Belgians are applying for gun permits in higher numbers than have ever been seen before. In one major Belgian province, the number has more than doubled in just the past five years. Divisional Commissioner of the province of Liège, Thierry Brasseur, said “The trend is clear, the number of applications we’ve received for gun licenses has more than doubled in five years.”
Applications for guns have steadily risen each year, jumping 117 percent from 2010 when 608 permits were requested, to 1,318 in 2015. The trend looks to be continuing as the commissioner reported that the province received 1,436 new applications in the last year.
Liège’s Service of Arms is the state body in charge of granting gun licenses in the province. The group stated that the rising crime and terror attacks in Europe are what’s fueling the “extraordinary enthusiasm” with which Belgians are lining up to buy firearms. In addition, more burglaries and home invasions are taking place. In a country of less than 11.5 people, Belgium saw about 180 home invasions a day in 2015.
It is not easy to get a gun permit in Belgium. Permits are only issued after the authorities conduct a “morality investigation” into applicants who also have to pass a theoretical and practical test. Laws are tough on gun owners as well. It is illegal to leave the house with a firearm unless it’s specifically being carried from the home to the shooting club in a locked case. At home, the law states that guns must also be kept in a locked safe.
While gun permits have been sought in record numbers, the crime in Belgium has not been affected and has remained stable since 2015. Christophe Baes, the district commissioner of Walloon Brabant where gun permit requests jumped 20 percent from 2015 to 2016 said, “The problem is not people who have declared weapons and who are legally entitled to hold them. The real problem is the others.”
The easiest was to get a gun permit in Belgium is to have an affiliation to a sports shooting club. In Liège, 80 to 90 percent of the new requests concern sports shooting. It is a similar situation in France where shooting clubs have welcomed an additional 50,000 licensees since 2011. The French news reports, “Before the beginning of 2015, it was only a vague trend. Since the ‘Charlie Hebdo’, Bataclan and Nice attacks [gun license requests] have become a growing phenomenon. In the climate of psychosis that crosses the country, where there are real threats of terrorism, multiple insecurities and sometimes fantasies of all kinds, several indicators show that an increasing number of French people are seeking to arm themselves.”
In 2015, there were a total of 408 gun permits requested in Germany. In the wake of mass sex attacks by migrant mobs in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2016, Cologne police estimated that they received at least 304 applications since.