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‘Feeling of insecurity’: Alarm gun ownership on the rise in Germany

A new survey shows an increasing number of people throughout Germany hold a certificate needed to carry an alarm gun.

'Feeling of insecurity': Alarm gun ownership on the rise in Germany
Photo: DPA

The number of people holding this type of permit has risen dramatically in Germany. Currently 640,000 citizens are entitled to carry an alarm gun, up from 260,000 in 2014, according to a survey conducted by RP Online of all 16 German states. 

In total, there are currently around 5.4 million privately owned weapons in Germany, or 66 weapons per 1000 inhabitants.

In the past 12 months, the increase amounted to around nine percent compared to the same period last year.

In relation to the population, the proportion of alarm gun licence holders is highest in the far northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein, followed by the southern state of Saarland.

The “small weapons permit” is relatively easy to acquire in Germany. They are usually available to anyone over 18 with no previous serious criminal convictions, and who is considered “physically and mentally fit.”

The permits allow people to carry a pistol that fires loud blanks in public, though such pistols can be kept at home without a license.

Latent feeling of insecurity

The Police Union (GdP) told RP Online that the rise is due to a “latent feeling of insecurity” among the population.

“Since the events in Cologne's Cathedral on New Year's Eve 2015, more and more people are feeling insecure,” said the GdP chairman Oliver Malchow, referring to the sexual attacks on women at that time by groups of young men from North African and Arab states. 

READ ALSO: How Cologne sexual assaults 'changed German mood completely'

“The problematic increase in alarm gun licenses shows that we must work to restore a sense of security to many citizens,” Malchow said. “A first important step would be a greater police presence on the street.” 

In Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, 162,952 alarm gun licenses were registered on June 30th. 

At 7.1 percent, the increase over the same period last year was below the national average. Yet there are many alarm gun holders in the western state.

For every 1,000 inhabitants, there are around nine alarm gun licences. Only in Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein is this figure higher. 

The northernmost German state also recorded the highest annual increase with around 15 percent. 

Strict gun laws

When it comes to gun laws in general, Germany has some of the strictest in Europe. To get a gun, Germans must first obtain a firearms ownership license, and need one for each weapon they buy, or a license to carry.

Applicants for a license must be at least 18 years old and undergo what's called a reliability check, which includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have mental illness or any other attributes that might make them questionable to authorities.

Authorities also have the right to revoke this license under questionable circumstances. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, 1,236 firearms ownership licenses were revoked in 2018.

While Germany has had a few high-profile incidents involving guns over the past year – such as the murder of a Kassel politician by a right-wing extremist – it has one of the lowest rates of gun related deaths worldwide.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about guns in Germany

Vocabulary

to arm oneself – Bewaffnen sich

Small weapons permit – Kleiner Waffenschein

latent feeling of insecurity – (das) latente Unsicherheitsgefühl

firearms ownership license – (die) Waffenbesitzkarte

License to carry a firearm – (der) Waffenschein

Assaults – (die) Übergriffe

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know.

We amended this story to clarify it was for alarm gun licenses and not firearm licenses.

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WEAPONS

Germany fourth largest exporter of arms in world: report

Germany is the fourth largest arms exporter in the world, according to a report released by the Stockholm Peace Research Institute on Monday.

Germany fourth largest exporter of arms in world: report
The "U31" submarine model. Photo: DPA

The arms business is booming: the global arms trade grew by 7.8 percent in the period from 2014 to 2018 – and by 13 percent in Germany – compared to the years 2009 to 2013, according to the report.

SEE ALSO: Five things to know about guns in Germany

The largest exporters were the US, Russia, France, Germany and China. Together, the five countries accounted for 75 percent of all international arms deliveries over the past five years.

German exports during this time were mostly to Israel, South Korea, and Greece, reported the Institute, with a particular interest in German ships and submarines.

Graph created for The Local by Statista.

Arms exports continue to be a sensitive topic in Germany, and the country prides itself on having one of the most restrictive arms export policies in the world.

Furthermore, the trading of weapons abroad are subject to government approval, and foreign buyers have to sign an agreement pledging not to sell their purchase to any other countries or groups.

Still, this hasn’t stopped illegal exports, with employees of German gun manufacturer Heckler & Koch going on trial in May 2018 over thousands of assault rifles that were allegedly exported illegally to violence-torn Mexican states.

A German court fined the company €3.7 million in February and gave suspended jail terms to two of its ex-employees.

SEE ALSO: German gunmaker fined €3.7 m over illegal arms exports to Mexico

Conflicts abroad have also spurred Germany to prohibit or put a freeze on the sale of arms. In November 2018, the German government stopped all arms exports to Saudi Arabia as a reaction to the killing of the government-critical Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

At the end of 2018, German chancellor Angela Merkel signed an agreement forbidding the sale of weapons to any country directly involved with the war in Yemen.

SEE ALSO: Germany set on Saudi arms ban despite British warning

The country exporting the largest number of arms remains the U.S., whose exports alone account for 36 percent of the global arms trade.

“The USA has further consolidated its position as the world's leading arms supplier,” says Sipri weapons expert Aude Fleurant.

They had supplied weapons such as fighter jets, short-range missiles and guided bombs to at least 98 countries – far more nations than any of the others detailed in the report.

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