Gun permit requests & sales skyrocket in Austria amid refugee influx

© Leonhard Foeger
Austrian police records in Vienna and the Styria district bordering Slovenia show the number of applications for handgun permits has risen fourfold in the past months, while firearms dealers say the number of weapons sales has skyrocketed.

An average of 100 permits were issued in Vienna up until September 2015, according to police. The number doubled in October and reached 457 permits in November, according to police records.

“Especially in the last four months of 2015, we saw a massive increase in demand for weapons. Most people said they wanted a weapon because they didn’t feel safe,” a local police representative told the media.

Obtaining a firearms purchase license in Austria involves passing special courses concerning basic handling and knowledge of weapons.

"It’s clear that people’s general sense of unease has increased," Robert Siegert, industry spokesman for the arms trade in the Chamber of Commerce told broadcaster ORF, apparently referring to the atmosphere of insecurity following the Paris terror attacks in November as well as recent assaults on women on NYE in Cologne and other EU cities including Salzburg.

He added larger weapons shops have reported that sales had risen sharply for self-defense weapons, particularly pepper spray, blank-firing guns and Tasers.

Franz Dorfners, who owns a gun shop in Vienna, told the Kurier newspaper that his entire stock of pepper spray has sold out and he has to wait four weeks to restock it because of high demand. Reinhold Sodia told the paper that he is seeing customers who have never been in a gun shop before.

The number of weapons permits has been increasing since last summer in the Austrian region of Styria, which borders Slovenia. In October, Austria said that it is planning to build a fence along its border with Slovenia to control the inflow of asylum seekers.

“Most people said they wanted a weapon because they didn’t feel safe,” Herbert Fuik, police spokesman for the southeast Austria state of Styria, said.

“Because of the social change, people want to protect themselves,” an arms dealer told the Austrian broadcaster oe24.

The demand for pepper spray and Tasers also went up after mass assaults on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, after which police registered 516 criminal cases, 40% of which involved sexual assault. Police said that groups of men of Arab and Northern African origin had been involved in the attacks.

Similar assaults were carried out in other European cities, including Salzburg.

“We cannot complain about a lack of demand. People want to protect themselves,” another gun seller said, adding that “most common purchasers of arms are primarily Austrian women who are also buying tear sprays, which are much in demand.”

A shortage of shotguns across the country had already been reported back in October.

READ MORE: Austrians snapping up shotguns as thousands of Mideast refugees enter country

At the time, a gun shop owner told RT that his revenue had doubled in September and had grown fourfold in October. He also said that the number of people taking gun handling courses had increased tremendously.