Gun Control

In Europe, Terrorists Arm Themselves on the Black Market While Populists Champion Self-Defense Rights

Forget stories of restrictive laws; predators have easy access to weapons, but honest people can get into trouble for defending themselves.


A rising populist politician challenges federal officials' schemes to tighten gun laws in response to high-profile mass killings. Making existing laws ever-more draconian is foolish, she says, since "honest citizens are the ones affected, not those who procure weapons via the darknet,"—a direct reference to a recent shooting incident in which the killer illegally acquired a weapon from black market sites via anonymous Tor software.

The better approach, says the politician, is to enable people to carry guns to defend themselves. "We all know how long it takes for police, especially in sparsely populated areas to arrive at the scene of deployments." She added, "Every law-abiding person should be in the position to protect himself, his family and his friends."

We're talking about Orlando, right? Or maybe Charleston?

Nope. The place is Germany. The politician is Frauke Petry, leader of the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a Trump-esque party that has muscled its way into eight of Germany's 16 state parliaments and has many bien-pensant observers dreading the next national election—especially if a string of terrorist attacks and crime linked, partially in reality and partially in public perception, to the recent influx of North African and Middle Eastern refugees continues, sending frightened voters in the party's direction.

Her often xenophobic and Donald-ish stances aside, Petry has latched onto a real problem. Politicians have responded to recent violence by proposing to make gun laws even more restrictive than they already are. It's the sort of response Americans are accustomed to, with every ugly crime eliciting calls to tighten the screws on people who had nothing to do with the bloody incident. Disturbed kid shoots up a school? Then ban the sort of rifle he chose to use!

But Germany already has all of the laws that American authoritarians only dream of imposing: age restrictions, screening of purchasers for knowledge and psychological stability, mandatory registration, annual licenses to own any weapon or purchase ammunition, and specific bans on a range of weapons, among others. The end result has been, as is often the case with restrictions and prohibitions, crimes and terrorist attacks that continue without regard for the new rules. People prepared to violate laws against murder and mayhem, it turns out, aren't terribly impressed by licensing requirements.

Another inevitable result of restrictive laws is large-scale noncompliance. In 2003, the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey estimated that the roughly 80 million Germans owned 7.2 million legal guns and between 17 and 20 million illegal ones. Some of those illegal guns are long-held weapons that were never registered, but others are recently smuggled products. "Police in northern Europe tend to believe that illegal weapons are arriving largely from eastern and central Europe, especially the Czech Republic and the former Soviet Union," the Small Arms Survey adds.

Earlier this month, reporters for Britain's Sky News met with gun smugglers who displayed AK-47s and Steyr rifles for sale, and offered to provide explosives and rocket-propelled grenades. "The men claimed their weapons are smuggled from Ukraine into Romania before being shipped by another gang to western Europe and the middle east. But western Europe was the primary destination."

"You can find Kalashnikovs for sale near the train station in Brussels," a European Union official told the Washington Post last year. "They're available even to very average criminals."

Likewise, "[t]he French black market for weapons has been inundated with eastern European war artillery and arms," Philippe Capon, the head of the country's UNSA police union told Bloomberg. "They are everywhere in France."

Everywhere indeed. "While the exact number is not known, estimates run to 10 to 20 million illegal weapons in circulation in France's population of 65 million," adds the Christian Science Monitor (a number that squares with Small Arms Survey estimates).

The darknet through which David Ali Sonboly armed himself for the Munich rampage referenced by Petry has simply added a level of technological sophistication to a long-thriving weapons black market—an easier way to shop the ever-shifting inventory.

So Germany and the rest of Europe aren't really all that short of guns no matter what the law says, or what American Europhiles insist. What there's a shortage of in many places, though, is permission for people to legally carry the means to defend themselves so they don't suffer harsh penalties for saving their own skin. Danish authorities went so far as to penalize a 17-year-old girl who had the temerity to pepper-spray a would-be rapist.

And to be clear, there's plenty of demand for self-defense tools. Even before this summer's crimes and terrorist attacks, NBC News reported in the aftermath of chaotic and violent New Year's Eve celebrations in several cities that "[h]undreds of sex assaults allegedly committed mostly by North African men on New Year's Eve in Cologne has sparked an 'explosion in sales' of pepper spray and non-lethal guns… CS gas spray, stun guns and pepper spray are especially in great demand." Those weapons are less restricted than firearms in Germany and so can be used legally, if not always so effectively, against assailants.

Evidence that Germans might prefer Frauke Petry's suggestion that they be more easily allowed the use of actual firearms for self-defense is apparent from a glance at neighboring Austria. There, fears both exaggerated and real over the recent rise in terrorist attacks and crimes (also linked to the influx of refugees) drove residents to nearly empty gun stores of shotguns and many rifles, taking advantage of the country's relatively liberal rules.

And Swiss citizens, free of the most prohibitive restrictions, have also flocked to acquire the means to defend themselves. At one Geneva gun shop, "the demand for pistols, revolvers and pump-action guns rose by 30 percent to 50 percent after [last] month's attacks in Nice and Munich"—figures repeated through much of the country.

Those restrictive European gun laws touted by gun control advocates in the United States have done exactly nothing to disarm criminals and terrorists in the countries where they've been implemented. As always, restrictive laws have bred black markets and inconvenienced only the law-abiding.

Smart politicians might respond to public fears of crime and terrorism by acknowledging that they have no ability to disarm the predators in their society, and by empowering people to defend themselves without fear of prosecution. Smart officials would concede that the restrictive path they've chosen has failed and that the American model that they've ridiculed for so long, under which people are entitled to own the means for self-defense, may well be preferable. Dumb ones would leave the issue to be wrapped up in a bow by their country's own Donald Trump.

NEXT: William Weld: Never Mind Libertarianism, He's Running as Himself

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  1. Don’t mind taking shots at Trump, but how can you write on this subject without taking shots at Hillary or Weld? Sure you could’ve shoe horned in a mention of “bitter clingers” or something just to keep the commentariat at bay.

    1. It’s how you get the comments above 100 my man.

    2. I think they are to be understood as being in the “dumb ones” column.

    3. New drinking game rule:

      When the first comment is a complaint about how Reason covers Trump, everyone drinks.

      1. Dumb Donald was SOOO dumb…

      2. Do you want everyone to get alcohol poisoning?

        1. In an insane world run entirely by statists, doesn’t every libertarian already have cirrhosis from the drug and alcohol fueled attempts to medicate the insanity away?

      3. What if it’s a joke about complaints about how Reason covers Trump? Do we have to drink out of our broken sarcmeters?

  2. Again, it gun laws are not about reducing gun crime, they are about taking guns out of the hands of people that do not agree with the state.

    Even a true liberal knows deep down that gun restrictions do not matter to criminals.

    1. Even a true liberal knows deep down that gun restrictions do not matter to criminals.

      Nah. They only see intentions.

      1. They have a skewed view of who counts as a criminal. In their worldview, self-defense is a crime, and so gun-control laws stop a massive number of crimes. Each and every gun prevented from falling into the hands of a serf who would use it for self-defense is a crime prevented, a criminal thwarted. That makes gun restrictions highly effective as anti-crime measures. Sure, they might not do much good at stopping ordinary robbery, rape, or murder, but they’re really effective at stopping the much more serious crime of self-defense.

        1. In their worldview, self-defense is a crime

          It took me a long time to realize this, and it comes from their view that all life is precious, that property is evil, and that even the worst life is more previous than even the most valued property.

          What they’ve done is exaggerate certain ideas to the point of absurdity. Yes, in general, insurance can replace most stolen property; therefore killing a thief is immoral. Never mind that some property is irreplaceable, that theft of any kind is equivalent to slavery (because the thief takes what required work to acquire and forces the owner to put in more work to replace), and that there is no guarantee that a thief is only a thief and will not harm you otherwise. Never mind that some people are just plain predatory, or psychopaths, or in some drug-induced or medical delusion and not acting rationally.

          Also ignore that these people who claim to value life so highly actually do nothing of the sort, as evidenced by their utter contempt for individuality. What they really value is having every survive to be under their control, or (for a lot of the religious types) they value their idea of what is good for your soul and will happily and eagerly condemn your physical body to save your soul.

          1. It’s not even that, it’s just that they worship the state. Christianity, in its most extreme interpretation, tells people to let God sort out their enemies how He sees fit and not to engage even in defensive violence (needless to say, other interpretations are more common). They’ve basically taken this concept, but swapped in The State for God. Vengeance is mine, thus sayeth the LORD your Gov.

          2. They don’t really think or behave as if all life is precious though–that’s just the thin veneer of social signaling on the outside.

            Putting abortion aside, if you are a white, straight victim of a violent crime, then your life does not matter, especially if the attacker is of a protected class. At best, your life matters in aggregate anti-gun statistics.

            Actually, given black-on-black violence in Democrat-run inner cities, they obviously don’t care about black (or Latino) lives either. But any white-on-black violence is blasted all over the media to advance their repeated propaganda that “all Republicans are racists.”

            One liberal feminist white woman who was raped by Muslim immigrants was attacked by feminists when she told her story. I wish I could find the link to the victim’s blog–it was very telling that to the leftists/progressives, individuals are just pawns to be sacrificed for the cause.

            It is far worse if you are a conservative–the left basically wants you dead because they think you are subhuman. I guess they want me half dead since I’m a libertarian.

        2. When a young woman is charged for using pepper spray to stop a racist, your POV is sadly salient.

  3. Inconceivable!

  4. You know who else wanted to arm Germans?

    1. Frederick the Great?

    2. Markus Ruhl?

    3. Walter Rathenau?

    4. Andreas Baader?

  5. So they’ve just now figured out that criminals don’t obey laws – including gun laws.

    I thought those folks in Europe were all so much smarter than we were.

    That’s what all the American leftists keep telling us.

    1. Smarter AND more advanced. When this precisely occurred I am not sure, somewhere between the fall of the Thousand Year Reich and the end of the Marshall Plan?

      They were so cool in fact that they just outright dismissed those who ignorantly maligned the Soviet block as a dysfunctional system that should be defended against. And then accused the US of profiting off miltary spending for doing so.

      Oh well, that is all in the past, and only a retrograde troglodyte [like myself] would even bother to bring it up. Now we are in an ear of new cool where the State knows what is best, and everyone should submit accordingly [wait, isn’t that like, never mind].

      1. Heh heh heh–in just one generation of the continued Muslim invasion of Europe, the average IQ will measure at least 20 points lower AND their vaunted advancements (technological, cultural, etc.) will have been destroyed or will have fallen into disuse.

        I just finished listening to an interview with Col. Walter T. Richmond about the upcoming book “Hasta la Vista EUROPE!” and one of the biggest threats to Europe is the complete overwhelming of their famed medical system. Diseases they have only read about in medical texts are showing up; Muslim immigrants are physically assaulting doctors and nurses for not treating them with preferential and deferential treatment, the numbers of patients are overwhelming hospitals supplies of certain medicines…

        With the end of the antibiotic era coming, we’re going to see Europe get hit by some massive epidemics, possibly the size and scale of the Black Plague.

        Real smart of ’em to invite their future killers in.

  6. Her often xenophobic and Donald-ish stances aside, Petry has latched onto a real problem. Politicians have responded to recent violence by proposing to make gun laws even more restrictive than they already are Islamic terrorism.

    All immigration is good. Contemplating anything but wide open borders is badthink and must be ridiculed and demeaned. Why all those people arming themselves must be having a hard time with poopy drawers…

    1. A real problem”. It’s very rare that a bad situation has just one cause.

      And pretty much no one claims that all immigration is good.

      1. *** Lights the Cytotoxic signal ***

        1. *** Lights HazelMeade signal ***

          1. **Lights the beacons of Gondor**

          2. *** Lights myself on fire ***

            1. ***Lights bic lighter at concert***

      2. A relatively large subset of libertarians seem to claim this though.

  7. It looks to me that European gun nuts are simply using the threat from terrorism as an excuse to gain the ability to defend themselves. Sickening opportunism.

    1. I’m hoping my sarcasm detector is working properly because I love this post.

  8. But, but Australia!

    “Police admit they cannot eradicate a black market that is peddling illegal guns to criminals,” the Adelaide Advertiser conceded a few years ago. “Motorcycle gang members and convicted criminals barred from buying guns in South Australia have no difficulty obtaining illegal firearms – including fully automatic weapons.”

    More recently, the country’s The New Daily gained access to “previously unpublished data for firearms offences” and reported a surge in crime “including a massive 83 per cent increase in firearms offences in NSW between 2005/06 and 2014/15, and an even bigger jump in Victoria over the same period.”

    “Australians may be more at risk from gun crime than ever before with the country’s underground market for firearms ballooning in the past decade,” the report added. “[T]he national ban on semi-automatic weapons following the Port Arthur massacre had spawned criminal demand for handguns.”


    1. There was massive non compliance by the general population with Australia’s gun ban law from the get go.

      Of course you won’t hear that any of the American leftists approvingly citing the Australian law.

      1. massive non compliance by the general population

        Feature, not bug. The beauty of gun bans is they get to turn millions of people they don’t like into instant criminals.

        1. Good intentions, road to hell, comes to mind.

          And I am not at all convinced they were good.

    2. It sort of seems like full-auto guns become more common, if anything, when there is a gun ban in place.

      1. Hey, might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. If the penalty for owning a Ruger 10-22 is the same as for owning an AK-47, why not go with the big, bad AK?

        1. Yup. Reminds me of the 55 mph speed limit. People would cruise the Interstate in central Illinois at 85….once you’re more than 10 over….fuck it. When the limit was raised to 65, seemed like speeds dropped. You could make good time going, say 73 mph, and you were only 8 over….probably no ticket. (totally anecdotal)

          1. Also a longtime traveler of central Illinois Interstates and I concur with your observation. I drove 79 mph from Chicago to Effingham and was only passed once each way.

            1. Funny that, I was just in Effingham. Now I’m curious what business would bring you to the middle of nowhere.

              1. Probably there to buy an….Effing ham…

        2. Very, very, very true. Many law-abiding gun owners who will get criminalized by the recently-passed Gunmageddon laws will face exactly that choice, and they will choose to go all-in for the most assaultiest “assault weapons” possible.

          1. (Forgot to mention that the supremely anti-gun Gunmageddon laws were recently passed in California.)

      2. don’t forget rocket launchers. One CHP officer once told me if your going to break the law and go to jail you may as well go big. at least theres more money in it.

        1. Your money or your life I’ll have, it’s all the same to me. It’s
          Hanged for a sheep or murder in the first degree.

        2. Yeah, Calif. State Senator Leland Yee obviously came to the same conclusion.

          He was busted trying to import illegal rocket launchers into California, possibly for use by terrorists.

    3. More recently, the country’s The New Daily gained access to “previously unpublished data for firearms offences” and reported a surge in crime “including a massive 83 per cent increase in firearms offences in NSW between 2005/06 and 2014/15, and an even bigger jump in Victoria over the same period.”

      “Australians may be more at risk from gun crime than ever before…

      I’d be curious to know how they’re defining “gun crime”. Is it only other crimes committed with a gun such as armed robbery or murder, or are they including otherwise law abiding people who have been turned into criminals by virtue of simply owning a proscribed firearm?

      1. Gun crime in the US includes failure to file the proper paperwork?


      Australian man makes machine guns at home,sells them to gangs.
      (including suppressors,aka “silencers”.)
      Submachine-guns found in weapons factory.
      even in “strict gun control” Australia,there’s a couple hundred machine guns still unaccounted for,still in civilian hands.
      So AUS could still have mass murders.
      that they haven’t is more due to their cultural differences than their “gun control”.

      1. There is also some libertarian statrup that is renting out cnc machines, including software to make machine gun parts.

      2. Also not mentioned by the left is Australia’s stringent illegal immigration controls. They don’t have massive numbers of drug cartel soldiers flooding across their borders and fighting en masse for turf in the their inner cities. Yes, they have illegal drugs driving the illegal gun trade there, but nowhere to the same degree as here in the USA.

  9. sending frightened voters in the party’s direction

    I know, right? Americans are such cowards that when they perceive a threat they arm themselves and prepare for battle rather than bravely hiding under their beds and praying for Superman to save them. And now the frightened little sheep in Europe are going to follow their example? Pussies.

    1. (“Phobia” is an irrational fear of something – being pissed off enough to kill some fuckers may be irrational, but it ain’t a phobia.)

      1. a string of terrorist attacks and crime linked, partially in reality and partially in public perception,

        Charlie Hedbo, the Paris attacks, Cologne…..only partially real, you see. The problem is the “perception”.

        1. Yeah, the fuckhead who drove a box truck over 80+ unarmed people was a real perception.

      2. True.

        I’d like to add that arming oneself against a clear and present danger is not irrational. In fact, it would be irrational not to do so.

  10. Smart politicians might respond to public fears of crime and terrorism by acknowledging that they have no ability to disarm the predators

    Islamophobe. Racist shitlord.

    You just want to arm white people to resist multiculturalism.


    1. It could be worse. They could be superpredators.

  11. You know who else was a German populist politician…

    1. B?rgermeister Meisterburger?

      1. “Put one step in front of the other…..”

      2. The little dick head who carried out his orders was the real bastard.

    2. Inspector Kemp?

  12. I think Eastern Europe has a different attitude on self defense .. East and west are not nearly the same,in many respects. Instead of Europe it should be Brits,French,Germans,Dutch and so on.

    1. Eastern Europe probably learned a harsh lesson form being behind the Iron Curtain for so long. Now they value their freedom. Czechnia makes some pretty good guns. (CZ-75/85 and it’s newer variants)

      1. “Czechia”,the short-form for Czech Republic. (I had read that they were switching to the shorter form,that may have been wrong.)

  13. the American model that they’ve ridiculed for so long, under which people are entitled to own the means for self-defense

    LOL, speak for yourself. I’m not seeing any such thing where I am. Maybe we need an Alternative f?r Amerika to stand up for my rights.

  14. Mencken covered this in 1925:

    With the general result that New York, even more than Chicago, is the heaven of footpads, hijackers, gunmen and all other such armed thugs. Their hands upon their pistols, they know they are safe. Not one citizen out of a hundred that they tackle is armed for getting a license to keep a revolver is a difficult business, and carrying one without it is more dangerous than submitting to robbery. So the gunmen flourish and give humble thanks to God. Like the bootleggers, they are hot and unanimous for Law Enforcement.

    1. Reason made me break the link to stay under the character limit. showthread.php?t=23483

        1. I’m willing to learn.

          1. Use the a tag with the href attribute.

    2. Menken was correct in 1925, and he would be correct today too, except for the fact that in a number of areas, obtaining a permit, assuming that one goes along withthat business, easier now than it was then.

    3. Jefferson covered this in 1764;

      Thomas Jefferson: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined or determined to commit crimes. Such laws only make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assassins; they serve to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” (1764 Letter and speech from T. Jefferson quoting with approval an essay by Cesare Beccari)

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  17. what all these anti gunners don’t understand is if you allow people to purchase guns in easier fashion then its easier to keep track of them now they have the same number of guns but they don’t know who has them.

    1. Don’t worry, I’m sure those illegal guns will show up eventually…at a mall, a magazine office, etc.

  18. “North African and Middle Eastern refugees”

    Can we please dispense with the notion that they’re all refugees? Refugees from what? Shitty governments? The majority of these migrants are moving for economic reasons, not to escape war.

  19. The last paragraph makes mention of what “smart politicians” might do. How about amending that just a bit so as to
    include what “honest politicians” might or should do, essentially the same thing, for a change, TELL THE TRUTH

  20. “it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”
    IOW,I’d rather be prosecuted for “illegal” armed self-defense than be raped or murdered.
    Sooner or later,these Europeans are going to wake up and see what madness they’ve allowed to occur in their countries. OR their countries are going to die.

    1. Sadly, being judged by twelve (of your peers) in the extremely leftist/progressive states for having defended oneself with lethal force almost always finds you imprisoned, where you will, thanks to the endless slew of laws to break in statist states, be raped at least once, unless you are such a badass mofo that you are already a criminal sociopath with gang ties.

      So it may be a wash, if you are defending yourself against rape (even women rape other women in women-only prisons).

  21. Sounds like it’s time to storm that Bastille thing again.

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  23. Well it’s sad it’s taking a crime epidemic to make them wake up on guns, but at least something is.

    And seriously Reason, the crime statistics are pretty solid… And they’re pretty solidly migrants. The governments in much of Europe won’t even release racial/ethnic statistics on a lot of these crimes anymore because they’re so often committed by refugees.

    I’m a nice guy, and I get the whole “being nice and letting the poor people in” thing… But there’s a limit man. A country can only take so many people before society gets messed up by too much change too fast. And even before that point, are the actual native citizens really OBLIGATED to suffer minor incremental hardships to benefit some random ass people from thousands of miles away who largely have no respect for THEIR culture? Especially when if these were real decent people they’d be manning up and fighting to save their homelands from the shit heads that are ruining them, not fleeing away to live in a land where they can’t even have the common decency to respect the societal norms

    1. It’s not racist to recognize facts. I’m a bit of an American mutt, but I’m mostly German. 2000 years ago do you think letting a ton of my barbarian ancestors into saaay the city of Rome would not have made things more rough and tumble? Rome had its shady elements to be sure, but they also had laws and an order to society that was better than most anywhere else in the world. Germanic societal norms were different, culture was different, language, religion etc. All those differences create friction in the best of circumstances. The Germanic tribes were used to a bloodier and more violent life too vs people living in Italy proper. Those are all facts.

      The reality is dropping 50,000 or 100,000 of my relatives into the city of Rome would have destabilized the crap out of it. Such things DID happen in some areas where Rome let in migrants in fact.

      It’s no different today with these North African/Middle Eastern people. A good chunk (most I would imagine) of them are fine people, but not all. That said, even the best among them are used to a far different societal structure, and have grown up around great violence and crazy shit. Is it a big deal to beat someone in the street when they offend you when you’ve seen a hundred people gunned down by terrorists in your life? No. How about to treat women like shit? No. And on and on.

      1. Not to mention mere practical matters like instantly housing so many people, paying for their shit, finding them jobs, them not even speaking the language etc. So cut out the “there can’t possibly be a problem with these people because it would be non PC to say there was!” crap. You guys USUALLY don’t fall into the “racism trap” but with Trump (where Mexicans do NOT really merit it to ANYTHING close to the same degree, and also Trump is an idiot for the record) and the European migrant situation you do. Why? Use facts, not fuzzy feelings.

        There is a real problem in Europe with this particular group of immigrants, and it’s not racist to point it out. It’s just reality. I don’t think a mass immigration of Japanese, or Indians, or Chinese etc would be causing problems, but that’s because of the cultures those countries have. They all have a few “retrograde” views in their cultures compared to us in the west, but the Muslim world is simply factually a lot more fucked up in this current time period.

      2. Your facts, are someone else’s racism. Notwithstanding that, what you say makes sense, sense tending go upset and or offend many, especially these days.

  24. And if the anti gun types ever got their way, heaven forbid, the same damned foolishness would exist there too.

  25. Really dumb ones won’t even notice the depth of the hypocracy of our government that goes to such great lengths to arm OTHER NATION’S citizens, all the while trying to disarm our own:
    Yahoo news;

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