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Austria considers arming police with private handguns

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HOFFMAN/EPA
12:22 CET+01:00
Austrian Interior Ministry officials are considering a plan to allow all police officers to carry handguns when off duty.

The announcement follows the news that gun sales in Austria have been booming, particularly of shotguns which can be sold without a licence. Breakdown of statistics revealed that most of the new buyers of guns were either women or police officers.

The revelation that men and women who are on the frontline fighting crime are buying guns is regarded as particularly worrying, and now the Interior Ministry is seriously considering providing all police officers with a weapon pass.

They would then be able to act in the event of a terrorist attack even in their free time.

Police chiefs and ministry officials feel that if handguns are going to be on the streets then they should be in the hands of qualified law enforcement officials who know how to use them and have been properly trained.

It would mean 28,000 weapon passes could be issued for the existing officers. The reason for the decision stemmed from the apparent refusal of a weapon pass to a police officer in Lower Austria because he was unable to provide evidence that he wanted to tackle a "concrete threat".

The idea also started being considered after it was revealed that it was not legally possible to allow police officers to take their service firearms home with them. In addition, the service pistol, which is a Glock 17, is regarded as too large a weapon to carry easily concealed.

By equipping officers with private firearms, there would effectively be the possibility of having somebody on the ground in the event of a terrorist or other type of attack.

The suggestion by the officials, which was made before the recent attacks in Brussels, is that if armed police had been on hand when attacks such as those in Paris or Australia happened, the damage could have potentially been reduced.

For example, local media suggested that the massacre at the Bataclan in Paris could have been met with more of an immediate response, given that unarmed police officers were reportedly among the crowd.

In Sydney, a suspected jihadist had managed to keep 18 hostages for 16 hours and two of them were eventually killed when police staged a rescue.

Story courtesy of Central European News

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