Thursday, 14 December 2017

Senate votes against arms owners' power to intervene

ČTK |
7 December 2017

Prague, Dec 6 (CTK) - The Czech Senate on Wednesday rejected a draft amendment to the constitutional bill on security that was to empower legal arms owners to intervene for the sake of the country's security, and said such a change is unnecessary and could be misused.

The draft amendment was submitted to the Senate by the previous Chamber of Deputies still before the October general election.

It was meant as a reaction to the EU directive toughening firearms possession.

However, the amendment's critics said it would not prevent the Czech duty to incorporate the EU directive in the Czech law.

"The Senate should not make clowns of itself where the constitution is involved," Senator Jiri Cunek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said in the debate on Wednesday.

The EU directive which is to take effect next September, toughens the rules of legal firearms possession and even bans some firearms within the EU efforts to fight terrorism.

The amendment that would introduce the right to acquire, hold and carry firearms for ensuring the state security was supported by 28 of 59 senators present.

As an amendment to the constitution, however, three fifths of votes, 36 at least, were needed for it to make it through.

Twenty senators voted for the amendment to be turned down.

In the preceding debate, the amendment was defended by deputy Zdenek Ondracek (Communists, KSCM), a former police officer assisting in a violent suppression of anti-communist demonstrators in 1989. A part of senators walked out of the room during Ondracek's speech in protest.

The amendment's advocates included outgoing interior minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD). He previously spoke of it as vitally necessary for his ministry to prepare a bill on arms holders' use of weapons for the purposes of interior security.

One of the critics, former human rights minister Jiri Dienstbier (CSSD), said the amendment, if passed, could be misused by armed groups that would decide to take power in their own hands.

The constitutional amendment, proposed by deputies for the CSSD, ANO, the KSCM and the Civic Democrats (ODS), was to introduce the Czech citizens' right to acquire, hold and carry weapons for the purpose of ensuring the state security. By passing it, the Czech Republic would recognise that legal possession of arms is a step helping ensure the country's security.

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