Czech Republic takes legal action over EU firearms directive

The Czech Republic has filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Justice against a new European Union directive restricting possession of firearms. The stated aim of the directive is to prevent terrorists gaining weapons easily, but Prague claims it will only hurt responsible arms holders and hunters.

Photo: Czech TelevisionPhoto: Czech Television In no other EU country did the new weapons’ directive evoke such massive protests. Shooting associations and the hunters’ lobby were up in arms arguing that the set restrictions -banning long and short-barreled semi-automatic firearms with larger magazines, those with foldable stocks and those converted from fully-automatic weapons – would only damage responsible arms holders and put more guns on the black market.

The Czech Republic fought the changes from the start with a number of Czech MEPs pushing hard to modify the directive together with lawmakers from Luxembourg and Poland. When EU interior ministers gave a final nod to the changes the Czech Republic said it would take the matter to the European Court of Justice. On Wednesday Interior Minister Milan Chovanec confirmed that the complaint had been filed.

“We have turned to the European Court of Justice with the request that this directive be scrapped, postponed or that certain states, primarily the Czech Republic, can get exemptions from it on the grounds that it is discriminatory. Unfortunately there is no suspensive effect, it would be nice if we could wait for the verdict before having to implement it.”

In the Czech Republic the tightened norms will affect some 300,000 gun permit holders who have around 800,000 firearms of all categories registered as well as the owners of weapons modified for blank cartridges and those used for theatre and film purposes which are currently not registered.

Milan Chovanec, photo: CTKMilan Chovanec, photo: CTK Interior Minister Chovanec argues that the directive is “massive punishment” for decent arms holders who already meet strict conditions required by Czech law. He says it will not hurt those against whom it is targeted because terrorists do not commit crimes with legally held fire arms and may in the end even have a negative impact on the internal security of the Czech Republic by putting more guns on the black market. And, last but not least, the minister argues that as another “nonsensical” norm directed from above it will only further undermine people’s trust in the EU.

The new firearms directive went into effect on June 13, and EU member states have 15 months in which to implement it.