Gun sales in the Czech Republic have been rising fast in recent months, while the number of Czechs applying for licenses is also growing. Experts suggest this is a response to worries over terrorist attacks and the migrant crisis.
After a period of decline, applications for gun licenses saw a marked upswing in the second half of last year. Two thousand Czechs acquired permits between the start of June and the end of December, joining the 290,000 who already possessed one.
The owner of the Security Arms gun shop in Trutnov, East Bohemia, told Hospodářské noviny that its sales had jumped by 30 percent since September last year. Jiří Jiránek said people were scared by a “wave of Islamists” and were buying up not only pistols but also rifles, shotguns and automatic shotguns.
Miloslav Kříž, a gun trader and instructor in Cheb, West Bohemia, told Czech Television that there was high demand for some models.
Nine-millimetre pistols are the most sought after with customers having to wait weeks or months for imported models such as Glocks. Czech produced guns are also selling fast, Mr. Kříž said.
A representative of domestic firearms manufacturer Česká zbrojovka, Radek Hauerland, told Czech Television that his firm was managing to keep up with demand but would have difficulty fulfilling orders if the sales rate remains high.
The Czech police run the country’s weapons register and a spokesperson for the force, ČR Ivana Nguyenová, told Hospodářské noviny that the heightened interest in gun ownership was likely influenced by recent terrorist attacks.
Acquiring a firearm is easier in the Czech Republic than in some neighbouring states, with no psychological testing required. The European Commission is planning to make the legal possession of weapons more difficult in an effort to reduce terrorism but the Czech Republic is at present not considering such steps, Hospodářské noviny said.
However, gun ownership has become the subject of debate in this country following an apparently random gun attack in a bar in the town of Uherský Brod last year. Despite being mentally disturbed the shooter had a permit for the weapon he used to shoot dead eight people.
Later this week the Chamber of Deputies is due to vote on new regulations that would make it easier to confiscate firearms. Under the planned legislation, the police would have the power to seize a weapon on suspicion that the owner may be dangerous, including in his or her home.
However the minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, said acquiring a gun permit would not become more difficult. The existing criteria are strict enough, he told Hospodářské noviny, adding that only half of applicants passed the necessary test.