Sunday, 31 July 2016

Germany sees record requests for self-defense weapons amid fears of lone-wolf attacks


© Tami Chappell
Requests in Germany for self-defense weapons permits are hitting record highs in 2016, police data reveals. Firearms ownership experts say people wanting to purchase non-lethal weapons come from all sections of society, “be it workers or professors.”
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.

1,000s Turkish forces surround NATO’s Incirlik air base for ‘inspection’ amid rumors of coup attempt


A military aircraft is pictured on the runway at Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts of the city of Adana, southeastern Turkey. © Stringer
Some 7,000 armed police in heavy vehicles surrounded the Incirlik air base used by NATO forces in Adana in what a Turkish minister called a “security check.” With no official explanation, speculations have arisen about a new coup attempt or VIP visit.
Hurriyet reported earlier that Adana police had been tipped off about a new coup attempt, and forces were immediately alerted. The entrance to the base was closed off.

Security forces armed with rifles and armored TOMA vehicles used by Turkish riot police could be seen at the site in photos taken by witnesses.
Turkey’s minister for EU Affairs downplayed the situation in a Twitter post, saying a “security inspection” was carried out.
“We did the general security check. There is nothing wrong,” he tweeted from Adana.
Some supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have reportedly flocked to the cordon surrounding the base. The scene, however, did not appear as massive and tense as the recent Adana protests demanding for the base to be shut down. 
On Thursday, a huge rally marched towards the NATO base, as people with loudspeakers chanted anti-American and anti-Israel slogans. The demonstrators claim that the US had a hand in the failed July 15 coup attempt in which 270 people died. Tens of thousands people, including members of the military, police, judiciary, media, and civil service, have been arrested in connection with the coup, which Turkish officials say was organized by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan’s former ally, who is now his most hated rival.
In the wake of the coup attempt, several military officials at the Incirlik Air Base, including its commander, General Bekir Ercan Van, were arrested on treason charges by Turkish authorities, which claimed that one of the rogue F-16 planes taking part in the rebellion to overthrow Erdogan’s government had been refueled there.

The general had even reportedly attempted to seek asylum in the US, but his plea was apparently rejected. 

Incirlic Air Base is used by both the Turkish and US militaries and is vital to the US-led anti-terror bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq. It also serves as one of six NATO storage sites for US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. The exact number of nuclear bombs kept at the base is unknown, although, according to various estimates, it may store up to 90 warheads.
The US-led coalition’s airstrikes had to be halted for several days when power was cut at the base. US military personnel stationed there had to switch to an internal power supply.
The “inspection” at the base comes as the Turkish government announced a sweeping military reform on Saturday. In an interview with TV broadcaster A-Haber, Erdogan unveiled plans to scrap all military academies and replace them with a new national defense university.
The commanders of the different branches of the Turkish armed forces are to be put under the defense minister’s chain of command. In addition, Erdogan wants the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and military chief of staff to report directly to him, which would require a new constitutional amendment to be passed by the parliament.
It also comes on the eve of a visit from a top US military official, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, who is scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Sunday. Diplomatic sources quoted by Hurriyet claim Dunford will go visit both Ankara and Incirlik.
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