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Prague shooting highlights lax gun control in Czech Republic | International

David K., a 24-year-old student, opened fire this Thursday in the building of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of Charles University, located in the center of Prague, and killed at least 14 people and injured 25 others. For the attack, he used a rifle that he obtained legally, according to the first indications from the police. The Czech Republic is one of the European Union members with the laxest policies on gun control and has consistently opposed integrating stricter regulations on this matter.

The Czech authorities, once the connection of the attack with “international terrorism” was ruled out, revealed that the assailant possessed “several” weapons that he purchased legally. It was later confirmed that he had eight registered weapons, two of them long. According to local media, David K. used an AR-10 assault rifle, from the same family as the AR-15 – which are often used in mass shootings in the United States – to carry out the attack.

The mayor of Prague, Bohuslav Svoboda, quoted by Czech public television, assured that “the problem of the lone attacker” is also emerging there. “We always thought that this was something that did not concern us. Now it turns out that our world is also changing,” he lamented.

The shock caused by the episode reverberated in the Ministry of the Interior, where “they did not sleep” on Thursday night, according to the minister in statements to the press. Beyond the impact, the attack has raised questions about Czech regulations. The Minister of the Interior, Vít Rakusan, recognizes that “it is a legitimate debate”, although he maintains that, compared to other legislation, “in many aspects it is stricter than that of other places in the world.”

But beyond defending that no law “guarantees 100% the prevention of attacks,” the Minister of the Interior assured that Parliament is already in the last phase of a legislative process to make the current norm on arms control something more guaranteed. . “It’s a sad paradox,” he said. Because once approved, the reform will allow companies to notify the police of “suspicious purchases” of weapons or ammunition. Security forces will also be able to confiscate weapons preventively. In addition, it proposes the creation of electronic authorizations, replacing current licenses.

At the moment, the Government does not see an imminent danger of another threat, but has increased precautionary measures until January 1, with a greater police presence in the streets where a considerable number of people gather for the Christmas season.

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300,000 armed people

In the Czech Republic, a country of 10.5 million inhabitants, more than one million registered weapons are in circulation, which are in the possession of about 300,000 people, according to police data from the end of 2022. To obtain an ownership license, the The applicant cannot have a criminal record and must pass a psychotechnical test, in addition to other mental aptitude tests. This last requirement was introduced following the 2015 mass shooting in Uhersky Brod, a town in the east of the country, in which nine people died, including the assailant. There are also exams. One is written, the difficulty of which depends on the type of license you want to obtain, and the other is practical, to demonstrate good handling of the weapon, such as accuracy when shooting.

When, in the wake of the Paris attacks in 2015, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU agreed to increase restrictions on the access of semi-automatic weapons, Czech Republic was one of the strongest opponents. Prague appealed to the EU Court of Justice in 2017, considering that the directive was, in the words of the then Minister of the Interior, Milan Chovanec, “a massive punishment for legal gun owners” and that it would “negatively” influence the security of the country. European justice dismissed the appeal in 2018, observing that the order did not invade national powers.

Despite these struggles at European level, since 2021 the Czech Republic has protected in its Constitution “the right to defend one’s own life or that of another person with weapons under the conditions stipulated by law.” The rule that regulates this right allows those over 18 years of age to obtain a license if the weapon is used to practice a sport or for hunting. When the license is granted for personal defense, the minimum age is raised to 21.

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