Alarm at children's 'gun play' at German military event

A photo from the event showing a young boy holding a military-style gun Image copyright DFG-VK
Image caption The children appeared to be of primary school age or younger

Germany's military is facing criticism after photos emerged of young children handling firearms during an open day.

Images shared by the German Peace Society show youngsters holding a range of weapons, including an assault rifle and a sub-machine gun, Spiegel Online reports. While the guns weren't loaded and the children appear to have been supervised, the military's own rules say under-18s must not be allowed to handle weapons, after a similar scandal occurred in 2011, the website notes.

The photos were taken in the Bavarian town of Stetten during Armed Forces Day, a nationwide event allowing the public to get up-close to military hardware. The site's commander says his personnel didn't give guns to the children, and immediately took weapons away from any youngsters seen holding them.

The incident has nonetheless caused alarm among many people commenting online. "This sort of thing must be banned! Children need peace, and toys to play with, not weapons," writes one Twitter user. But another thinks any anger towards the military is misplaced: "Neither the army nor the defence ministry are responsible for keeping children away from the military and weapons. The parents are."

Germany's defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has now intervened, announcing there will be no more hands-on gun displays at all during such events. "Despite clear guidelines, this regrettable mistake occurred," she said.

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