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More and more Germans are acquiring the permit they need to carry a gas pistol, a newspaper has reported. The number has more than doubled in the last five years.
Some 640,000 Germans now have an alarm gun license, some 30,000 more than at the end of last year, according to research by the Rheinische Post newspaper. The number has risen hugely since 2014, when some 260,000 people carried such a license.
The head of one of Germany's two big police unions, the GdP, said new statistics exposed a "latent sense of insecurity" in the population.
"At least since the events at the Cologne cathedral square on New Year's Eve in 2015 people apparently feel more and more unsafe," GdP chairman Oliver Malchow said, referring to an incident when dozens of young men of North African origin harassed and pickpocketed people out celebrating. There was a spike in applications for the license in the wake of the incident.
The so-called Kleiner Waffenschein ("small weapons permit") is relatively easy to acquire in Germany: they are usually available to anyone over 18 with no previous serious criminal convictions, and who is considered "physically and mentally fit."
The permits allow people to carry a gas pistol that fires loud blanks in public, though such pistols can be kept at home without a license.
Experts have warned that they closely resemble real firearms and can still be lethal at very close range, and Malchow also warned against potential problems created by the abundance of starting pistols on the streets.
"They imply a deceptive security or a higher readiness for self-defense," he said. "This is precisely what can escalate a situation and possibly turn the user into a perpetrator themselves."
A better way to increase security on German streets would be more police presence in public, he added.
The newspaper, which compiled the data from interior ministries from all 16 German states, said that some 5.4 million real firearms were owned privately in Germany in 2018, some 27,000 more than the year before. These were mostly rifles, rather than handguns.
bk/ng (KNA, dpa)