House Speaker Ryan: Florida shooting shouldn’t threaten right to own guns

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at a news conference with Republican leaders after a closed conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan, in a round of interviews with conservative radio shows on Thursday, said the Florida school shooting that killed at least 17 people on Wednesday should not threaten citizens’ rights to own guns.

“There’s more questions than answers at this stage,” the Republican lawmaker said in an interview with Tom Katz on Indiana radio station WIBC about the mass shooting less than 24 hours earlier.

“I don’t think that means you then roll that conversation into taking away citizens’ rights – taking away a law-abiding citizen’s rights. Obviously this conversation typically goes there. Right now, I think we need to take a breath and collect the facts.”

(Reporting by Lisa LambertEditing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Chicago police say Facebook ‘secret groups’ traffic in guns and drugs

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks about the latest police districts to start wearing body cameras, during a news conference at the 20th District Chicago Police Department in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. October 30, 2017.

By Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) – Police in Chicago said on Thursday they have arrested 50 people suspected of using “secret groups” on Facebook to deal in guns and drugs, and have teamed up with the world’s largest social media network to crack down on criminal trafficking online.

Announcing the arrests at a news conference, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson initially criticized Facebook as being unhelpful during a 10-month investigation by his department.

“Quite frankly, they haven’t been very friendly to law enforcement to prevent these things,” he told reporters.

However, police later said the department and the California-based company agreed to work collaboratively “to target any illegal activity on the platform.”

Police did not detail charges facing the 50 men and women arrested through Thursday, but said there were “dozens and dozens” of private Facebook groups being used for illegal drug and weapons transactions. Arrest warrants for 18 more suspects have been signed, and most have prior criminal histories, police said.

Among the illicit sites monitored by police was one offering a “Thanksgiving special” on cocaine baggies discounted to $40 from a normal street price of $60.

In an emailed statement on Thursday, Facebook Inc, which boasts 2 billion users worldwide, said it had only just been alerted to the arrests in Chicago.

“We do not allow the sale of guns or drugs on our platform. We routinely work with law enforcement and outline how officials may submit a request on our site,” Facebook added.

Among those arrested was an elementary school teacher taken into custody at his Chicago school in possession of scales often used for weighing drugs, according to Anthony Riccio, chief of the police department’s organized crime unit.

Since a confidential informant alerted investigators about alleged criminal trade on Facebook in February, police detectives working undercover arranged for the purchase of 17 different types of drugs and 18 different illegal firearms, Riccio said.

Riccio said investigators created covert identities on Facebook and were invited into private groups, which are closed unless the user-administrator allows someone to join. Police then monitored messages and contacted those in the group via Facebook to make buys.

Chicago has been singled out by President Donald Trump as one of the most violent U.S. cities. In 2016, the number of murders there exceeded 760.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)

U.S. Justice Department considers possible ‘bump stocks’ ban

U.S. Justice Department considers possible 'bump stocks' ban

By Sarah N. Lynch and Eric Walsh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday that it is considering a possible ban on certain bump stocks, the attachments that make semiautomatic rifles fire faster and were used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas in October.

The Las Vegas gunman’s use of bump stock to allow his weapons to fire like fully automatic machine guns, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds, has led to rare bipartisan agreement in Congress on the need to review whether they should be banned.

“Possessing firearm parts that are used exclusively in converting a weapon into a machine gun is illegal, except for certain limited circumstances,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said in a joint statement. “Today we begin the process of determining whether or not bump stocks are covered by this prohibition.”

Authorities said Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock’s ability to fire hundreds of rounds per minute over a 10-minute period from his 32nd-floor hotel suite was a major factor in the high casualty count. Paddock, 64, killed himself before police stormed his hotel suite.

Previously, Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill that would outlaw bump stocks, while several Republicans who have typically opposed gun restrictions signaled a willingness to explore the issue.

As part of the ATF’s review into bump stocks, it plans to publish a notice that will eventually appear in the Federal Register seeking public comment.

The legal analysis will revolve around the definition of the term “machinegun” and whether bump stocks fall in that definition.

The acting director of the ATF, Thomas Brandon, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he is expected to field questions on bump stocks.

In addition, the hearing will also explore issues related to the government’s database used to conduct background checks on gun buyers, after a man who killed 26 people in a Texas church was left out of the database despite his criminal record.

Last month, Sessions ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the ATF to conduct a review of the gun owner background check database, known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, to ensure criminals are prevented from buying guns.

(Reporting by Eric Walsh and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Grant McCool)

Lone gunman kills 58, injures hundreds, in Las Vegas concert attack

A man holds a white rose outside a police perimeter near the scene of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Devika Krishna Kumar and Alexandria Sage

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – A 64-year-old man armed with multiple machine guns strafed an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas from a high-rise hotel window on Sunday, slaughtering at least 58 people in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history before killing himself.

The barrage of gunfire from a 32nd-floor window of the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of 22,000 people lasted several minutes, sparking panic as throngs of music fans desperately cowered on the open ground, hemmed in by fellow concertgoers, while others at the edge tried to flee.

More than 500 people were injured – some by gunfire, some trampled – in the pandemonium adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip as police scrambled to locate the assailant.

Police on Monday identified the gunman as Stephen Paddock, who lived in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada. They said they believed he acted alone and did not know why he attacked the crowd. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the massacre, but U.S. officials said there was no evidence of that.

The preliminary death toll, which officials said could rise, surpassed last year’s massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

The dead in Las Vegas included a nurse, a government employee and an off-duty police officer.

Shocked survivors, some with blood on their clothing, wandered streets, where the flashing lights of the city’s gaudy casinos blended with those of emergency vehicles.

Police said Paddock had no criminal record. The gunman killed himself before police entered the hotel room from where he was firing, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.

“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath.”

Federal officials said there was no evidence to link Paddock to militant organizations.

“We have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group,” Aaron Rouse, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office in Las Vegas, told reporters.

U.S. officials discounted the claim of responsibility for the attack made by Islamic State in a statement.

“We advise caution on jumping to conclusions before the facts are in,” CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu said in an email.

MULTIPLE MACHINE GUNS

Lombardo said there were more than 10 rifles in the room where Paddock killed himself. His arsenal included multiple machine guns, according to a law enforcement official.

The site of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting is seen outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The site of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting is seen outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

U.S. law largely bans machine guns.

Police found several more weapons at Paddock’s home in Mesquite, about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Las Vegas, Mesquite police spokesman Quinn Averett told reporters.

The shooting, just the latest in a string that have played out across the United States over recent years, sparked a renewed outcry from some lawmakers about the pervasiveness of guns in the United States, but was unlikely to prompt action in Congress.

Efforts to pass tougher federal gun laws failed following a number of mass shootings, including the 2012 massacre of 26 young children and educators in Newtown, Connecticut, and the June attack on Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game.

Nevada has some of the nation’s most permissive gun laws. It does not require firearm owners to obtain licenses or register their guns.

House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, on Monday called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to create a select committee on gun violence.

“Congress has a moral duty to address this horrific and heartbreaking epidemic,” Pelosi wrote.

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms, and gun-rights advocates staunchly defend that provision. U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has been outspoken about his support of the Second Amendment.

The White House said on Monday it was too soon after the Las Vegas attack to consider new gun control policies.

“Today is a day for consoling the survivors and mourning those we lost,” presidential spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said at a news briefing. “It would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don’t fully know all the facts or what took place last night.”

Trump said he would travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with victims, their family members and first responders.

“It was an act of pure evil,” said Trump, who later led a moment of silence at the White House in honor of the victims.

The suspected shooter’s brother, Eric Paddock, said the family was stunned by the news.

“We’re horrified. We’re bewildered, and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric Paddock said in a phone interview, his voice trembling. “We have no idea in the world.”

He said his brother belonged to no political or religious organizations, and had no history of mental illness. Their father had been a bank robber who for a time was listed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list of fugitives.

Two broken windows are seen at The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and a cross atop a church next to the concert grounds near the scene of a mass shooting at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Two broken windows are seen at The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and a cross atop a church next to the concert grounds near the scene of a mass shooting at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

‘JUST KEPT GOING ON’

Video of the attack showed panicked crowds fleeing as sustained rapid gunfire ripped through the area as the shooter fired from a distance of around 1,050 feet (320 m).

“People were just dropping to the ground. It just kept going on,” said Steve Smith, a 45-year-old visitor from Phoenix, Arizona. He said the gunfire went on for an extended period of time.

“Probably 100 shots at a time,” Smith said. “It would sound like it was reloading and then it would go again.”

Las Vegas’s casinos, nightclubs and shopping draw some 3.5 million visitors from around the world each year and the area was packed with visitors when the shooting broke out shortly after 10 p.m. local time (0400 GMT).

Shares of MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay Bay, fell 5.58 percent on Monday to $30.77 a share.

Mike McGarry, a financial adviser from Philadelphia, was at the concert when he heard hundreds of shots ring out.

“It was crazy – I laid on top of the kids. They’re 20. I’m 53. I lived a good life,” McGarry said. The back of his shirt bore footmarks, after people ran over him in the panicked crowd.

 

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Chris Michaud and Frank McGurty in New York, Susan Cornwell and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Ali Abdelaty in Cairo and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Grant McCool, Jonathan Oatis and Andrew Hay)

 

After Syria fall-out, Hamas ties with Iran restored: Hamas chief

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh (R) and Hamas Gaza leader Yehya Al-Sinwar (L) attend a news conference as the wife of slain senior Hamas militant Mazen Fuqaha gestures, in Gaza City May 11, 2017.

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Hamas and Iran have patched up relations, the Palestinian militant group’s new leader in Gaza said on Monday, and Tehran is again its biggest backer after years of tension over the civil war in Syria.

“Relations with Iran are excellent and Iran is the largest supporter of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades with money and arms,” Yehya al-Sinwar, referring to Hamas’s armed wing, told reporters.

Neither Hamas nor Iran have disclosed the full scale of Tehran’s backing. But regional diplomats have said Iran’s financial aid for the Islamist movement was dramatically reduced in recent years and directed to the Qassam Brigades rather than to Hamas’s political institutions.

Hamas angered Iran by refusing to support Iran’s ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the six-year-old civil war.

“The relationship today is developing and returning to what it was in the old days,” Sinwar, who was elected in February, said in his first briefing session with reporters.

“This will be reflected in the resistance (against Israel) and in (Hamas’s) agenda to achieve the liberation,” he said.

Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction. It has fought three wars with Israel since seizing the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Sinwar, a former Hamas security chief who had spent 20 years in Israeli jails, said the group is always preparing for a possible war with Israel. But he said such a conflict was not in Hamas’s strategic interests at the moment.

“We are not interested in a war, we do not want war and we want to push it backward as much as we could so that our people will relax and take their breath and in the same time we are building our power,” he said. “We do not fear war and we are fully ready for it.”

Hamas and Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, are locked in political dispute over the issue of Palestinian unity.

Abbas’s slashing of PA funding for Israeli-supplied electricity to Gaza has led to prolonged daily blackouts in the coastal enclave.

Sinwar, in his remarks, invited Abbas’s Fatah movement for talks on forming a new national unity government to administer both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

There was no immediate response from PA officials. Abbas has called on Hamas to first relinqish control of Gaza before he removes economic sanctions and to prepare for the formation of a new unity government that will be tasked with holding presidential and parliament elections.

 

 

 

 

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Richard Balmforth)

 

Man arrested at Trump’s Washington hotel after guns found in car

FILE PHOTO - Flags fly above the entrance to the new Trump International Hotel on its opening day in Washington, DC, U.S. on September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Pennsylvania man was arrested at President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel early on Wednesday after police found a rifle, pistol and ammunition in his car, a discovery they said may have prevented a disaster in the U.S. capital.

Brian Moles, 43, of Edinboro, was taken into custody shortly after checking into the Trump International Hotel a few blocks from the White House, Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham told a news conference.

A tipster had told the Pennsylvania State Police that Moles was traveling to Washington with weapons, and the information was passed on to the Secret Service and Washington police, Newsham said.

“I believe that the officers and our federal partners and in particular the tipster coming forward averted a potential disaster here in our nation’s capital,” Newsham said.

Moles was arrested without incident, the chief said.

Asked about reports that Moles had made threatening remarks, Newsham said his motive was under investigation and there was not enough information to charge Moles with making threats. The nature of the threats has not been divulged.

The Secret Service said in a statement it also was investigating the incident but said that no one under its protection was ever at risk.

Police had been told Moles had a Glock 23 pistol and a Carbon 15 Bushmaster rifle, an incident report said. Officers saw one of the guns in his car and found a second firearm in the glove compartment.

Moles also had 30 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and 60 .223-caliber rounds, the report said. He was charged with two counts of carrying a pistol without a license and possessing unregistered ammunition.

Police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal had no information about an attorney for Moles.

Trump’s hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, housed in a landmark former post office, has become a focal point for protests against the Republican president since he took office in January.

Edinboro Police Chief Jeff Craft said by telephone that Moles had no criminal record in the western Pennsylvania town and was not known to police.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)

Georgia governor signs bill allowing guns on college campuses

A selection of Glock pistols are seen for sale at the Pony Express Firearms shop in Parker, Colorado

By Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) – Georgia Governor Nathan Deal on Thursday signed a bill allowing guns on college campuses in the state, making it the 11th of the 50 U.S. states to do so.

Since the 2007 shooting deaths of 32 people by a student at Virginia Tech, a university in southwestern Virginia, state legislatures have grappled with the question of allowing licensed gun owners to bring their weapons on college campuses.

Deal said in a statement that he believed that people licensed to carry guns could help increase safety on college campuses. He said students at campuses where guns are known to be disallowed are easy prey for assailants.

“At the present time, assailants can, and do, target these students knowing full well that their victims are not permitted to carry protection,” said Deal.

On March 31, the Republican-controlled Georgia Senate and House of Representatives approved the guns-on-campus measure and sent it to Deal, a Republican.

Laura Cutilletta, legal director for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said her group was disappointed in Deal’s action.

“Colleges and universities are safe havens from gun violence, largely because guns are prohibited on the vast majority of campuses. Allowing guns on campus will jeopardize students, faculty and staff and likely lead to more campus homicides and suicides,” Cutilletta said in an email.

The new Georgia law will prohibit firearms in some campus areas with large crowds, including football stadiums and basketball arenas.

Guns will remain prohibited in campus housing, including fraternity and sorority houses; any rooms where high school students are taking classes; rooms where disciplinary hearings are held; preschool or child care areas; and faculty, staff and administrative offices.

The American Journal of Public Health found that 23 percent of Americans in a recent survey supported guns on college campuses. (http://in.reuters.com/article/us-health-guns-public-opinion-idINKBN17N28Y)

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Richard Chang)

South Dakota’s governor vetoes loosening of concealed carry gun laws

FILE PHOTO: Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota listens to remarks during a discussion at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, February 23, 2014. EUTERS/Mike Theiler/File Photo

By Tom James

(Reuters) – South Dakota’s Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard on Friday vetoed a pair of bills that would have loosened restrictions on carrying concealed guns in the state, after saying current laws made sense and were adequate.

One measure would have allowed carrying concealed weapons in the state without a permit. The second proposed allowing carriers of an enhanced permit to carry concealed weapons at the state capitol.

South Dakota bars convicted felons and those convicted of some violent or drug crimes from obtaining a concealed weapons permit.

Eleven U.S. states allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group. Another 39, including South Dakota, allow concealed carry with a permit.

In a letter accompanying one of the vetoes, Daugaard, who had previously pointed to his own membership in the National Rifle Association, defended the state’s existing concealed weapons laws as reasonable.

“I am unaware of a single instance in which a person who could lawfully possess a gun was denied a permit to carry a concealed pistol,” Daugaard wrote. By comparison, he added, two counties in the state have turned down nearly 600 permit applicants “who were disqualified due to mental illness or due to violent or drug-related crimes.”

The veto echoed statements Daugaard made in a Feb. 11 editorial in the Rapid City Journal, in which he said he viewed the state’s laws as “effective, appropriate and minimal.” Daugaard also vetoed a similar proposal loosening concealed-carry standards in 2012.

Rep. Lee Qualm, who sponsored the proposal relaxing the state capitol restrictions, called the vetoes “frustrating,” and said in a phone interview on Friday that he would try to override them when the legislature returns from recess March 27. An override requires a two-thirds majority in South Dakota, and Qualm said both bills were only a handful of votes short of that threshold in both chambers.

Rep. Lynne Disanto, sponsor of the broader of the two bills, did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment.

The bills’ failure at the hands of a Republican governor pointed to a divide in his party over the regulations. Neither bill received full Republican support in either chamber, and the statewide measure was opposed by about one in five Republicans in the House and one in three in the Senate.

(Reporting by Tom James in Seattle; Editing by Patrick Enright and Richard Chang)

Activist Chicago priest reflects on city’s ‘shameful’ violent year

Father Michael Pfleger comforts Lutrice Boyd and her granddaughter Faith Davis during a news conference by "Purpose over Pain", a group of mothers who lost children to gun violence, calling for a stop to shootings in Chicago, Illinois,

By Timothy Mclaughlin

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A longtime activist Chicago priest who has marched in protests, attended vigils and delivered sermons decrying violence in the city’s most deadly year in nearly two decades, fears the surge in murders could continue into 2017.

Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church on Chicago’s predominantly black South Side where many of the more than 700 murders occurred, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that police were struggling to rebuild trust with people as guns were also flowing onto the streets.

“This year is through the roof,” Pfleger, 67, said. “The numbers are shameful,” he added. “They should be embarrassing to us and they should make us outraged.”

There have been 711 murders in the third largest city in the United States so far in 2016, the Chicago Police Department said, a number not seen since 1997 when 761 were murdered, and more than Los Angeles and New York combined reported this year. Both cities have considerably higher populations than Chicago’s 2.7 million residents.

 

Father Michael Pfleger (3rd R) marches through the streets of a South Side neighborhood during a weekly night-time peace demonstration in Chicago, Illinois,

Father Michael Pfleger (3rd R) marches through the streets of a South Side neighborhood during a weekly night-time peace demonstration in Chicago, Illinois, September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

Chicago’s police department has undertaken a series of reforms following the shooting death of a black teenager by a white officer and is under federal investigation to determine whether the department has systematically violated constitutional rights.

Pfleger said the number of guns in the city had increased dramatically over the past 20 years, contributing to the large death toll.

“You have more guns now than we have ever had. America, whether we want to admit it or not, has made them part of our wardrobe,” the priest said.

The number of guns recovered for the year through November was nearly 8,000, up 20 percent from a year ago, while gun-related arrests were up 8 percent, police said.

Father Michael Pfleger (2nd L) prays at Saint Sabina Church before taking part in a weekly night-time peace march through the streets of a South Side neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois,

Father Michael Pfleger (2nd L) prays at Saint Sabina Church before taking part in a weekly night-time peace march through the streets of a South Side neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

“The levels of violence we have seen this year in some of our communities is absolutely unacceptable,” police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement at the beginning of December.

Much of Chicago’s violence occurs on its poverty stricken west and south sides.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin; editing by Grant McCool)

Europeans turn to weapons in growing numbers after attacks

Handguns and sporting guns are displayed at Wyss Waffen gun shop in Burgdorf

By John Miller and Caroline Copley

ZURICH/BERLIN (Reuters) – Europeans in a number of countries are seeking to arm themselves with guns and self-defense devices in growing numbers following a series of attacks by militants and the mentally ill.

Some weapons sellers also link their increased business to the arrival of huge numbers of migrants in Europe, although a German police report stated that the vast majority do not commit crimes of any kind in the country.

The picture is patchy, with no up-to-date data available at a European level, leaving national and regional authorities to release statistics that are far from comprehensive and not always comparable. Reasons also vary for civilians to own guns legally, including hunting and sport as well as self-protection.

Nevertheless, applications for gun permits are climbing in Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic. Their larger neighbor Germany has not followed the trend in lethal firearms, but permits for carrying devices designed to scare off assailants, such as blank guns and those that fire pepper spray, have risen almost 50 percent.

FACTBOX on trends in weapons permits:

Little research into the reasons for the recent apparent trend has yet been published, but the assumption is that attacks in the past year including in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Munich have stirred fear among some citizens.

“There’s no official explanation for the rise, but in general we see a connection to Europe’s terrorist attacks,” said Hanspeter Kruesi, a police spokesman in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen.

Kruesi advised against buying weapons, saying they did little to improve citizens’ security while presenting problems over safe storage and raising legal questions over their proper use in a conflict. “People could actually make themselves criminally liable,” he said.

After he spoke to Reuters, the canton was the scene of an attack aboard a train this month. The suspect and a woman victim died later, although police said his motive was unclear.

One Swiss resident who has just bought his first ever weapons – a pistol and a pump-action shotgun – pinned his decision on a feeling of insecurity created by the attacks combined with criminality that he blamed on north Africans, as well as concern over recent break-ins in his neighborhood.

“Buying weapons for self-defense won’t protect you from terrorist attacks,” said the 55-year-old who lives in a town near the capital, Bern.

“Nevertheless these attacks are contributing to a subjective sense of threat, as is the rising pressure from migration and the high crime rate among migrants from the Maghreb,” he said, requesting anonymity due to concerns about his safety.

Figures are hard to come by on whether the rate of crime, serious or petty, is higher among migrants than the general population in Europe.

The report from the BKA federal police in Germany – where more than a million people fleeing violence and poverty arrived last year – said migrants committed or tried to commit about 69,000 crimes in the first quarter of 2016. However, it did not say how this compared with the overall number of crimes.

‘THE SUM OF THESE EVENTS’

Like Kruesi, authorities in Europe – where levels of gun ownership are comparatively low and controls are often tight – have avoided encouraging their citizens to buy weapons.

But Czech President Milos Zeman broke ranks after an 18-year-old with a history of mental illness killed nine people in Munich in July. “Citizens should be able to arm themselves … in order to be able to act against these terrorists,” he told TV Nova.

Czechs may already be doing so. Gun permit holders grew by almost 6,000 to close to 300,000 in the first five months of 2016 after several years of declines.

In Switzerland, the land of the legendary crossbow marksman William Tell, a rising trend emerged last year. Of the country’s 26 cantons, the 12 that responded to a Reuters inquiry all reported higher 2015 applications for permits entitling people to buy guns. Interim 2016 figures show a further rise.

While those from people with serious criminal convictions or suffering from mental illness are rejected, most are granted.

“Nobody says directly: I’m buying a gun because of the attacks in Nice or Munich,” said Daniel Wyss, president of the Swiss weapons dealers’ association who runs his own gun shop. “But the sum of these events has fostered a general feeling of vulnerability.”

Switzerland’s defense relies heavily on tens of thousands of citizen soldiers who store their automatic rifles at home, but almost no civilians have the right to carry loaded guns in public.

Some people want this changed. Jean-Luc Addor, a parliamentarian and member of the Swiss gun lobby, aims to introduce legislation in September to ease the restrictions.

Addor contends that more armed civilians mean safer streets. “The state is not equipped to guarantee public safety,” he said. “Sometimes citizens – not every citizen, but those who have appropriate training – should be given means to protect themselves and their families.”

AN EROSION OF TRUST?

Suggestions that governments might be falling short in their duties have also surfaced in Germany.

Ingo Meinhard, head of the German association of gunsmiths and specialist gundealers, said demand for blank guns and pepper spray jumped after sexual assaults on women at New Year in the city of Cologne. These were blamed largely on migrants.

Meinhard said demand subsequently fell off but rose again after three fatal attacks in July, including by an Islamic State sympathizer who detonated a bomb near a German music festival. “We’re now noticing high demand in urban areas,” he added.

Police drew heavy criticism for failing to prevent the Cologne incidents, since which an Iraqi and an Algerian have been convicted of sexual assault.

German permits for firearms possession have fallen marginally in the past year, while those for scare devices jumped 49 percent in the year to June to 402,301.

No permit is required for pepper spray aerosols marketed as a protection against animals such as aggressive dogs, though officials say anyone who uses them on humans could get into trouble with the law.

Dagmar Ellerbock, a history professor at Technische Universitaet Dresden, said the New Year incidents may have prompted Germans to question the authorities’ competence.

“This trend towards self-defense could be a reason to worry if it signals an erosion of trust, that citizens who experienced the assaults in Cologne no longer feel safe or protected by the state,” she said.

Gun sellers said weapons interest grew in Austria after large numbers of migrants arrived in the country at the northern end of the now closed ‘Balkan Route’. “Fear is very much a driving force,” said Robert Siegert, a gunmaker and the weapons trade spokesman at the Austrian Chamber of Commerce “That’s what we keep hearing from salespeople in shops.”

AMERICAN MINDSET

Gun ownership remains low in Europe. According to the Geneva-based group Small Arms Survey, the United States easily surpasses the continent in per capita terms.

There are over 100 guns per 100 U.S. residents, more than twice the figure for Switzerland and three times that for Austria, Germany and France.

France requires background checks for those seeking a weapon for the two purposes it considers legitimate: hunting or joining a shooting club. This scrutiny can take more than a year.

Consequently, it is unlikely that legal French gun ownership has changed much since 2015, said Thierry Coste, secretary general of the Comité Guillaume Tell (William Tell) lobby group.

“Gun ownership is extremely regulated, getting there is like an obstacle course,” he said. “We don’t have the same mindset as Americans.”

Gun control laws in Britain, which has also experienced a number of Islamist militant attacks in recent years, have been strict since a school massacre in 1996. Licensed firearms numbers in England and Wales have remained relatively stable in the past year.

Even in the self-defense business, some doubt the benefits of a personal arsenal. Marco Schnyder, who runs a training center in Zurich, said knowing how to restrain an assailant was better.

“I have people in my shooting classes who want to protect their families or themselves,” he said. “They would be better served getting a watchdog or an alarm system. I tell them that, too.”

(Additional reporting Violette Goarant in Stockholm, Matthias Blamont and Michel Rose in Paris, Jan Lopatka in Prague, Francois Murphy in Vienna and Giles Elgood in London; editing by David Stamp)