Czech politicians have missed Friday’s deadline on passing a controversial EU amendment to its directive on the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons. The unpopular amendment has met with wide criticism from gun owners across Europe, many of whom see it as too restrictive and even counterproductive.
Although the European Union’s amendment to its 1991 firearms directive has officially been in force since May 2017, it has met with significant reluctance in many member states. This includes the Czech Republic, where it would affect a large segment of the 300,000 gun license owners.
Influential figures, including the president and prime minister, have supported a Czech petition against the directive, which has gathered over 80,000 signatures so far.
The most controversial aspect of the amendment is a complete ban on civilian ownership of category-A firearms and the inclusion of those semi-automatic weapons, which look like automatic firearms, into this group.
The amendment also includes greater legal restrictions on deactivated weapons, some of which were used by terrorists in attacks on the continent.
David Karásek, is the press spokesman of LEX, one of the Czech gun owners associations which are lobbying to stop the amendment being passed.
“What angers us the most is the fact that the EU is using the combating of terrorism as a pretext to affect citizens who are doing nothing wrong. The amendment is only aimed at legally owned weapons. Terrorists use either illegal weapons, or deactivated firearms which have been illegally put in use again.“
Nils Duquet, a senior researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute, who has authored multiple studies on the illegal firearms trade in Europe, says that legal loopholes relating to deactivated firearms in the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been directly responsible for terrorist attacks in the past.
“The attack on the Jewish supermarket in January 2015 in Paris was actually committed with a Czech made firearm which was decommissioned many years ago and legally sold as an acoustic expansion weapon in Slovakia. So it wasn’t necessary to have a legal license to buy the weapons. Criminals knew this and bought the guns in Slovakia, reactivating them later in a different place.
“That way many of these guns have ended up on the criminal market and criminals have been able to acquire them through the connections that they have. So you see that while terrorists acquire these weapons from a local criminal connection they often originate from somewhere else.”
According to the Czech News Agency, Andrej Babiš’ cabinet sees the best solution in issuing a government edict to accommodate the directive, which would be easier and faster to pass.
If the Czech Republic does not enact the changes, it could eventually be threatened with EU sanctions.