Small arms sales skyrocket in Germany after Cologne assaults – media

A shop assistant holds a blank-firing revolver in front of a showcase of a gunsmith's shop in Berlin, Germany © Hannibal Hanschke
Demand for self-defense weapons, such as non-lethal and gas pistols, pepper sprays and electroshock weapons has doubled in Germany, local license authorities say.

After New Year Eve’s sexual assaults on women in Cologne and other German cities, more and more people are purchasing non-lethal arms or applying for licenses to obtain them. Top-selling items include concealed-carry handbags, air pistols, pepper sprays and stun weapons.

A dealer in the North Rhine-Westphalia region told Deutsche Welle his small arms sales almost tripled after the Cologne assaults, as “people no longer feel safe, otherwise they wouldn’t be buying that much here.”

The spike has been sparked by fears the large influx of refugees and migrants might affect public safety.

“I have a 23-year-old daughter who studies in Cologne and usually likes to spend time at carnivals. Now she is a bit afraid,” an unnamed female customer buying a self-defense weapon was quoted as saying by Deutsche Welle.

Unlike the US, German legislation does not provide free access to firearms and lethal ammunition. However, the so-called "small weapon license" (Kleinen Waffenschein) allows for the purchase and carrying of non-lethal self-defense arms like gas pistols. To get the license, an adult applicant does not need to undergo psychiatric examination or firearms training, which is necessary when it comes to lethal weapons.

The authorities issuing the ‘small weapon license’ say the number of applications has doubled since the beginning of 2016. In Cologne alone, more than 300 new applications were registered in early January, in contrast with 408 taken altogether in 2015, according to Spiegel.

Aside from non-lethal weapons, various self-defense courses for women are also gaining popularity in Germany. Several social media entries tagged with #Koelnbhf (Cologne train station) were advertising “efficient martial arts training.”

Since January 5, the number of search entries like ‘gun license’, ‘pepper spray’ and ‘self-defense’ also began climbing on German Google, apparently relating to the Cologne assaults. 

Earlier, North Rhine-Westphalia police were strongly criticized for their apparent inactivity on New Year’s Eve and poor investigation of the crimes. In Cologne, local Police Chief Wolfgang Albers resigned a week after the incident, while Chancellor Angle Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union proposed stricter penalties for migrants who committed crimes – including speeding up their deportation process.

Police in Germany and other European countries were also accused of concealing the crime rate among refugees and migrants, with a number of abuses being silenced or played down.