As thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan flood through Austria, gun sales in the European country have skyrocketed. Gun shop owners report that they can hardly keep up with demand.
Stephen Mayer, a gun trader in Vienna says, “We cannot complain about lack of demand.”
He says his entire stock of firearms, which in the past has been enough for a year, sold out over the last three weeks,
He and many others believe the sudden upsurge in demand is due to fears about the “Muslim invasion” of Europe.
“People want to protect themselves,” Mayer says. “Nonetheless, the most common purchasers of arms are primarily Austrian women.”
When gun stores in Austria run out of firearms, people are buying pepper sprays instead.
An Austrian police spokesman says official figures show there are now 900,000 firearms in Austrian homes. The country has a population of 8.5 million. The spokesman says 70,000 firearms have been sold in the country this year, a large percentage of them over the last four months.
While purchasing a firearm and ammunition in most European countries like Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany is almost impossible for ordinary citizens, the laws in Austria are a little less strict. In Germany, prospective gun buyers must undergo a psychological evaluation.
Those Austrians who do not want to spend the time applying for a gun permit are skirting the law. Tom Ortner, a spokesman for a gun retailer who owns several hunting stores in northern Austria says, “Virtually all shotguns are currently sold out, because you need no permit for them. Every other type of weapon requires a license.”
Gun license courses used to be held every five weeks, but they take place almost weekly now as demand has increased.
In Salzburg, people begin lining up outside the necessary government offices to apply for a gun license from early morning and there are still people in line at the end of office hours.
Experts say that the fear of Muslims has increased with ISIS released propaganda videos online. In one video, an ISIS operative tells his comrades back home in Germany to “slit the throats of unbelievers.”
Yesterday, Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner announced Austria will be building a refugee proof fence along its border with fellow European Union member Slovenia. Both countries are part of the passport-free Schengen zone and have become key transit countries for thousands of refugees seeking to reach northern Europe via the Balkans.
“This is about ensuring an orderly, controlled entry into our country, not about shutting down the border,” Mikl-Leitner says.
Slovenia has also hinted that it was considering fences on its border with Croatia, while Hungary already has fences in place along its border with Serbia as a way of controlling the tide of refugees.
Official figures show that so far this year, 700,000 people fleeing war and misery in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, have reached Europe.