Gun amendment fails in Senate

The constitution won’t be changed to get around new EU rules

Legal weapons owners in the Czech Republic will not have the right to intervene to ensure state security. An amendment to the constitutional law on security was rejected by the Senate.

The constitutional amendment would have allowed Czech citizens have the right to acquire, hold and carry weapons to fulfill the tasks of securing state security. The Czech Republic would explicitly recognize that carrying weapons, for those with legal permission to do so, is part of the security of the Czech Republic.

The proposal was a response to a new EU directive that tightens the conditions for weapon possession.

Some 28 of the 59 Senators present voted in favor and 20 voted against the Czech constitutional amendment. A three-fifths majority, or 36 votes, was needed for approval. No amendments were proposed by the incoming Chamber of Deputies.

Communist Party deputy Zdeněk Ondráček (KSČM), who in November 1989 intervened as a policeman against pro-democracy demonstrators in Prague, addressed the Senate in favor of the amendment. Some senators left in protest during his speech.

Supporters of the amendment include Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (ČSSD), who backed the idea from the start as a way to get around the EU’s tightening of gun rules.

Opponents include former Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (ČSSD), who said the amendment could be exploited by armed groups that would try to take the law into their own hands.

The amendment was submitted by the previous Chamber of Deputies before the October elections.

Critics said the proposed constitutional amendment would not prevent the requirement to transpose the new EU directive into Czech law.

The EU directive is meant to help in the fight against terrorism. The measure will also apply to collectors of weapons, hunting associations and sports shooters.

The EU directive, which was passed in March, tightens restrictions on the ownership of semi-automatic weapons, adds new regulations on deactivated guns and make it easier to trace firearms. Deactivated semi-automatic guns can in some circumstances be repaired to become operational again.

The Czech Republic has also filed a lawsuit against the EU in the European Court of Justice over a plan to tighten gun ownership.

“Such a massive punishment of decent arms holders is unacceptable because banning legally held weapons has no connection with the fight against terrorism,” Chovanec said in a statement when the suit was filed.

“This is not only a nonsensical decision once again undermining people’s trust in the EU, but implementing the directive could also have a negative impact on the internal security of the Czech Republic because a large number of weapons could move to the black market,” he added.

The government also says many of the directive’s provisions are vague and unclear.

The Czech Republic has some of the most liberal gun laws in Europe. Some 800,000 people legally own weapons out of a population of10.56 million. Some 240,000 gun owners can carry a concealed weapon for defensive use.

Czechs can own a gun, including semi-automatic weapons, if they have no criminal record, are deemed to have a reliable character, are in good health and have passed both a written theoretical test and a practical test to show the capability to handle a gun safely. They must be able to take the gun apart and reassemble it, for example.

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