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Reuters/David W Cerny
Gun culture in the Czech Republic is strong.
GUNNING FOR IT

The Czech government wants to change the constitution to let its citizens use guns against terrorists

Hanna Kozlowska
By Hanna Kozlowska

Investigative reporter

The Czech Republic has some of the more lenient gun laws in the European Union. Now its interior ministry wants to give gun owners even more freedom, by pushing a constitutional law that would allow them to use their weapons against terrorists in the event of an attack. 

Czechs can already obtain guns pretty easily—they must pass a test on gun knowledge, prove that they are over 21, and have no criminal record—and use them to defend themselves and their property. More than 300,000 Czech citizens are licensed to own a gun, and there are more than 800,000 firearms registered in the country of 10.5 million. The proposed law would allow Czechs to shoot those guns in defense of the state during a terrorist attack, according to the English-language Radio Praha

The aim of the bill is not to introduce a American-style ”Second Amendment” right to gun ownership, the country’s interior ministry said, but rather to ensure public safety. Since the state can’t always effectively or immediately react to a terrorist attack, the thinking goes, public intervention could save lives. The government hopes to pass the law—ironically, it would also introduce stricter requirements for gun ownership—before the parliamentary election next October.

The Czech Republic is among a group of states opposing EU overtures to curtail gun rights in Europe, including by restricting sales of semi-automatic weapons and placing tighter restrictions on deactivated firearms. France started to push for stricter gun regulation following the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015, and a shooting attack in Paris 11 months later. A watered-down EU firearms directive was accepted by member countries in late December, after contentious negotiations and vocal criticism from Europe’s gun lobby.

One Czech newspaper report suggests the new is a response to that measure, a way of softening its blow. In July, the country’s anti-Muslim president, Milos Zeman, called for its citizens to arm themselves, stoking fears that the Czech Republic could be targeted in a jihadist terror attack. Those fears are most likely responsible for an increase in gun sales this year.