined. The suspect appeared to be "disturbed," Mr. Beuth said. 

However, "we have no indications regarding the motive, but we can say with certainty that the attack did not have an Islamist motive," a police spokesperson told German newspaper Die Welt, according to The Guardian. 

The suspect entered the complex at about 3 PM, as movie-goers were watching "The Jungle Book" and "Alice in Wonderland," among other films, The Guardian reported. 

Witnesses said that the man, who appeared to be in his early twenties, was masked. He fired four shots and took hostages, all of whom later escaped. Initial media reports that up to 50 people had been injured were proven inaccurate.

Germany has strict gun control laws that were tightened after two school shootings in 2002 and 2009, although gun ownership remains relatively high. Since then, firearm deaths have been cut in half, to about 50 each year, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

"The numbers of people killed in Germany by guns has been falling steadily for several years, and a large part of the reason for that is the tougher laws and diminished availability of guns," Dagmar Ellerbrock, a history professor and authority on gun crime at Dresden's Technical University, told the LA Times. 

In Germany, anyone younger than 25 has to pass a psychiatric exam before he or she is allowed to apply for a gun license. After that, applicants must wait a year, pass tests, and explain why they want a firearm. Once the license is approved, gun owners must be included in a national registry. 

Since 2009, the year a young man who had dropped out of high school fatally shot 15 people and himself, gun owners may be required to take psychiatric tests if they display erratic behavior. Police can also make home visits to be sure owners' weapons are properly stored, although owners do not need to divulge where the keys are, according to the LA Times. 

However, guns are still relatively common. The LA Times has reported that Germany is ranked 14th worldwide in gun ownership, while a Washington Post report found the country came in fourth, with just over 30 guns per 100 people. In the United States, by contrast, there are 88 guns for every 100 people, according to the Post's averages. 

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