In early 2016, after a series of widely documented refugee assault scandals, most prominently the "monstrous" mass rape (and subsequent coverup attempts) of as many as 90 women, in Cologne during New Year's Day celebrations, we reported of an explosion in interest in self-defense items like "pepper spray" as well a a surge of small arms sales, such as gas pistols. According to federal statistics, the number of Germans applying for so-called "small firearms license", which are required to carry around blank guns and pepper spray, jumped 49% in the first half of 2016 to 402,301.
"People no longer feel safe, otherwise they would not be buying so many products here," a seller in North-Rhine Westphalia told Deutsche Welle in January, adding that like many of his colleagues, he has been moving "an average of three times as many alarm, gas, and signal guns as he was prior to the attacks that took place in Cologne on New Year's Eve."
Since then, the situation in Germany - and across Western Europe - has only grown more perilous, as a result of three ISIS-inspired fatal attacks by refugees over the past several weeks, which has led to not only the most recent collapse in the polls of Angela Merkel but the ongoing ascent of Germany's anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
According to a recent ARG poll, popular support for the Chancellor plunged by a whopping 12 points, with her approval rating crashing to just 47%, as a result of almost two-thirds of Germans unhappy with her refugee policy. This marked her second-lowest score since she was re-elected in 2013. In April last year, before the migrant crisis erupted she enjoyed backing of 75 percent. Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant AfD has won growing popular support in Germany due in part to Europe's migrant crisis, which has seen more than 1 million refugees arrive over the past year, and it now has seats in eight of Germany's 16 state assemblies.
And as a result of sensing the Chancellor's ongoing weakness, (who last week was especially defensive, saying "islamist terror in Germany wasn't imported with refugees" adding that "terror existed in Germany before the refugee influx"), the leader of the Alternative for Germany party, Frauke Petry, has spoken out in favor of people arming themselves with guns and self-defense devices following a series of violent attacks last month.
"Many people are increasingly feeling unsafe. Every law-abiding citizen should be in a position to defend themselves, their family and their friends," Frauke Petry told the Funke Media Group in an interview published on Saturday. "We all know how long it takes until the police can get to the scene, especially in sparsely populated places," she said.
After two Islamist attacks and a shooting rampage by a mentally unstable teenager last month, Germans are on edge and the AfD is expected to make a strong showing in votes next month in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Known for her fiery speeches to AfD supporters, Petry sparked an uproar earlier this year when as Reuters reports, she called for German police to be allowed to use firearms against illegal migrants.
Additionally, Petry rejected calls to toughen up gun laws, saying this would affect respectable citizens and not those who acquire weapons in the so-called "dark net", which is only accessible via special browsers. Instead, she criticized "ruinous cuts" on police and said the state at lost its monopoly on the use of force in places.
The problem for those who wish to follow Petry's recommendation is that Germany has some of the most stringent gun laws in Europe. Firearm owners must obtain a weapons licence for which applicants must generally be at least 18 years old and show they have they have a reason for needing a weapon.
Nonetheless, as Reuters adds, sexual assaults on women in Cologne at New Year and three fatal attacks have added to the feeling of vulnerability and prompted Germans to stock up on scare devices. As such the tension between the desire for self-defense and the legal stumbling blocks, will mean that Germans will be increasingly tempted to pick a candidate who is willing to change the laws, someone like AfD, which hints at more trouble for Merkel's coalition, especially if the refugee deal reached with Turkey in March, is scrapped and Germany is flooded with another million (or more) Syrian refugees, which will likely result in even more radical jihadist elements slipping through the cracks of Merkel's "open door" policy.