Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Právo: EU's planned weapon ban collides with Czech safety system

ČTK |
29 December 2016

Prague, Dec 28 (CTK) - Prague opposes the draft EU directive toughening the rules of arms possession and acquisition because it goes counter to the internal security system the Czech state plans to introduce in reaction to the situation in Europe, Pravo writes on Wednesday, citing a high representative from the defence sector.

The Czech Republic is seeking ways to soften the effect of the directive which is likely to become binding on the EU members, and which, according to Pravo's trustworthy source, was drafted by French lawmakers in reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris.

A few days ago, EU member countries voiced consensus on the brand new draft directive. The Czech Republic was the only of them to oppose the draft resolutely and even issue its own declaration in reaction to it, Pravo writes.

In a document released to Pravo, the Interior Ministry says the directive, if passed, would apply to some 50,000 semi-automatic rifles possessed by Czechs, about one million ammunition clips, as well as hundreds of thousands of deactivated firearms, including historical replicas.

The directive sets news European limits for firearms possessed by civilians, in fact banning a number of firearm types that could be possessed legally so far, Pravo writes, giving several examples of such weapons.

The directive also introduces compulsory registration of weapons modified for blank cartridges, such as those used for theatre or film purposes, Pravo writes.

"The directive clearly goes counter to the trend of building an internal security system the Czech Republic is preparing in reaction to the situation in Europe," the source from the defence sector told Pravo.

He said one of Prague's planned steps is to reinforce active military reserves' participation in the internal security system.

"On the one hand, we are supposed to enhance our defence capability and people's participation [in security and defence]. On the other hand, we are expected to take weapons away from them," the source said.

European Parliament is likely to approve the draft directive in March, in spite of Prague's protest. Afterwards, the member countries will have 15 months to implement the binding directive in their respective legislations and in practice, Pravo writes.

This is what the Czech Republic wants to avert, according to Pravo's information.

The Czech state is afraid that with the directive in force, a large part of now legally possessed semi-automatic rifles and ammunition clips would disappear. Instead of handing them over to the authorities, the owners would hide them or even sell on the black market, Pravo writes.

This may lead to an increase in the number of weapons that are potentially accessible to terrorists and criminals, says the Czech resolution against the draft directive.

The EU ban will mainly affect Czech owners of semi-automatic rifles, but consequently also all 300,000 Czech firearms licence owners because it bans bigger ammunition clips and magazines, Pravo writes, citing the Interior Ministry.

The implementation of the directive, however, may collide with the law on the security in the Czech Republic, which is a constitutional law standing above the EU law, Pravo writes.

The Interior Ministry is dealing with a draft amendment to the security law that declares Czech citizens' right to posses arms and assist in ensuring the public peace, internal security and defence of democracy, Pravo writes.

The draft amendment is evidently supported by Czech lawmakers across the political spectrum and it might be smoothly passed by parliament in 2017, Pravo writes.

"We do not want to soften the conditions for arms possession, but to guarantee to those who possess arms legally that they can use them for legal defence not only of themselves but also other people in face of a threat," a source from the Interior Ministry told Pravo.

The Czech Republic will be forced to translate the EU directive in its legal order. At the same time, however, it will check the directive's possible collisions with the Czech constitution, the paper continues.

"We will have to implement it somehow, but the way we will do it is a different thing," the source said.

He said the state plans to restrict the directive's effect by approving a number of exceptions to exempt many types of weapons, such as those used by military reserves, from it, Pravo writes.

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