Since there’s much misunderstanding, especially in foreign media, about meaning and purpose of recently proposed change of our Constitutional law to introduce citizens‘ right to acquire, possess and carry firearms, I feel appropriate to correct these misinterpretations.
LEX answers the following questions:
- Is it a “terrorist hunting permit”?
- Is it a proposal for unlimited possession and carrying of firearms?
- Are Czechs going to substitute their armed forces with armed citizens?
- Do Czech people want to establish private armies?
Is it a “terrorist hunting permit”?
No. The full wording of proposed change says:
“Citizens of the Czech Republic have the right to acquire, possess and carry firearms and ammunition for the purpose of protection of life, health and property and thus participate in the provision of internal order and security as well as of territorial integrity, sovereignty and democratic order of the Czech Republic. Terms and conditions shall be determined by a law.”
Note that the proposal mentions acquisition, possession and carrying of firearms, but says nothing about use of them. Czech law allows actual use of firearm by private person against another person only in self-defense, i.e. against actual or obviously imminent attack. It is not allowed to shoot (or even threaten) anybody on mere suspicion that he is a terrorist. Only when someone is actually committing, or is obviously going to commit, a terrorist attack, only in such a case an armed response is allowed.
Of course, to stop terrorist attack with firearm, you need to have the firearm in first place. That’s basic purpose of the proposal: to ensure that citizens shall be able to defend their lives against terrorist attack, should such an unfortunate need arise.
Is it a proposal for unlimited possession and carrying of firearms?
No. Czech republic has firearms law which was refined for last 25 years with citizens‘ participation. The result is generally accepted by Czech society, which believes that our law is one of the best in the world. One of purposes of the proposal is to embed our law into the Constitution, therefore preserve its widely accepted principles from politically motivated infringements.
Are Czechs going to substitute their armed forces with armed citizens?
No. General duty to prevent and combat terrorism still lies on professional security forces. Often-quoted words ”Armed citizens are the best defense against terrorism” are quite imprecise. Armed citizens are the last defense against terrorism. Combating terrorism is primarily duty of intelligence services and police forces, and their effectiveness is high. However, it isn’t and never can be 100%. It is therefore necessary to allow citizens – who are terrorists‘ prime targets – means for defense against those perpetrators who escape professional counter-measures. (Note that recent terror attack in Istanbul claimed almost 40 lives when the city was guarded by 17 000 policemen).
Do Czech people want to establish private armies?
No. As the proposal does not confer citizens any special authority to use firearms, organised territorial defence shall stay to be an exclusive duty of the state. However, it shall allow establishing of voluntary reservist forces system, which already exists in many smaller countries.
LEX firearms rights association of Czech republic