Gun dealers in Austria report a boost in weapon sales as concern mounts over the large number of migrants entering the country.
An estimated 900,000 privately-owned firearms are held by an Austrian population of just under 8.5 million, but gun dealers are reporting a surge in shotgun sales this year, reportsThe Daily Mail. Local media puts the accelerating private arms race down to the sheer numbers of migrants and an attendant fear of house break-ins.
One gun seller told the broadcaster oe.24 that “because of the social change, people want to protect themselves.”
Police say 70,000 guns have been sold this year, a rush which gun dealers report is led by women who are also driving up sales of pepper spray out of fear for their personal security.
“Virtually all shotguns are currently sold out, because you need no permit for them”, said a spokesman for an arms dealer in Upper Austria. Licences are required for private ownership of all other weapon types and the licensing process is seeing greater activity.
Licence applicants in Austria must take courses where they demonstrate their knowledge of firearms. These licence courses used to take place every five weeks, but increased demand for them in a market shifting from hunting to self-defence means they are now held weekly.
In cities like Salzburg, lines of people outside government offices applying for licences to buy guns have become an everyday occurrence.
A Viennese sociologist, Roland Girtler, told Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung that some people just see danger in strangers, saying: “Migration, in all of human history, is connected to fear.”
Mr. Girtler says such fear may be unfounded and advises “never generalise,” adding: “Something new is something positive for some people, for others it is something negative.”
Meanwhile, there is new tension rising between Austria and German. A top German security official has sharply criticised Austria for dumping migrants at the border between the two countries under the cover of night.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere says “Austria’s behavior in recent days was out of line.”
De Maiziere told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that Austrian authorities failed to warn their German counterparts about the impending arrivals.
He says the two countries have agreed to cooperate better “and I expect this to happen immediately.”
Austrian officials have began raising the possibility of building a fence along parts of the countries’ common border.
Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner says a fence might be needed to ensure an “orderly, controlled” entry into Austria. Defense Minister Gerald Klug says containers or railings could be set up to “be able to control the refugees in an orderly way.”