Police in Hamburg, Germany, say a gunman killed seven people at a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall on Thursday night, then evidently killed himself. They offered no motive for the shooting, which also seriously wounded several people gathered for a religious service. Germany’s Der Spiegel said the suspected gunman was a former Jehovah’s Witness age 30 to 40. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a mayor of Hamburg until 2018, called the shooting “a brutal act of violence.”
David Semonian, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said early Friday that the church’s 8.7 million members “worldwide grieve for the victims of this traumatic event.” There are about 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany, where Hamburg is the second-biggest city. “The congregation elders in the local area are providing pastoral care for those affected by the event,” Semonian said in his statement.
German gun laws are stricter than in the U.S., “but permissive compared to some European neighbors, and shootings are not unheard of,” The Associated Press reports. “Currently, anyone wanting to acquire a firearm must show that they are suited to do so, including by proving that they require a gun.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for knocking on doors and distributing literature in public areas, and the U.S.-based “denomination’s practices include a refusal to bear arms, receive blood transfusions, salute a national flag, or participate in secular government,” AP adds.