PRAGUE – After the attacks in Paris and New Year's security scares, Germans have been snapping up self-defense equipment like stun guns — to the delight of a Czech manufacturer who corners the market.
Prague-based Euro Security Products, or ESP, has been flooded by new orders from Germany for stun guns and can't keep up with demand.
Company owner Bretislav Kostal said demand began skyrocketing in September and the company delivered a total of 25,000 for the German market in 2015. Some 15,000 of those were in the last four months of the year.
"Our production capacity was 3,000 pieces a month. Now, we've been working to increase it to 4,000 a month," Kostal said.
Ingo Meinhard, the head of the German association for weapons dealers, said the group had seen increasing interest in defensive products such as stun guns, CS gas and pepper spray following the attacks in Paris in November.
Though official sales figures were not yet available, he said there had been a further increase in demand following the New Year, which saw a terrorism scare in Munich in which two city stations were evacuated, as well as assaults on women by foreigners in Cologne.
Meinhard said it was less likely that the security concerns were about the influx of migrants and refugees into Germany. "It is in fact the terror threat, from our point of view," he said.
He noted there was demand across generations and professions and from both sexes. He said that, previously, the typical customers tended to be people who worried about their safety after dark when night started falling earlier in the autumn.
"We think that most of these articles ... will never be used," he said, but rather serve the "psychological effect" of making people feel safer.
Stun guns that disable people or animals with an electric shock are cleared for sale only in a few other European countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, France and soon Italy.
ESP was the first producer to meet strict requirements of the new German regulations in 2012 and claims to have about 90 percent share of the national market.
Germany's kh-security GmbH & Co. KG, which distributes the Czech stun guns, confirmed the big rise in sales last year and another peak following the New Year's Eve security incidents.
"We're not in a position to react so quickly," Kostal said. "With the orders we have, we are sold out for the next three months."
Besides the stun guns, ESP exports expandable batons, pepper sprays, shields, textile handcuffs and other products to more than 50 countries for individual customers as well as police and armed forces.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.