The year 2020 is already commonly regarded as one of the worst years in global memory, but there’s some potentially good news coming from the Czech Republic. In recent years, the Czech Republic have been making efforts to strengthen Czech gun rights, and this year’s goal is to beef up the Bill of Rights, and the laws that correspond with it. TFB has been blessed with a global readership, and as such, we’ve also been fortunate to have a reader from the Czech Republic, Ondřej Tůma, who has agreed to help shed some light on the “Czech 2nd Amendment”. Ondřej provided a brief history of how they’ve come to this current battle:
The Austro-Habsburg empire had a quite liberal gun laws which were inherited by the Czechoslovakia. Subsequent Nazi occupation and Communist coup and dictatorship both ordered strict gun control only allowing firearms to a few selected, so when the Czechoslovaks regained liberty in 1989, shall-issue licenses to keep and bear arms under fair conditions were considered one of symbols of liberty and remained even after the Czech/Slovak split. When this right came under attack from the EU, Czech parliament and senate are making a unique push back against gun control.
Just to be clear, the people of the Czech Republic still have some work to do when it comes to protecting their gun rights, and nothing has been passed at the time of this writing. Of course, the Czech gun rights language must be worded in a way that is approved by the mandatory review of the European Union (EU). Currently, the Senate has allowed the gun rights proposal to be brought up for debate, and the law will need to pass both House and Senate with a three-fifths (or greater) vote.
CZECH REPUBLIC gun rights: first stop, the bill of rights
The proposal is also a multi-pronged approach involving amending the Czech Bill of Rights, and the laws that the Bill of Rights refer to. The overhaul of Czech gun rights laws would also need to happen in a way that meets the EU muster, which is a daunting task. Ondřej explains:
The most famous, yet paradoxically least important, is “Constitution” expansion. Similarly to the US., we have Constutution and Bill of rights. But then on top of that, we have “constitutional laws” which are not a part of the constitution itself, but rather more exactly specify something the Constitution hints at, and unlike regular laws can be only changed by the Constitutional vote margin, i e. 3/5 of votes instead of plain majority.
In 2017, almost identical Senate proposal attempted modifying “Constitutional law on security” which specifies how exactly are Czech citizens obligated to participate on country defense. That proposal was blocked by the progressive-liberal wing of the Senate, but this year, Senators have again raised the proposal and made it more heavyweight, targeting the Bill of Rights directly instead of merely constitutional law on security. Surprisingly, this time the proposal wasn’t blocked, so it became a law proposal on which the Chamber of deputies and Senate will now vote.
The following is how the Bill of Rights Article 6’s provisions of the people’s right to life, which currently reads:
(1) Everyone has the right to life. Human life is worthy of protection before birth.
(2) No one shall be deprived of his life.
(3) The death penalty is not permitted.
(4) It is not a violation of the rights under this article if someone has been deprived of life in connection with conduct that is not criminal under the law.
The proposed addition to Article 6’s paragraph 4 would include further defense of life in general:
The right to defend own life or a life of another person even with a weapon is guaranteed under terms set by another law.
Sadly though, Ondřej explained that the movement can’t just stop at the Bill of Rights:
Why this is least significant – unlike the US. constitution which is clear with it’s “Shall not be infridged, period”, our constitution is nicely written but “toothless”, since every single important article says “under terms defined by law” or “unless allowed by law”. Hence, normal restrictive and repressive laws are explicitly allowed to limit Constitutional rights, of which very little sometimes remains.
Thus, the pro-gun organizations like the Czech Gunlex, which is similar to the NRA, and pro-gun legislators will have to work hard to craft the accompanying laws to preserve as much of Czech gun rights as possible, using every single possibility in the EU Firearms Directive to the maximum.
CZECH GUN RIGHTS: A BRIEF LOOK AT NUMBERS
In terms of self defense and national security, there are a few numbers to consider. The Czech Republic’s gunners don’t make up a large portion of the population, but there’s still some good news, even without the proposed changes to the Constitution and the supporting law. Of the 10,000,000 Czechs, only roughly 300,000 are holders of various firearms licenses, which appears to have plateaued for the last two decades and remains mostly steady at that number. Fortunately, the “shall issue” “Class E” License for Self Defense appears to boast the highest number of licenses at 248,000 according to last December’s figures. While the Czech license holders seem to be pretty level, the number of registered firearms has only increased, with approximately 900,000 of them owned by the public.
CZECH GUN RIGHTS: WHAT ABOUT THE E.U. GUN BAN?
For the Czech people preserve firearms freedom could be akin to walking a tight rope. It’s no secret that the EU has become much more stringent when it comes to firearms and gun control. TFB has covered several national firearms resolutions within Europe thus far for both member and non-member countries with mixed results. If a country decides to opt out of the restrictive bullet points the EU has laid out, said country could force heavy daily fines until the standards are met, and/or face economic backlash based on the EU’s treaties to support international commerce and travel. Thus, the Czech legislators must tread carefully in order to meet the EU’s directive on firearm control. The following quote is from the EU Commission:
The Directive 91/477/EEC defines a set of common minimum rules for the control of the acquisition and possession of firearms in the EU, as well as the transfer of firearms to another EU country.
Some of the EU’s directive includes a restriction on semi-automatic rifles (based on length) and a limit on magazine capacity, more restrictions on access to firearms, including deactivated firearms and blank firing guns, and also directs countries to make firearms and parts more traceable via registration. A future goal is to include medical examinations as a requirement to obtain firearms. You can read more of the EU’s directive from the horse’s mouth HERE.
Many thanks to Ondřej for his help in clarifying the Czech gun rights situation! What do you think about the battle for the Czech Republic’s movement to expand their rights?