On November 30, a Weapons Act amendment passed the National Council’s internal committee. The amendment made many notable changes to the current laws but one stood out. It granted law enforcement the ability to carry firearms privately. Previously, officers locked their weapons at the station prior to completing their shift.
An influx of firearms from the darknet—especially semi-automatic rifles—motivated the change. The Social-Democratic Party of Austria, Freedom Party of Austria, and Team Stronach pushed for the amendment. Unsurprisingly to many who followed the news, the Green party opposed the changes.
The Ministry of the Interior expected this to be a positive change for law enforcement. Austria would see less crime if police carried firearms while off duty. So the backers argued, at least. The proposal passed but not without restrictions. Specifically, law enforcement’s proposed carrying ability changed. The committee restricted the weapon caliber permitted. Instead of a broad range of weapons and calibers, the committee only allowed one caliber: 9mm.
The Social-Democratic Party and Team Stronach welcomed the passing of the amendment. However, they questioned the reasoning behind the 9mm limitation. Others raised similar questions. One commenter on Kronen Zeitung mentioned that this restriction could limit harm caused by a rogue officer. Another simply thought the change was not smart:
What brings this nonsense? I recommend that every policeman should not privately use a weapon. If they did, I would see them in the media. Like gunman policeman in the USA where every black is a saint and every policeman is a criminal.
The 9mm round is more likely to slow down a perpetrator than kill him or her. The same could not be said for .45 Colt or .45 ACP rounds. And especially so with respect to the shotguns in the first draft of the proposal. In contrast, the majority of any 9mm magazine holds between 15-20 rounds, plus one in the chamber. The .45 handguns often hold 7-10, plus one in the chamber. Furthermore, magazines like the Glock 33-round model increase the number of potential shots.
Austrian officials mentioned the concern surrounding the “unauthorized transmission of firearms, semi-automatic firearms, and war materials.” The amendment, regarding these matters, introduced a stricter penalty for any weapon-related crime. The committee agreed on doubling the maximum prison sentence to two years.
The Ministry of the Interior believes this penalty will prevent firearm sales on the darknet. “Anyone who regularly offers or sells firearms is expected to be imprisoned for up to three years,” a spokesperson said.