BERLIN, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- The number of people holding a so-called "small weapons permit" has increased "drastically" in Germany, the Rheinische Post newspaper reported on Tuesday.
According to the paper, around 640,000 German citizens were currently entitled to carry an alarm pistol, irritant gas or signal weapon. In 2014, the figure was only 260,000.
Rheinische Post reported that it had obtained information from all responsible interior ministries of Germany's 16 federal states.
In Germany, a "small weapons permit" allows its holder to carry alarm pistols, irritant gas or signal weapons. Anyone in Germany who is at least 18 years old can apply for the permit at local authorities.
Generally, the permit requires the applicant to be reliable and in sufficient physical as well as mental condition. German authorities are using data from the federal central register, the Public Prosecutor's Office Register and other police systems to check the applicants.
Oliver Malchow, chairman of the German federal police union (GdP), told the Rheinische Post that "at least since the events on Cologne Cathedral Square on New Year's Eve in 2015/2016, people apparently feel more and more unsafe."
On New Year's Eve in 2015/2016, numerous sexual assaults on women by groups of young men took place near the main railway station and Cathedral of Cologne.
As a result, 1,054 criminal charges were filed, including 454 for sexual offences, at least three of these for rape.
"The problematic increase in small firearms permits shows that we must work to give many citizens a sense of security back. A first important step is more police presence on the streets," Malchow told the Rheinische Post.
According to the German National Firearms Register (NWR), currently there are around 5.4 million privately owned weapons of various categories in the country, or about 66 weapons per 1,000 inhabitants.