PRAGUE — The Czech parliament on Wednesday passed a constitutional amendment that challenges EU gun control rules by allowing legal firearms holders to use them when national security is threatened, including during terrorist attacks.
The amendment, which passed by a large majority, is expected easily to gain approval from the senate and President Milos Zeman, still needed for it to take effect.
The Czech government also said earlier this month it would ask the European Court of Justice to strike down new EU gun control rules that have its hunters and gun collectors up in arms.
Both moves come as parties jockey for support ahead of the October general election, when the centrist ANO junior coalition partner is tipped to oust the Social Democrats as government leader.
Wednesday’s Czech amendment was submitted by government and opposition parties and approved by 139 out of the 168 deputies present in the lower house of parliament. Nine voted against.
"We don’t want to disarm our citizens at a time when the security situation in Europe is getting worse," Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, a senior Social Democrat, told parliament on Wednesday.
"Show me a single terrorist attack in Europe perpetrated using a legally-owned weapon," he said.
Passed in mid-March by the European Parliament, the new EU gun control directive bans civilians from possessing certain semi-automatic weapons as part of counter-terrorism measures.
EU members are supposed to incorporate the new rules, which passed in June, within 15 months.
The Czech interior ministry said the directive would affect nearly all 300,000 legal firearm licence holders in the country of 10.6 million people.
The Czech Republic, where there is no recent history of terrorism, has been pushing for softer rules on gun control, unlike other countries like Luxembourg and France which asked for strict legislation.
Besides banning short semi-automatic firearms with loading devices over 20 rounds and long semi-automatic firearms with loading devices over 10 rounds, the EU directive prohibits long firearms that can be folded or concealed in other ways.
The EU rules make it easier to trace firearms. They also require registration of converted firearms that only fire blanks, which are used in theatres or on television, under the same category as the original weapons. — AFP