Will the Czech Republic introduce the right to own arms?
Following the terrorist attacks in Europe Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec plans to enshrine the right to own and use weapons in the constitution. He argues that if the occasion arises armed citizens should be able to stop terrorists just as the security forces can. Czech and Slovakian commentators reject the proposal.
Interior minister trying to circumvent EU laws
In an interview with Hospodářské noviny the Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec described his plan as a response to the EU's plans to tighten weapons inspection legislation. The paper counters:
“The minister is not concerned about terrorism, he's just trying to get around the EU's plans to reduce the number of authorized semi-automatic weapons. The Czech Republic doesn't like this idea, preferring to remain armed to the teeth. … Chovanec is making a mistake, especially as far as the EU is concerned. In the long term no community can survive if individual members ignore the rules. But he is also making a mistake vis-à-vis his own country. Our politicians often complain about the Czechs trying to ignore their own country's rules in a 'Svejk-like' manner [through cunning]. But why should they be surprised by this when the Czech state does exactly the same thing?”
A look at the US shows how things really are
The Czech interior minister's move is highly dangerous, Pravda believes:
“This gesture opens Pandora's box. No one should be in favour of it in Europe. Right after Nice there were isolated calls for such a move, saying that there would have been fewer victims if the French had been allowed to carry weapons. ... The idea that gun-slinging civilians can save the world may appeal to Western film buffs. But the rest of us would do better to stick to the facts. Because the problem is the guns themselves. In the US, where the right to bear weapons is written into the constitution, 12,000 people on average are killed with guns each year. By comparison terrorists have killed fewer than 100 people in the US since September 11, 2001. The state must have a monopoly on protective force.”
Armed amateurs will only add to insecurity
In a modern state, internal security must remain exclusively in the hands of professionals rather than armed amateurs or self-appointed militias, Právo warns:
“Admittedly the proposal is consistent with an earlier statement by President Miloš Zeman according to which the citizens should arm themselves against terrorism. And it also ties in with the rhetoric used by many Czech politicians who rail against the EU's plans to restrict sales and ownership of certain types of weapons. The minister's proposal conveys the impression that the state can't be trusted and intensifies the atmosphere of fear. Years of investigations in Western countries haven't revealed a single case in which an armed civilian has been able to stop a terrorist with a firearm. On the other hand, the use of legal weapons claims thousands of lives every year, also as result of people killing their fellow citizens.”
Not everyone should have a license to kill
Interior Minister Chovanec is using a false argument when he cites terrorism-plagued Israel as an example of a country where arming the population pays off, Hospodářské noviny comments:
“Israel is in a completely different situation to us, because it faces a permanent threat. But this is certainly not the case in the Czech Republic. ... In Israel all citizens undergo military training. Thus the probability there is much higher than here that people will be able to properly assess the risks and the necessity of using a weapon. Here the consequences would be quite different: anyone could start to see themselves as Agent 007 with a license to kill and become trigger-happy according to the principle of 'every shot that misses is a wasted shot'. That may be exaggerating, but in the Czech Republic it’s already much easier to get hold of weapons than in most west European states. ”