“We want it to be banged up”

In the current issue, the ZDF Magazin Royale team shows how German and Austrian companies are cooperating with the American gun lobby.

The Glock company from Carinthia is one of the four largest gun companies on the American market.

The Glock company from Carinthia is one of the four largest gun companies on the American market.ZDF Magazine Royale

Kids, it’s too easy to point fingers. To refer to grievances in other countries, to their mistakes in the system, to the offenses of their rulers. But be careful, it’s not that simple. After all, doesn’t a finger pointing in a distant direction tend to distract from itself?

It might have sounded something like this if Jan Böhmermann had given the audience a moral to follow after this week’s edition of his late-night show “ZDF Magazin Royale”. In any case, the show ended up with this twist. “Today we have the opportunity to put ourselves above others,” says Böhmermann at the beginning of the show. About “the stupid Americans and their stupid guns”. Between the lines that means: The eternal weapons debate, this dangerous lobby, these terrible, constant shootings – that’s always and exclusively a problem of the USA. Or?

There have been 190 mass shootings in the US this year

Now headlines from the German-language reporting are hailing on the screen next to the moderator: For example, that guns are the “most common cause of death among children and adolescents” in the USA. Or that the state of Florida eased gun laws after a killing spree. And that there have already been 190 mass shootings in the US this year. Something like that would never be possible in Germany. Böhmermann says: “Completely unthinkable.” Or?

A rhetorical question, of course. On the one hand, there are far too many murders with firearms in Germany, such as the racist attack in Hanau three years ago. Or with the attack on a center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg-Alsterdorf a few weeks ago. On the other hand, companies from and in Germany manufacture weapons, sell them abroad, donate large sums to the US gun lobby, tailor their advertising to the political atmosphere where their customers live, and of course they get rich with it.

Böhmermann’s team researched together with the Tagesspiegel for the show how many shootings and assassinations in the United States used firearms from German and Austrian companies. The numbers speak for themselves: in all mass shootings at US schools and universities that have resulted in deaths since 1989, the perpetrators in almost half of the attacks were equipped with German or Austrian weapons. Firearms from the Austrian company Glock or the German company Sig Sauer were used in five of the six deadliest attacks. Two companies whose machinations in partly illegal business are examined more closely by the ZDF Magazin Royale team in this show.

The Glock company donated to the American gun lobby

The Glock company from Carinthia apparently donated to the National Riffle Association, the right-wing conservative gun lobby in the USA. Glock was represented at the NRA Convention three weeks ago, along with the German companies Heckler & Koch and Walther, and is one of the four largest companies on the American market, just like the German company L&O Holding. Its founders, Michael Lücke and Thomas Ortmeier, “are both knee-deep in the international arms business,” explains Böhmermann. L & O also owns the aforementioned Sig Sauer firearms. According to Böhmermann, the company owners did not want to comment publicly on this brand takeover, Sig Sauer had previously “sold” weapons in the Colombian civil war. As a result, production in Germany was discontinued in 2020. But Lücke and Ortmeier let their lawyer say in a video that they have since increased production in the USA “massively” – in order to continue to sell their weapons “made in Germany” worldwide.

The spooky climax of the show, in the form of an NRA promotional video, shows how grotesque the sales market for German weapons in the USA is. It shows a white woman in a black leather jacket with a strict, shoulder-length haircut. Her statements include several of the conspiracy-leaning, ultra-conservative arguments typically found in Trump constituencies, for example. The woman faces the camera and says she’s a mother, so she has guns. She is law-abiding but willing to use guns to defend her family. She is one of those who would make America strong. However, “the media” did not show a story like theirs. She says: “I am the NRA and I am the safest place of freedom”.

The video shows an example of what the NRA and its political network are propagating in the USA. A constant, perceived threat to “freedom” for the white family, a threat from “the media,” among others. The answer from the NRA and its members is: buy guns. Or, in Böhmermann’s words: “We want people to shoot.” With this research, his team shows how German and Austrian arms companies use the political atmosphere in the USA. How they advertise their products for this exhausted market and end up making millions in profits.

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