Terror, Refugee Concerns Drive Gun Sales In Europe

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In the wake of several bloody terrorist attacks -- and amid concerns that terrorists might be hiding among waves of immigrants -- more people are stocking up on guns and applying for gun permits.

That story has played out many times in the U.S., but this time it's Europeans who are arming themselves, Reuters reports.

Quantifying the increase in armed citizens of the European Union is difficult because the EU doesn't keep overall statistics on gun ownership. Information on firearm trends comes from a patchwork of national and regional authorities, according to Reuters, and sometimes the statistics aren't comparable because not everyone measures gun ownership and permitting the same way.

But applications for gun permits have increased in Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic, the report said, while applications for blank guns and "guns" that shoot pepper spray are up by 50 percent in Germany.

"There's no official explanation for the rise, but in general we see a connection to Europe's terrorist attacks," Hanspeter Kruesi, a Swiss police spokesman, told Reuters.

Terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and Germany -- and the continued threat of new terror incidents -- have Europeans on edge, experts say, driving gun sales up even as authorities remain mum or quietly discourage the citizenry from arming itself.

"Nobody says directly: I'm buying a gun because of the attacks in Nice or Munich," Daniel Wyss, president of the Swiss weapons dealers' association, told Reuters. "But the sum of these events has fostered a general feeling of vulnerability."

Others admitted that it's not just the large-scale terrorist attacks that are driving people to apply for gun permits and purchase their own firearms -- the influx of refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Libya have people in some countries on edge, particularly after reports about immigrants sexually assaulting women.

The most high-profile of those incidents occurred in Germany during the 2016 New Years celebrations in cities like Cologne and Frankfurt. More than a thousand crimes were reported -- including sexual assaults -- according to authorities, and an Associated Press story from February quoted a German prosecutors saying that most of the suspects were refugees.

Lisa Herdina, a 28-year-old single woman who lives not far from Austria's largest refugee camp, told London's Daily Mirror that she relies on her gun and her dog to alert her to possible intruders.

"I keep my gun in my house because it gives me a feeling of safety, especially when I'm alone," Herdina told the Mirror in a December 2015 story.

Central European News quoted Gerhard Fuchs, a gunsmith in Innsbruck, Austria, who said gun ownership was increasing among female buyers, at least anecdotally.

“Women customers include waitresses that need to get home in the evening, and women that walk dogs regularly in the evenings," Fuchs said. "We are also seeing some coming in to buy them for their daughters."

Daniel Fenyoe, who works for a home security firm in Austria, said people are investing in security technology in general, not just firearms.

"Our clients mostly want to protect their families and their property in case of burglary," Fenyoe said, according to the Mirror. "At least in Lower Austria, we assume the interest is increasing due to the uncertain future of the refugees."

Sources: Reuters, Mirror, Central European News via New York Post, Associated Press via Yahoo News / Photo credit: Joshuashearn/Wikimedia Commons

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