The Austrian government is set to amend the laws which govern the use and possession of firearms so that illegal immigrants and asylum seekers will no longer have access to purchasing them.
The new changes to the extant amendment to the Weapons Act, which was approved Thursday by the Internal Committee of the National Council prohibits asylum seekers and migrants living in Austria illegally from access to firearms. The bill, which will take effect in March of next year, also looks to manage the use of arms by security agencies and police, a press release from the government stated.
The amendment will not only prohibit illegal migrants and asylum seekers from procuring weapons but also looks to ban legal migrants and accepted refugees until a residency period of five years has passed. Those who have European Union citizenship are not affected by the new law, nor are tourists.
Any asylum seekers or illegals who attempt to purchase firearms from registered gun sellers could face charges of a year in prison. The sentence for the unauthorized possession of illegal arms has also doubled to two years in prison for anyone breaking the law. The authorities have also announced they will tackle the sales of illegal firearms on the “dark web” with violators facing sentences of three years.
Police in Austria will now be allowed to purchase guns up to 9mm calibre without having to apply for a private license to do so. The anti-mass migration Freedom Party (FPÖ) have welcomed the move toward liberalization of the gun laws but has requested police not be limited to only 9mm pistols. FPÖ MP Christoph Hagen argued that police didn’t need to take separate tests because their reliability should have been tested when they became police officers.
Mr. Hagen also voiced his opinion that the liberalization of firearms was a step in the right direction for Austria and that every legal citizen in the country should own a firearm.
Austria is one of the few countries in Europe which allows citizens to purchase firearms for the purposes of self-defence. Gun ownership in the country has risen significantly during the uncertainty of the migrant crisis with shotguns being sold out only months into the start of the crisis last October.
Neighbouring Germany is also cracking down on gun ownership as Justice Minister Heiko Maas announced this week that the government would be looking to confiscate guns from a sect of German citizens who regard the post-World War Two constitution as invalid. Mr. Maas has proposed that any persons wishing to buy guns in Germany should be made to sign an oath of loyalty to the constitution.