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Residents of European countries, particularly women and police officers, are purchasing more personal weapons, according to sources in the weapons industry. The number of gun permits issued in Germany and Austria has quadrupled following the attacks in Cologne and Salzburg on New Year’s Eve.
“Women customers include waitresses that need to get home in the evening, and women that walk dogs regularly in the evenings. We are also seeing some coming in to buy them for their daughters,” a local gunsmith in Innsbruck, Austria told Central European News.
Policing efforts have been increased in the wake of the attacks, with Vienna Mayor Michael Haupl promising to deploy 1,000 additional officers on patrol duty. In the view of many, however, these measures are insufficient to deal with the influx of 200,000 asylum-seekers who have entered the country in recent months.
According to figures from Austria’s Interior Ministry, one in three criminals in the country is foreign. In Vienna, the statistics are even worse: almost half of criminals are of a foreign background.
It should come as no surprise that gun ownership is rising in the country. Fewer than 10 people obtained a license to keep a gun at home for purposes of self-defence in August. In October, license applications numbered in the hundreds.
In a poll conducted by Viennese daily Heute, some 60 percent of respondents said the inflow of asylum-seekers was cause for concern, fear, and unease.
Gun shops in the city are struggling to keep up with demand, with a local shop owner telling Central European News: “I have completely sold out of pepper spray and have to wait at least a month before they can provide me with any more.”
The situation is similar in Salzburg. Shop owner Constanze Dorn said she had also run out of pepper spray. “I have never experienced anything like it,” she said. “I have ordered several hundred more. I don’t know how long they will last.”
Demand has also risen for private protection services. The White Wings Association is offering free personal protection to Viennese women after Garhard Purstl, the city’s police chief, said “women should in general not go out on the streets at night alone, they should avoid suspicious-looking areas and also when in pubs and clubs should only accept drinks from people they know.”
In the tense atmosphere, hundreds of anti-Muslim demonstrators attacked police officers in Cologne last week, carrying signs reading “Rapefugees Not Welcome” and shouting “Merkel Out” – as a response to the open-door policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
More than 1.1 million refugees and migrants arrived in Germany in 2015.