by Joseph P. Tartaro | Executive Editor
People across the European Union have started arming themselves over fears and insecurities about the future, including terrorism and increased crime reports, according to several British and Continental news reports, mirroring similar trends.
For example, the number of Belgians, in the province of Liege alone, applying for a firearms license has skyrocketed with applications leaping a massive 117 percent from 608 permits in 2010 to 1,318 in 2015.
Last year 1,436 applications were filed, according to report the Divisional Commissioner of Liege Thierry Brasseur.
Fears over the widespread terror attacks and rising crime appear to be behind the rise, according to Liege’s Service of Arms, the body that grants the firearms licenses.
The department was quoted as saying at a recent symposium: “The explanation may lie in the current security context, which generates feelings of insecurity among the population.”
Increased crime rates are also believed to have had an impact, with Belgian newspaper Le Soir reporting there were 180 burglaries and home invasions a day in 2015.
France has also seen a steep rise in the number of gun club licenses issued.
A survey by L’Obs found that French shooting clubs had seen an increase of 50,000 new members since 2011, a rise of 40 percent.
The news weekly noted: “Before the beginning of 2015, this was only a vague trend. Since the attacks on ‘Charlie Hebdo’, Bataclan and Nice, it has become a movement that is growing.”
“In the climate of psychosis across the country, where there are real terrorist threats, multiple insecurity and sometimes fantasies of all kinds, several indicators show that an increasing number of French seek to arm themselves.”
In the German city of Cologne, that saw the mass sex assaults by migrants on New Year’s Eve 2015, police have estimated they received 304 applications for gun licenses within just two weeks of the appalling attacks.
In 2015 the city’s police saw just 408 applications over the entire year.
Further east the Czech Republic is planning to make a constitutional change so it can allow its citizens to arms themselves.
The Czech Republic’s Interior Milan Chovanec wants to give Czech firearms holders the right to use their weapon against terrorists, according to Radio Prague
The Interior Ministry wants to push through a constitutional amendment which would enable Czechs with a firearms license to use their weapon against perpetrators of terrorist attacks such as those in Berlin or Istanbul. The proposal, which would have to be approved by Parliament, has evoked mixed reactions.
Presently over 300,000 Czechs have a firearms license and there are over 800,000 registered weapons in the country. Under Czech law such a weapon can be used in defense of life or property although its use would have to be adequate to the threat posed.
Now the Interior Ministry is proposing to extend the use of arms in defense of the state, i.e. in the event of a terrorist attack. Chovanec argues that despite strict security measures being in place, it is not always possible for the police to guarantee a fast and effective intervention but fast action from a member of the public could prevent the loss of many lives. Minister Chovanec said he has reason to believe that the public would welcome such a move.
“The terrorist attacks we have seen in Western Europe and elsewhere have increased security concerns among the public. More Czechs are getting firearms licenses and I think that if the situation does not improve in the coming months, then the number of firearms holders will grow,” European media reported.
The minister wants to see the amendment approved before the parliamentary elections scheduled for October.
As a constitutional amendment the bill would have to win the support of at least 120 deputies and 49 Senators.
Although the opposition is not strictly against the idea, deputies say they will need to know more about the proposed amendment, since it could pose serious risks.
If approved, the proposal could still see many changes in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. According to the present draft, it would only apply to Czech nationals and firearms holders would moreover have to undergo stricter periodic tests.
Even in Switzerland where civilian gun ownership has always been greater than most of Europe, there has already been a growing demand for gun permits, according to Swiss.info Preliminary figures show gun sales in Switzerland have increased by up to a record 30 percent in the last year.
A news program by public SRF television in Switzerland cited data from four of the country’s 26 cantons. In those four cantons, the necessary requests for gun licenses went up by almost a third compared to 2015.
Demand for gun licenses has risen between 20% and 39% in cantons Glarus, Thurgau and Solothurn, according to SRF research. Nearly all applications were accepted. Canton Aargau has seen a 40% increase, with 5,117 applications filed.
Canton Zug saw a rise in gun licenses from 419 to 451 last year.
The Rundschau program interviewed a gun dealer who said that many citizens apparently feel “worried by terror attacks, reported burglaries and want to be able to defend themselves if need be.”
It would be the second consecutive year of a massive increase in gun sales if the trend is confirmed. Full figures are due to be released by each of the cantons later in the spring of 2017.
The Swiss TV program quoted a police spokesman who cautioned against the acquisition of firearms for self-defense.
But it also quoted a gun enthusiast as saying that many Swiss citizens want to buy a gun before the European Union tightens regulation on the acquisition of weapons. The EU is currently trying to limit the possession of firearms to members of shooting clubs.