The Czech interior ministry is preparing a constitutional amendment which would enable Czechs with a firearms license to use their weapons against terrorists.
The government had heightened security measures following the Berlin terror attack last month, announcing an immediate increase in police presence at sites with high concentrations of people.
However, last week Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told Radio Praha that the government thinks further measures are necessary, because the police cannot always guarantee a fast and effective intervention.
In the Czech Republic, with a population of 10.5 million, over 300,000 people have a firearms license and there are over 800,000 registered weapons.
Allowing private citizens to shoot terrorists could prevent loss of life in the event of an attack, Chovanec said.
“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 grow,” the minister explained.
Jan Skalický, Chairman of the Czech Republic’s Association of Manufacturers and Sellers of Weapons, told Sputnik that the Interior Ministry proposal is a “step in the right direction.”
“The police can’t be everywhere, we don’t have personal police who guard us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The police react to problems as they occur, but there is always a delay because they have to travel,” Skalický said.
“In the event of a terrorist or criminal attack, it takes just a few seconds for lives to be threatened, and this outpaces the ability of the police to respond. Only an armed citizen can be quick enough to intervene; waiting for the police means victims and the police can then only document them and collect evidence (of the crime that took place).”
Skalický said that many people who have a license to carry weapons have a background in the security services or military, and these people could be an asset to national security.
He thinks the Czech Republic would benefit from following a policy like Israel, where those licensed to carry guns are encouraged to do so by the government.
“The responsible civilian population – in the framework of the rule of law – has a part to play,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said in the wake of a series of terror attacks in October 2015.
However, Israel has strict gun ownership laws, and just 2.5 percent of the population can legally carry a firearm. Most of them have served in the military, and had to pass a series of tests in order to get a license.
According to Skalický, in the Czech Republic many of those with a gun license have also received military training.
“You have to realize that a high percentage of civilian gun owners served in the army, police, municipal police, and customs. The state invested in their training, and the involvement of these people in the security of the Czech Republic is logical and economical. In Israel, they realized this a long time ago.”
“Another argument in favor of licensed citizens carrying weapons is that of prevention. If a terrorist or criminal knows that he will meet with armed resistance, he won’t attack.”
In order for the constitutional amendment to be passed, the government requires the backing of a majority of deputies and senators in the Czech parliament, and the opposition has asked the government for more detail about the proposed amendment.
However, the plan has the backing of the country’s President Milos Zeman, who earlier this week urged citizens to arm themselves against the terrorist threat after a series of attacks in Western Europe. The announcement followed his previous call a few months ago for Czechs to be prepared for a possible “super Holocaust” carried out by Muslim terrorists.