Lawmakers in the Czech Republic approved pro-gun legislation Wednesday that would give citizens more gun rights, not less, just months after the European Commission voted in favor of stricter gun laws. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Begoc)
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Lawmakers in one European Union member country are aiming to give citizens an upper hand when it comes to fighting terrorism on their own.
The lower chamber of the Czech Parliament voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in favor adding more gun rights to its Constitution. A proposed constitutional amendment would give Czechs the right to own "semi-automatic firearms for civilian use which resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms," according to the National Rifle Association.
The bill, which was approved by 139 members of the 200-member lower chamber, was created "in reaction to the recent increase of security threats, especially the danger of violent acts such as isolated terrorist attacks ... active attackers or other violent hybrid threats," Reuters reported.
Czech Republic Interior Minister Milan Chovanec spoke to lawmakers ahead of Wednesday's vote and urged them to pass the bill.
“We don’t want to disarm our citizens at a time when the security situation in Europe is getting worse. Show me a single terrorist attack in Europe perpetrated using a legally owned weapon," Chovanec said, according to the BBC.
The legislation is a challenge to the European Union, whose executive arm, the European Commission, voted in December to make it harder for citizens of member countries to acquire certain types of semi-automatic weapons.
According to the NRA, the EU action "generally prohibits civilian use of centerfire rifles and shotguns that are equipped with a magazine with a capacity greater than 10 rounds, and centerfire handguns that are equipped with a magazine with a capacity greater than 20 rounds."
The European Commission rules also "prohibit the civilian acquisition of these magazines going forward," according to the NRA.
But gun control measures don't stop there. The NRA said that "in addition to restricting the configurations of available firearms, the revised directive places new burdens on gun owners."
More specifically, the rules make issuing and maintaining gun owner licenses in EU countries more strenuous.
"[I]t was agreed that each member state must have a monitoring system to assess relevant medical and psychological information which they may operate on a continuous or non-continuous basis," the European Commission plan stated, according to the NRA.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker praised the agreement at the time, saying that it would "reduce the risk of shootings in schools, summer camps or terrorist attacks with legally held firearms."
Juncker said he would have liked for the agreement to "go further," but added that he was "confident" that the agreement represented a "milestone in gun control in the EU."
The Czech Republic was one of only three EU countries, along with Luxembourg and Poland, that opposed the European Commission gun measure, Reuters said..
A three-fifths majority in the lower chamber and a three-fifths majority in the upper chamber is needed to pass a constitutional amendment in the Czech Republic. While Czech Republic President Milos Zeman hasn't always been in favor of more gun freedoms, he supports the proposed constitutional change.
“Earlier, I spoke against possession of large amounts of weapons," Zeman said in July 2016, following terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, and Nice, France. But, Zeman continued, "after those attacks, I do not think so anymore."
Even if the gun legislation in the Czech Republic becomes law, the European Commission gun control rules that were passed in December would still be in effect, Reuters reported. However, the effort wouldn't necessarily be a lost cause, since it would send a strong message to the EU just more than a year since the United Kingdom voted to withdraw from the multi-nation agreement, sending shockwaves around the globe.
While European nations have experienced a number of terrorist incidents involving guns in recent years, from attacks in London and Paris to Brussels and Berlin, the threat in the Czech Republic has been somewhat less apparent.
According to Reuters, the last mass shooting in the Czech Republic came in February 2015, when a lone gunman walked into a restaurant in the small town of Uhersky Brod, around 190 miles southeast of Prague, and killed eight innocent people before taking his own life.
(H/T: Bearing Arms)
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