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Populist right-wing AfD party co-leader Frauke Petry has encouraged Germans to carry firearms. She claims the government has lost its state monopoly to protect the public, especially in thinly populated areas.
Petry, who caused an uproar January by suggesting German police could use firearms to deter incoming refugees, on Saturday called into question Germany's policing and stringent gun ownership law in the wake of deadly attacks last month.
There were no grounds for concern when citizens armed themselves for self-protection in areas where austerity measures by national and regional governments had "systematically ruined" police services, Petry told the Funke Media Group based in Essen.
"Every law-abiding person should be in the position to protect himself, his family and his friends," Petry said.
Greens co-leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt promptly accused Petry of negligently stoking anxiety and said trained recruits should be hired where Germany's "good" police forces were depleted.
That would improve public perceptions of safety, "not weapons for all" as advocated by Petry, said Göring-Eckardt. "Weapons don't belong in the wrong hands."
Police slow, Petry claims
The AfD co-chairperson had asserted that any further tightening of Germany's Weapons Ownership Act would disadvantage citizens.
"We all know how long it takes for police, especially in sparsely populated areas to arrive at the scene of deployments," said Petry, just days after the AfD wrangled over its leadership.
This would harm "reputable" citizens and not those who obtained weapons in the "darknet" [hidden Internet], she added. "Many people are increasingly feeling unsafe."
Petry was referring to a 31-year-old man arrested by police last Tuesday in Marburg on suspicion of supplying a modified Glock 17 pistol used by a deranged 18-year-old German-Iranian to shoot dead nine mall visitors in Munich on 22 July.
Many were teenagers. Seven of the nine had migratory origins. Authorities said that attack did not appear to be linked to Islamic extremism and instead was inspired by the 2011 mass killing by Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik.
Two regional state elections pending
Petry's call-to-arms remarks precede a September 4 election in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Germany's thinly populated Baltic coast region of 1.6 million residents, currently led by a Social Democrat (SPD) premier, Erwin Sellering.
It is also where Chancellor Angela Merkel has her federal Bundestag electorate and a region where neo-Nazis have been challenged by liberal citizens in townships such as Jamel.
An Infratest survey published Friday showed Sellering's SPD polling 26 percent, followed by 23 percent for Merkel's CDU, 19 percent for the AfD, 16 percent for the Left party and 6 percent for the Greens.
On 18 September, Berlin city-state goes to the polls, with the SPD mayor Michael Müller and CDU interior minister Frank Henkel seeking re-election.
Earlier this week, Henkel and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania's CDU interior minister, Lorenz Caffier, were the leading advocates of controls on women wearing burqas, full-body clothing that obscures even the face but hardly worn in Germany.
Gun ownership law tightened
In the wake of a 2002 massacre in eastern Germany's city of Erfurt, where a 19-year-old shot dead 16 people, Germany tightened its firearms ownership law several times. It established a federal weapons registry in 2013.
The law now requires tight regional council supervision of licensed hunters and sporting shooters, psychological suitability tests, proof of the need to own a weapon as well as weapons and munitions expertise.
The minimum age is 18. The latest figures show that there are some 1.9 million gun licenses issued to sporting shooters, hunters and collectors in Germany, and some six million legally registered weapons. The number of illegal weapons is speculative.
Germany rules out any automatic right to weapons ownership akin to Article 2 in the US constitution. A German's gun license can be withdrawn in the case of a criminal record or unsafe storage.
Residents have, however, resorted to seeking the so-called "small arms license" to allow them to carry blank guns and pepper spray. In the first half of 2016, such authorizations jumped 49 percent, to 402,301 individuals, according to the Federal Statistics Office.
ipj/rc (Reuters, AFP, epd)