May 17, 2009:
German politicians recently tried to outlaw paintball, a sport employing guns that use compressed air to fire 17mm paint balls at other players in contests simulating firefights. Paintball have been around since the 1970s, and there are 500,000 active participants in Germany. Paintball is very popular with American and German military personnel, and the drive to outlaw paintball threatened to cause a diplomatic crises between Germany and the U.S. American troops use paintball for training, as well as entertainment. But that's why many German politicians wanted to outlaw the sport, calling it "immoral" and a "disgrace." The immediate cause of all this outrage was a recent incident where a German teenager stole a gun and killed fifteen people at a school. Politicians also want to ban laser tag. Both the German and U.S. armies uses a version of this as a primary training tool.
Using "guns" that were first developed to enable foresters to mark trees, or cowboys to mark cattle, paintball has developed into a worldwide sport for some 20 million participants. The commercial paintball guns fire their solid gel balls at about 300 feet per second. Injuries from playing paintball are less than any other contact sport, and lower than most non-contact sports that require a lot of running or jumping.
The uproar from German paintball and laser tag enthusiasts (and 300 businesses involved in the two sports), plus the fact that the teenage killer had no connection with either activity, and military (German and American) protests that a ban would interfere with vital training, caused the German parliament to pull back (but not drop) legislation for the proposed ban. There have been attempts elsewhere in the world, to ban paintball. But these efforts are caused by the misuse of paintball guns outside supervised gaming areas. Some paintball enthusiasts will fire their paintballs at people or objects, causing property damage and injuries. In the United States, these paintball gun injuries (mostly outside the organized use in games) has gone from under a thousand a year in the 1990s, to over 3,000 a year now. This has led to paintball being banned locally, usually making it illegal to fire a paintball gun outside a designated, and supervised, playing area. Germany currently has over 200 of these areas, and several dozen are on military bases.