The new police data shows that Germans are feeling increasingly unsafe in the wake of recent lone-wolf attacks and shootings, which has sparked a demand for non-lethal self-defense weapons.
“As of June 2016, there were 402,301 small arms carry permits in the National Weapons Register,” the Interior Ministry said, as cited by Die Welt.
This figure is almost 50 percent higher than last year when there were just fewer than 270,000 requests for permits in the first half of 2015.
Small arms carry permits or “Kleiner Waffenschein” in German, are restricted to non-lethal self-defense weapons, such as blank-firing and gas pistols, and flare guns.
But in a country with one of the strictest weapons laws in Europe, such permits are much easier to obtain, as they do not require background checks, safety classes, psychiatric evaluation and proficiency tests, which are mandatory for obtaining a firearms license.
A person wishing to get a license only needs to be of legal age, trustworthy and a law-abiding citizen. However, they are not allowed to take the self-defense weapons to public events, which is the same rule for those with full firearms permits.
“Customers are coming from all sections of the society, be it ordinary workers or professors,” Ingo Meinhard, the managing director of the German Gunsmiths and Arms Dealers Association (VDB), told Die Welt.
However, he warned that other self-defense products, such as pepper spray, should only be sold in specialized shops, as “professional advice” is always needed.
The increase in demand has also coincided with a spate of terror attacks on German soil over the last few weeks. The deadliest assault saw an 18-year-old gunman open fire on members of the public with a Glock 17 pistol in Munich. Nine people were killed and a further 35 injured.
The pistol and some 300 rounds of ammunition had been purchased illegally by using Darknet, an unregulated computer network, the police later revealed.
Meanwhile Meinhard said that the purchase of illegal weapons through Darknet or the black market is a “major problem” that has to be tackled.
Some German MPs have already called on the weapons laws to be toughened.
Irene Mihalic, an interior affairs expert from the Green Party and a former police officer told Die Welt she believes that even ceremonial weapons must be deactivated.
“It is known for years that all too often and all too easy those weapons are converted into firearms,” she said.