Dear Mrs. Mizzi,
I read your
circular email which repeatedly asks presents a question: What you need it for? My name is David Karasek, a spokesman of Czech firearms rights association, and I am answering your question from an Eastern Europe perspective.
To be honest, your reply angered me at first, but then I thought about it more deeply and I saw that it needs more detailed explanation.
Please don’t take this answer as offense or a personal attack. It isn’t meant as either. In my discussions with both colleagues and opponents from Western countries, I learned that disagreement and misunderstanding often comes not from personal qualities of either side, rather than from deep cultural gap between Western and Eastern Europe, between well-established democracies and post-communist republics.
Eastern European view
The point in question, to which I’d like to provide Eastern European view, is this:
As for the difference between 20 and 30 rounds and 2 or 3 seconds to change the magazine, could you please let me know for what exactly do you use magazines with a capacity of 30 rounds and where and what do you shoot with such an exceptionally high rounds of bullets?
If it is for sport shooting you should be exempt, if it is for collecting you also should be exempt.
NOTE: only above quote is taken from MEP Marlene Mizzi’s email. All other quotes are paraphrases from various discussions I had with other people, not Marlene Mizzi’s quotes. I apologize for confusion caused by my mistake.
I assume that it was answer to explanation that magazine capacity limitation has no meaningful security impact. I hear similar questions quite often
“Why is it so big issue? Who needs it, and what for, anyway?”
Such answer usually provokes negative response. I guess that everybody understands why. It basically says
“I don’t need to explain to you why it should be banned. It goes without question. But if you can convince me that you need it, then I might give you an exceptional permission.”
I assume that nobody likes that.
But to understand HOW MUCH we Eastern Europeans dislike it, you would have to actually spend some years in totalitarian state which treats people in this way – deciding for the people what’s good for them, what they need, what they should and shouldn’t be allowed to have or do.
We got four decades of it, and we remember it very well. We are not ‘well-established democracy’. We are democracy that’s so young that most of us still remember its beginning – and before. It started when we said “enough” and refused to obey laws which said that state has power to decide how we should live our lives.
Personal liberty, won by this disobedience, is today one of our core values.
“Citizen’s needs are his or her to decide; the state has no say in it”
is not just principle on which our state operates, it is also one of roots of its legitimacy. That’s what we revolted for.
Of course, it’s not unlimited. We don’t allow driving without license, we don’t sell heroine like sugar, we don’t allow storing artillery shells in residential districts, and so on. But whenever those limitations and bans are discussed and decided, the question “what you need it for?” is not in the equation.
Our firearms law reflects it too. Contrary to popular opinion, it is quite strict, or I would say well safeguarded. Many requirements contained in now discussed proposal are already part of our national firearms law for many years – medical screening or safe storage, for example. Semi-automatic firearms converted from military rifles are quite popular, and our law allows them – along with requirement that the conversion must be irreversible.
What is NOT part of our law, and would be met with furious resistance if proposed, is citizen’s requirement to prove his need for firearm.
I know that in some countries, the police decides what is “good cause” to have firearm, and whether particular citizen has it. That would be unthinkable here. Our Constitution says that everything that’s not forbidden by law is allowed, therefore our firearm law is based on assumption that every cause, other than criminal one, is good enough. Citizen can be deprived of his firearms rights, but only for serious security reasons enumerated in the law, and after due process.
The same goes with magazine capacity. Asking “Why should it be allowed?” and expecting citizens to justify their rights or needs is just not legitimate approach here. The proper question is “Why should it be banned?” and the burden of proper justification and providing evidence lies squarely on the state. If the state cannot give it and prove it, citizens’ liberty takes precedence. That’s how we want it here.
Another issue here is justice. I often hear:
“There were so many concessions from original proposal, so many water-downs. We are willing to compromise. Why aren’t you?”
This also deserves explanation. We all know how EU got into this situation. The Commission neglected its legal duties about deactivated firearms for seven years, it resulted in death of many people, and now the Commission desperately seeks someone to blame and punish. This is true purpose of proposed ban on legal firearms and magazines; the Commission needs someone’s head on the stick, to wave it around and pretend to be protector, instead of culprit.
I hope that you see why we are such no-compromise hardliners here.
Compromises simply aren’t acceptable where justice is at stake
- A crime has been committed, and you are charged, but you didn’t do it; what length of prison time would you be willing to accept as ‘reasonable compromise’?
- Someone wants to rob you and you don’t want to be robbed; how much of violence and theft are you willing to suffer as ‘reasonable compromise’?
- Someone wants to bully your daughter in the school, and she doesn’t want to be bullied; how much bullying is ‘reasonable compromise’?
There are no reasonable compromises in such a situations. Absolute refusal is the only proper answer. Telling legitimate firearms owners:
“We don’t want to ban all semiautomatics, or even all conversions, all we ask you is to give up 20+ magazines – why aren’t you willing to even this small concession?”
is like telling black Americans: “We don’t want you to wear chains or slave in cotton fields, all we ask you is to sit in the back of the bus – why aren’t you willing to accept this small concession?” These ‘compromises’ aren’t unacceptable because they would be too burdensome; they are unacceptable because they are totally unfair. The Commission deserves punishment, not us.
Czech Republic treats people with trust and respect
You might wonder how Czech Republic can handle so many armed citizens with an attitude and yet keep the peace. The answer is: through trust and respect. Our state sees us as partners, not as risk or enemy. We participate in firearms legislation, and our input is respected and incorporated. The state respects our right to possess, carry and use firearms for any legal purposes; we respect reasonable security measures, like background checks, medical screening and safe storage.
The result is a law that works, simply because people follow it. The secret is: when rules are agreed upon, self-respecting people follow them, because they perceive it not as obeying commands, but as keeping their word. As long as the other side does the same, their self-respect motivates them to observe their promise, even when the same self-respect would motivate them to rebel against much less if ordered.
For a long time, there was a special state power in our firearms law. It was right of the government to impound all legal firearms during state of war or other national emergency. This year, it was repealed. Our state actually gave up its legal power to disarm its citizens during wartime. Can there be any greater proof of trust?
I hope that you aren’t much scared by how things are going here in Wild East. Actually, it is quite a peaceful East: according to Global Peace Index, we’re the sixth safest country in the world. I just wanted to show you that the democracy can work in more than one way, that liberty doesn’t have to be dangerous, and that strictest rules aren’t always the best ones, even when pertaining to weapons.
If you did read it to this point, I hope that you look a bit differently now on us and the whole issue.
Spokesman of Czech firearms rights association LEX