Do Germans feel less safe than they did 10 years ago? 5 years ago? Last year?
If actions speak, the evidence is pointing to a big, fat yes.
The Interior Ministry reports the number of small arms licenses increased by about 50 percent in the first half of 2016. According to German law, this allows the person to carry a tear gas or blank firing gun.
German retail chain DM adds pepper spray to their product line
One of Germany’s largest retail chains, DM, has added pepper spray to its product line. Yep, right next the household soaps, cosmetics and organic products. According to the company, there was a “growing demand” from customers. Especially, “an increased demand from female customers,” who “wanted to purchase the spray at a convenient location,” says DM CEO Sebastian Bayer.
Bayer also says that the response from customers—especially female—was “overwhelmingly positive”. A source from one of the shops in central Berlin also said that the product has been selling very quickly, especially in the past few weeks.
DM refused to comment on whether or not the demand for the pepper spray was a response to the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults or the violent attacks in Munich, Ansbach and Wurzburg. What the increased demand does indicate, however, along with the increased in small arms licenses, is that there is a growing concern over public safety in Germany.
On a personal note I lived in Hamburg for nearly three years. I could safely say that it was the “most safe” feeling place that I’ve ever lived. I never looked over my shoulder or was nervous to walk alone at night. But in my last few months there, I felt the dynamic starting to change.
But doesn’t pepper spray require a permit?
Technically, yes. German law states that pepper spray is the equivalent of a weapon. It can only be purchased after acquiring a special license. However, DM has managed to find a loophole in the law.
If the product is labeled as “animal deterrent spray”—in other words, to be used only against aggressive animals—it can be bought without the license.
There are mixed reactions to this “animal deterrent spray” availability
DM’s competitor, Rossmann, doesn’t agree with the product choice. “Pepper spray is essentially something used against humans. We are a drug store. We don’t sell batons or pistols, or pepper spray – we leave these products to specialists,” said a spokesperson.
The head of the German Association of Gun Makers and Professional Arms Traders, Ingo Meinhard, also criticized the action, calling it “questionable”. And that the use of pepper spray requires special training.
A spokesperson for the German Police Association seconded that assessment. The Police have urged citizens against using such measures of self-defense to “arm themselves” which “gives a person a delusional feeling of security and changes individual perception.” He also stressed that using such self-defense weapons can often just escalate the situation and “provoke even more violence in the worst case.”
Some politicians, on the other hand, namely the leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) Frauke Petry said that citizens should be able to defend themselves.