Right to use a weapon in self-defense passed by Czech lower house

The new amendment comes in reaction to EU regulations tightening requirements for gun possession.

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 19.06.2021 09:53 (updated on 19.06.2021)

The right to use a weapon to defend oneself or others, under conditions defined by law, will be explicitly stated in the Czech constitution as the Chamber of Deputies passed the motion today.

The bill, a Senate-proposed amendment to the Czech constitution's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, is a reaction to EU regulation of firearms acquisition and possession. To take effect, it still needs to be approved by the Senate.

Based on the amendment, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms will include a new article saying that "the right to defend one's own life or the life of another man or woman even with the use of a weapon is guaranteed under the conditions set by the [relevant] law."

The authors of the motion said its goal is to prevent this right from being restricted by common EU law. Furthermore, it will strengthen the Czech Republic's position in talks on further EU regulations.

"Excessive regulation of legally-owned weapons makes no sense and leads to an increase in the number of illegally-owned arms," lower house defense committee chairwoman Jana Černochová stated.

The amendment was supported by 141 out of the 159 deputies present; 15 deputies, mainly from among the Pirates and the Christian Democrats, abstained from voting. One Pirate and one Christian Democrat voted against the amendment, as did one MP from the Social Democrats party.

At least 120 votes are needed for a constitutional amendment to make it through the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.

The amendment stems from a petition that was signed by 102,000 people, including a number of top elected officials. It was launched by hunters and other arms owners in reaction to the European Commission's effort to limit the possession of firearms, including legally-owned ones.

Justifying its efforts, the European Commission stated that it was necessary to take measures against terrorism. Critics said that terrorists mostly use illegally-acquired weapons, and that the Czech law in this respect was sufficient.

Before the vote on Friday, the draft was explicitly supported by MPs for the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy party, as well as the ODS and ANO parties, who said the amendment guarantees people's right to use legally-owned weapons to defend themselves against aggressors who do not observe laws.

Advocates of the amendment dismissed the fear that it may result in an uncontrolled increase in the number of weapon owners.

"This is not a law on armament but on the use of weapons in defense," said MP Jiří Mašek.

"With Charter of Rights amended, no Wild West with gunslingers will arise," Černochová added.

A lawsuit filed by the Czech Republic against the controversial EU directive was dismissed by the European Court of Justice. As a result, the cabinet had to propose an amendment to the law on arms possession that incorporates the EU regulation to the minimal necessary extent.

The directive has introduced two new categories of firearms. The validity of gun licenses remains ten years. Police must check whether the licence holder still meets legal conditions, largely health criteria, once every five years.

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