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