For members


EXPLAINED: Why is gun ownership in Austria on the rise?

Guns are more popular than they have ever been in Austria, with demand rocketing during the coronavirus pandemic.

EXPLAINED: Why is gun ownership in Austria on the rise?
Participants dressed as soldiers of the Austrian Empire fire their guns. With brands such as Glock however, guns in Austria also have become a little more modern. Photo: RADEK MICA / AFP

It might surprise some to learn of tranquil and peaceful Austria’s love of guns. 

One of the world’s most famous gun manufacturers – Glock – is Austrian, with the country having some of the higher gun ownership rates on a worldwide comparison. 

Recent statistics also indicate that gun love is on the rise. 

2020 a good year for guns

The year 2020 was a record year for gun purchases in Austria.

People living in the Alpine state bought more weapons than ever before, according to data from market research company

There was an increase of 10 percent in demand for guns in 2020 compared to 2019.

Gun stores were allowed to stay open even during the strictest lockdowns last year, when almost all non-essential retail was closed. 

READ MORE: Outrage in Austria as gun stores allowed to remain open despite coronavirus lockdown

Why are guns becoming more popular? 

Austrian gun fans mainly buy the weapons for hunting, according to surveying company Branchesradar. It says the increase in gun shopping in 2020 was “mainly due to the hunting sector”, and people practising their gun hobby outdoors.

A change to the Austrian Weapons Act has also made it possible to carry handguns when hunting since 2019, which the company pointed to as a factor in increasing demand. 

Viennese arms dealer Markus Schwaiger told The Local he experienced a “massive boom” in arms sales in the past year.

However he said it was definitely not because of hunting, as people were buying “completely different” weapons to those used to hunt. 

He said he was not sure if people were buying his guns for sport or for safety, but said one factor in the increased gun sales could be that people found themselves with more time during lockdown, possibly due to being furloughed. 

This gave them more time to sort out the gun license and psychiatric testing required in order to purchase a firearm. 

He said some customers had told him they were worried about unemployment leading to a spike in crime. 

And even during the latest lockdown in Vienna, it has been possible to try out shooting and be trained in shooting skills. 

‘Permissive gun laws’

Austria has some of the most permissive gun laws in Europe, according to monitoring group Private gun ownership is permitted for various reasons, including self defence.

People can own handguns, repeating shotguns and certain types of semi-automatic weapons with a licence, though applicants must pass a background check before they can acquire a weapon. 

According to the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based research group, Austria is the 12th most armed country in the world, with around 30 guns per 100 people, similar to Lebanon, Bosnia and Iceland.

By comparison, the United States has 120 guns per 100 people, and the most-armed European country, Macedonia, has 39.1.

Austrian athlete Katharina Innerhofer prepares her gun before the women’s IBU Biathlon World Cup. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

So, with all these guns, is Austria a safe place to live?

While about 250 people a year die in gun related incidents, Austria is still a very safe country. With a homicide rate of 0.97 per 100,000 people, it has fewer murders than the UK, Denmark or Sweden when adjusted for population.

Austria’s murder rate is just slightly higher than Germany, which has far lower gun ownership.  

Those who enjoy going to shooting galleries or hunting with guns in Austria point out that gun licences are expensive and a psychiatric evaluation is required before you can get your hands on a gun.

People also report local police pay visits to gun owners to check if the firearms are stored properly.

How many guns are there in Austria?

According to the Ministry of the Interior in Vienna, 1.16 million firearms are currently registered in Austria.

Experts believe there could also be more than one million illegal guns in the country, possibly because of Austria’s close links to the Balkans.

After the military conflicts there ended in the 1990s, many weapons found their way across the border, according to the Chairman of the German arms lobby association, David Schiller

READ MORE: Seven hazards to avoid when you’re outside in Austria

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Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Living anywhere as an international resident will have an impact on your life, but if you recognise any of these habits then you have truly embraced the Austrian lifestyle.

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Life in Austria can be similar to many other European countries, but there are some aspects that are distinctly Austrian.

Here are eight habits that show you’ve integrated into the Austrian way of life.

FOR MEMBERS: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

Indulging in coffee and cake

Coffee and cake is almost as integral to the food culture in Austria as the Wiener Schnitzel.

So say goodbye to the diet, ignore any thoughts of guilt and get stuck into a slice of Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or Linzer Torte

Preferably with a delicious coffee on the side.

READ MORE: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

Participating in winter sports

Austria, especially the west of the country, is a winter sports enthusiasts dream.

The Alps offer an almost endless choice in ski resorts, gondolas and mountain huts, with winter sports options ranging from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and Langlaufen (cross-country skiing).

Needless to say, if you live in the Alps, winter sports quickly become a central part of the lifestyle during the cold months. After all, it’s healthy, fun and even a bit dangerous (if that’s your thing).

It’s also a great way to explore the landscape of Austria and get a deeper understanding of the central role of winter sports in Austrian culture.

Downing tools for lunch

Lunch in some other countries (especially places like the UK) is often a sad sandwich while sitting at a desk. 

In Austria however, lunch is an important part of the day and many people sit down at midday with their colleagues or families to enjoy a proper cooked meal.

This is a prime example of the healthy work-life balance that residents in Austria enjoy, and is a much-better habit to embrace than working through a lunch break.

Wearing house shoes

In most Austrian households, people do not wear outdoor shoes inside. Instead, they opt for house shoes, otherwise known as slippers in English or Schlapfen in some Austrian dialects.

Also, many Austrian homes do not have carpet on the floor, which means walking around with bare feet or just socks in the winter can get cold – fast.

So if you’ve invested in a pair of house shoes or, even better, you have a backup supply for guests, then you have fully embraced life in Austria. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Being punctual

Typically, Austrians are punctual people and don’t appreciate lateness.

For this reason, many international residents make an extra effort to be on time (or early), and it’s not uncommon to become stressed if you know you will be five minutes late.

As frustrating as this can be, it’s actually incredibly polite to be early for a meeting and not a bad habit to pick up.

sparkling water

(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Drinking sparkling water

People like to drink sparkling mineral water in Austria.

In fact, sparkling water is so popular that if you order a Mineralwasser (mineral water) in a cafe or restaurant, the sparkling variety is often served unless stilles Wasser (still water) is specified.

Want to be more Austrian? Then simply switch from still to sparkling water.

Stripping off

Countries in Central Europe are much more comfortable with nudity than other nations, and it’s no different in Austria.

The main place to expect an encounter with naked people in Austria is at the sauna. There are even some saunas that have a naked-only admission policy and won’t let people in if they are wearing swimming gear.

People also like to get naked at lakes – especially at the more remote or quieter locations – or at least go topless (for the women). 

The reality is, no one bats an eyelid. So put your prudish instincts aside and don’t be afraid to strip off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Taking sick leave

Employees in Austria are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company).

This means workers are more likely to take sick leave if they are unwell, rather than dragging themselves into the workplace and infecting their colleagues.

The downside though is that Austria has strict rules when it comes to taking sick leave with explicit orders to stay at home. Workers can even expect to be monitored by private detectives to make sure they really are resting at home, as reported by The Local.

For international residents in Austria, this can be hard to tolerate. But the upside is that you’re not expected to show your face in the office when sick, simply to comply with a culture of presenteeism.

And that’s a habit worth embracing.