The Czech government on Monday approved new tougher regulations on the possession of firearms by members of the public. The move comes in reaction to two separate incidents – a mass shooting by a deranged gunman in the town of Uherský brod back in February, in which eight bystanders were killed; and a series of explosions at a munitions storage facility in Vrbětice late last year, which caused mayhem when local authorities were unable to determine exactly what was being stored at the site. I spoke with Jan Bartošek, a security policy legislator at the Czech interior ministry, and asked him to explain the proposed changes:
“Firstly, they deal with military munitions, and the authorisations and requirements for the subjects permitted to handle military ordinances. And the second issue is a reaction to the mass shooting in Uherský brod, where eight people were killed by a man who legally held a firearms licence. The measures will be focused on firstly shortening of the validity of firearms permits from ten to five years. And secondly, a tightening of the health requirements for the certification that a person is competent to possess firearms.
“The legislation will also contain some additional measures pertaining to the competences of police to preventively seize firearms from people deemed to be mentally unstable, and to order such persons to undergo a psychiatric examination.”
There are currently around 300,000 licenced gun owners in the Czech Republic. Of these around 60,000 are people who use guns for professional purposes. So that leaves around a quarter of a million people who have guns for hunting, sports…
“And also self-defence.”
Do you believe that the changes will lead to a reduction in gun ownership?
“Our aim is not to reduce gun ownership, but rather to better enforce the current requirements regarding health competence, criminal background checks, and to ensure that such people as the man who committed the crime in Uherský brod are not able to possess firearms.
“Actually, in this case, people already knew before the mass shooting that this particular person quite possibly did not fulfil the legal requirements for owning a gun. But police lacked the proper legal tools to seize his firearms. So we want to improve the current legal situation and the abilities of the police to intervene in such cases.”