The Interior Ministry wants to push through a constitutional amendment which would enable Czechs with a firearms license to use their weapon against perpetrators of terrorist attacks such as those in Berlin or Istanbul. The proposal, which would have to be approved by Parliament, has evoked mixed reactions.
Presently over 300,000 Czechs have a firearms license and there are over 800,000 registered weapons in the country. Under Czech law such a weapon can be used in defence of life or property although its use would have to be adequate to the threat posed. Now the Interior Ministry is proposing to extend the use of arms in defence of the state, i.e. in the event of a terrorist attack. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec argues that despite strict security measures being in place, it is not always possible for the police to guarantee a fast and effective intervention and fast action from a member of the public could prevent the loss of many lives. Minister Chovanec says he has reason to believe that the public would welcome such a move.
“The terrorist attacks we have seen in Western Europe and elsewhere have increased security concerns among the public. More Czechs are getting firearms licenses and I think that if the situation does not improve in the coming months, then the number of firearms holders will grow.”
The minister wants to see the amendment approved before the parliamentary elections in October.
As a constitutional amendment the bill would have to win the support of at least 120 deputies and 49 Senators. Although the opposition is not strictly against the idea, deputies say they will need to know more about the proposed amendment, since it could pose serious risks. Security expert and the former head of the Czech Millitary Intelligence, Andor Šandor, says he is not entirely sure it is a good idea.
“We are trying to learn lessons from the Israelis and I am not quite sure that we are in a position to learn lessons from them. There is a completely different security situation in Israel. If we take into account that Prague is the 6th safest city in the world and the Czech Republic belongs to the ten safest countries in the world, it is a question whether all citizens who hold guns legally should be given the right to shoot at terrorists in the event of a terrorist attack. It is a completely different situation for which you have to be perfectly trained, not only to know how to use the gun, but to be psychologically prepared. Otherwise it could result in a bloodbath in which more innocent people could be killed.”
If approved, the proposal could still see many changes in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. According to the present draft, it would only apply to Czech nationals and firearms holders would moreover have to undergo stricter periodic tests.