Tim KretschmerA German teenager who went on a rampage with one of his father’s guns and killed 15 people appears to have been a loner who spent too much time playing computer games and in internet chat rooms — a now familiar profile of such young men. Tim Kretschmer had also been receiving psychiatric treatment for depression over the past year but broke off the treatment after it was transferred to a clinic in his home town of Winnenden, where he lived with his parents and a sister who is 15.

On Wednesday he killed a man, thought to be a gardener, outside the clinic minutes after he had used His father’s pistol to murder nine students, eight of them girls, and three teachers at his old school. He then commandeered a car, held a gun to the head of his 41-year-old hostage and asked him: “Should we have fun and pick off some more drivers?” He went on to kill two more people at a car showroom before — cornered by police — he turned the gun on himself.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has described the shooting incident as “incomprehensible”, but Tim Kretschmer’s mental state and online habits raised some red flags. The youth had killer games such as Counter Strike on his computer. And his father, who belongs to a shooting club in the town of Winnenden, is said to own more than a dozen guns — although all were locked away except the one his son used, which the wealthy businessman kept in a bedroom drawer.

There have been calls for tougher gun laws, metal detectors at schools (as is now common in the US), and a ban on violent computer games. But German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said no law could make society absolutely secure; Germany need to concentrate on strengthening the role of the family and teaching moral values to children rather tightening weapons rules. ~ Deutsche Welle, March 1; Times Online, March 13


Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet