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The Czech Interior Ministry wants to push through a constitutional amendment which will enable citizens to hold firearms licenses and to use their weapons against perpetrators of terrorist attacks such as those in Berlin or Istanbul. The proposal, which would have to be approved by Parliament, has evoked mixed reactions.

Today, more than 300,000 Czechs have a license and there are over 800,000 registered weapons in the country. Under Czech law, a weapon can be used to protect one’s life or property. Now, the Interior Ministry is proposing to extend the use of arms in defence of the state, i.e. in the event of a terrorist attack, radio.cz reported.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec argued that despite strict security measures being in place, it is not always possible for law enforcement to guarantee a fast and effective intervention, he added that fast action from a citizen might prevent the loss of many lives. Minister Chovanec says he has reason to believe that the public would welcome such a move. The minister wants to see the amendment approved before the parliamentary elections in October.

“The terrorist attacks we have seen in Western Europe and elsewhere have increased security concerns among the public. More Czechs are getting firearms licenses and I think that if the situation does not improve in the coming months, then the number of firearms holders will continue to grow”.

As a constitutional amendment, the bill would have to win the support of at least 120 deputies and 49 Senators. While the opposition is not strictly against the idea, deputies say they will need to know more about the proposed amendment, since it could pose serious risks. Security expert and the former head of the Czech Military Intelligence, Andor Šandor, says he is not entirely sure it is a good idea.

“We are trying to learn lessons from the Israelis and I am not quite sure that we are in a position to learn lessons from them. There is a completely different security situation in Israel. If we take into account that Prague is the 6th safest city in the world and the Czech Republic belongs to the 10 safest countries in the world, it is a question whether all citizens who hold guns legally should be given the right to shoot at terrorists in the event of a terrorist attack. It is a completely different situation for which you have to be perfectly trained, not only to know how to use the gun but to be psychologically prepared. Otherwise, it could result in a bloodbath in which more innocent people could be killed.”

If approved, the proposal could still see many changes in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. According to the present draft, it would only apply to Czech nationals and firearms holders would moreover have to undergo stricter periodic tests.