Ask an attorney: Owning private firearm in Germany

by R. Peter Masterton
21st Theater Sustainment Command Legal Office

Q: I’ve heard it is difficult, but is there any way to bring my personal firearms to Germany?

A: Owning a firearm in Germany can be a challenge. Germany has special rules that make it difficult to own, ship and store privately owned firearms. This article is designed to provide a general introduction to the rules. Specific questions should be addressed to your local U.S. forces vehicle registration office, which is the military office responsible for registering both motor vehicles and firearms.

U.S. personnel who come to Germany are not permitted to bring privately owned firearms with them until they are properly registered with the U.S. forces and German authorities. Unfortunately, this cannot be done prior to arrival. Once you arrive, you will have to overcome a number of hurdles before you can import or buy a firearm.

German law requires their citizens to demonstrate that they are reliable and pass certain tests before they can own a firearm. By agreement with the German government, U.S. forces personnel are required to meet these same requirements.

Before you can obtain a license to own a firearm, you have to establish your need for a firearm. This can be done in two ways: You can obtain a German hunting license or a German certificate of need for sport shooters. The German hunting license can be obtained by passing a U.S. Forces Rod and Gun Club or Outdoor Recreation sponsored German hunting course.

The German certificate of need for sport shooting can be obtained through membership in a German or U.S. forces sport-shooting club, active participation in shooting events for a period of one year or more with a minimum of 18 visits to the range, maintenance of a shooting log book, and obtaining insurance protection. Once you have obtained one of these documents, you may be issued a German weapons possession card listing your specific privately owned firearms.

If the weapons possession card is issued based on a German hunting license, you will only be authorized ownership of rifles and shotguns and up to two pistols. If the card is issued based on a German certificate of need, you will only be authorized to own the weapons you use for sport shooting.

To obtain a permit to own a privately owned firearm you must also request a background check from the FBI using an AE Form 190-6D Part A. The FBI background check is similar to the one required for firearm owners in the United States. Once the background check has been successfully completed, you should request a statement of reliability, an AE Form 190-6H(A) for military personnel and civilian employees or an AE Form 190-6H(B) for family members, from the first O-5 level commander in your chain of command. The forms to request the background check and statement of reliability can be found at the U.S. Army Europe website,

Once these requirements have been completed, you should submit an application for registration of your firearms, AE Form 190-6D, to your local U.S. forces vehicle registration office. After you have obtained your license, you may bring your firearms to Germany. If you plan to hand carry your weapons, you will need to comply with airline firearms rules. Because of airline restrictions on weapon transport, prior planning is important.

Getting your firearms back to the United States at the end of your tour of duty here can also be a challenge. If you purchased any firearms in Germany, you will have to get permission to import them into the United States from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Military personnel will need to fill out an ATF Form 6-Part 2 and government civilian employees will need to complete an ATF Form 6-Part 1.

The application should be submitted at least six months prior to your permanent-change-of-station move, as the approval is only valid for a year and can take up to six months to process. If you have written documentation that you brought your firearms with you, you may return them without permission of the ATF.

Once you have received permission to bring your firearms to the United States, you should bring all your paperwork to your local U.S. forces vehicle registration office to begin the deregistration process. Handguns and long guns may be returned in a government household goods shipment, hand carried with the permission of the airline or shipped through an authorized German firearms dealer to an authorized U.S. firearms dealer. Military members can also send long guns to the U.S. through the U.S. postal service.

Editor’s note: This article only provides an overview of the rules relating to privately owned firearms. More information can be found in Army in Europe Regulation 190-6 or from your local U.S. forces vehicle registration office.