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HEIDELBERG, Germany — Officials are again tightening the rules governing privately owned firearms among U.S. military and civilian employees within Germany.

Now, even personally owned weapons that are stored unused in unit arms rooms and military rod and gun clubs must be registered with the German government.

Gunowners have until Dec. 1 to comply or guns will be confiscated and disposed of, according to a recent Army announcement. Those in violation of the new rules could also face disciplinary action.

The new rule is the latest evolution in gun regulation changes that began in 1999, designed to put U.S. servicemembers and military civilians under the same gun laws followed by German civilians.

Until then, U.S. personnel enjoyed a relatively simply registration process similar to privately owned car registration.

Under the new rules, however, U.S. personnel who want to keep and use their own weapons for hunting and sport shooting must obtain a special permit, called a Waffenbesitzkart. To do that, German law requires completion of an in-depth hunting course, which usually takes about three months, or active participation in a sport shooting club, which usually takes about six months to join.

U.S. personnel who didn’t want — or have time — to deal with the hassle had the option of storing their weapons in their unit arms room or at the local military-run rod and gun club until they transferred out of Germany. But not any more, under the latest rule change.

Firearms “that are not registered with German authorities by Dec. 1, 2003, or otherwise legally disposed of in time — i.e., shipped out of Germany, turned in for destruction or sold to authorized persons — will be considered contraband and disposed of in coordination with host nation authorities,” according to the Army announcement.

The procedures for complying with German registration law as well as existing Army regulations can be found on U.S. Army Europe’s Web site at www.per.hqusareur.army.mil/services/mwrd/index.htm.

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