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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


REVEALED: How much will people in Austria have to pay for TV and radio contribution fees?

Austria has announced more details on the planned changes to its GIS, the public TV and radio fee that funds broadcaster ORF. Here's what you can expect.

REVEALED: How much will people in Austria have to pay for TV and radio contribution fees?

A general household levy, paid by every home in Austria, will substitute the current GIS fee from 2024, as the government previously announced.

Now, the federal coalition has agreed on the main features of the new “ORF law”, with a levy that should cost around €15 a month (plus state taxes), Media Minister Susanne Raab (ÖVP) announced.

Federal taxes and VAT will be eliminated from the fee, she added during a press conference on Thursday. Only primary residences will have to pay – secondary homes will be exempt. 

GIS is Austria’s TV and radio licence that can set households who have TV or radio equipment at home back between €22.45 and €28.25 per month, depending on the state, a month. Most of that money goes to the public broadcaster ORF and pays for in-house productions, broadcasting equipment, technical equipment, licences and more.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Austria in 2023

Even people who don’t watch ORF programmes need to pay for GIS as long as they have a device capable of receiving the broadcast. However, those who don’t pay for it because they don’t have such devices can still stream the content online, which Austria’s Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional, as The Local reported. 

The 2022 court decision stated that Austria’s legislative power had to “close the streaming gap” by the end of 2023. Several options were considered, but in the end, the ruling coalition decided on a household levy in line with the system in neighbouring Germany.  In Germany, the current fee is €18.36 per month.

From next year every single home in Austria will pay a fee – which should be lower than the current GIS fee – and therefore, everyone has the right to access the public broadcaster’s content, whether they are using a television, radio or internet-connected device.

With the changes, the “GIS checks” at people’s front door with questions about reception devices will be abolished. “That’s no longer a modern system,” said Raab, “I don’t want that in Austria.”

A €15 household levy

The fee will become about a third cheaper than before, totalling €15 per month, plus state levies – Upper Austria and Vorarlberg have already said they would waive those taxes.

Currently, a household that pays for the radio and TV fee in Vienna or Lower Austria, for example, pays €28.25 per month, with federal and state taxes representing €7.80 of that amount. 

Styria has the highest federal and state taxes, at €8.20, while Upper Austria and Vorarlberg currently add €2 in taxes. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s church tax and how do I avoid paying it?

The ORF amendment also provides fewer restrictions on public broadcasting in streaming and social media. For example, ORF will be allowed to produce content for streaming only, and the limitation on seven-day viewing will be dropped.

The model for future streaming and social media activities will likely be based on the German content offering from ARD and ZDF, which primarily plays out its content for young people on social media. 

At around €680 million per year, GIS fees already account for about two-thirds of ORF’s revenue.  With the household levy, several hundred thousand additional households are expected to pay, which until now have saved on GIS because of pure streaming use. 

ORF General Roland Weißmann spoke in recent days of 300,000 more households. Currently, there are about 700,000 households that are either irregularly not paying or do not pay GIS because of streaming-only use.

Those previously exempt from the fee will continue to be exempt.