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03/12/2016

Czech Republic against strengthening gun control in EU

Central Europe

Czech Republic against strengthening gun control in EU

A Spanish AK-47 owner.

[Conchi Collado/Flickr]

The Czech Republic does not support the proposal for strengthening control of firearms in the EU presented by the European Commission in November. EurActiv Czech Republic reports.

Czech officials believe the plan could even worsen the security threat than help the fight against terrorism.

Recent terrorist attacks in Paris accelerated European Commission efforts to adopt a new package of gun control measures. The Commission believes it could prevent the situation from repeating itself. Among the proposals is a new directive counting on stricter controls on the sale and registration of firearms.

The proposal, presented in November 2015, was strongly opposed by the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Lithuania.

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The Czech government believes that the proposal has its limitations, and that some of its parts need to be revised. The government criticised the Commission’s focus on legally-owned firearms. In the fight against terrorism, it would be better to decrease the number of illegal weapons, reads the official governmental document that was approved by the Czech parliament.

Bullying the citizens

One of the main problems that the Czech document mentions are stricter rules to ban semi-automatic firearms, which would not be disallowed, even if deactivated. If adopted, the law would require that semi-automatic firearms which were originally automatic (and even the weapons that are not, but look like automatic ones) fall under the category of prohibited weapons. There are an estimated 50,000 such weapons in the Czech Republic.

“It is concerning that a substantial number of these firearms would not be handed over [to officials],” the document reads. The position of the Czech government is shared by some MEPs.

“It is possible to agree with 73% of the proposal, because it harmonises the legislation for holding and accessing firearms. Nevertheless, the new directive is not going to be helpful to stop purchases on the black market and in the fight against terrorism,” Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP), from the LIBE Committee, told EurActiv.cz.

Zdechovský believes that classification of semi-automatic weapons, as prohibited weapons, could be a problem for museums or weapons collectors. According to current laws, semi-automatic firearms could be owned by anyone who receives permission from the police.

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His colleague in LIBE, Slovak MEP Branislav Škripek (ECR), agrees. “I do not think it is necessary to adopt such legislation to stop terrorism. It is a task for national governments to set their own rules to prevent terrorists from acquiring firearms so easily,” he thinks. In that case, governments should not bully their citizens, Škripek stressed.

Open to concessions

The legislative proposal has been submitted to the European Parliament. After first discussions in the IMCO Committee, MEPs believe that the European Commission could be open to some concessions.

“The Commission admitted (that) some parts should be rewritten. We need to be sure about the interpretation,” another Czech MEP Dita Charanzová (ALDE) said.

“If we want to prevent (the) illegal acquisition of weapons, we should not unintentionally punish our citizens who legally own the weapon, for example, for hunting, sport or self-defence. We must not weaken legislation that has been functioning well in some member states.”

The LIBE committee is supposed to hold a vote on the proposal this summer. Voting in the plenary should come afterwards.