The Corner


It Looks Like the Czech Republic Might Get a Second Amendment

A man fires a handgun along a mountain range in Buckeye, Ariz., January 20, 2013. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)

Well, sort of.

Following the Velvet Revolution, the newly formed Czech Republic passed a law legalizing the purchase of a firearm for citizens without criminal records. Although the former Czechoslovakia had a rich history of firearm production, under fascism and Communism personal ownership was largely forbidden.

Once the Czechs joined the European Union in 2004, the nation was bound to the EU’s stringent rules governing gun ownership. After the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in 2015, the first inclination of the EU was to make it even more difficult for citizens to defend themselves. The resulting European Firearms Directive placed new constraints — including an effective ban on most semi-automatic rifles — on member states, which were all expected to comply by 2019.

The only country to challenge the edict was the Czech Republic. And last year, it lost a case before the European Court of Justice. But ever since the European Firearms Directive passed, conservatives have been attempting to add the right to bear arms as one of the “fundamental human rights and freedoms.” It now looks like it may happen.

A few years ago, the amendment passed through the lower house of the Czech parliament but was stopped in the upper house. The proposed language read as so: “The right to defend one’s own life or the life of another person with a weapon is guaranteed under the conditions laid down by law.”

Since then, the center-right Civic Democratic Party has won a majority in the Czech Senate. And this week, the Czech government unexpectedly announced it would endorse the plan to add the language. The amendment now needs a 60 percent supermajority in both chambers to become — somewhat appropriately — only the second amendment to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

Former president of the Czech Police — and the most vocal champion of the bill — Martin Červíček, says that it’s meant to counter the “disarmament tendencies” of the European Union. Which sounds like a worthwhile cause.

Of course, the Czechs have shown strong liberal tendencies. Other than Switzerland, which recently capitulated and passed EU–style gun restrictions, the nation is home to perhaps the most vibrant gun culture on the continent. Since 1999, the number of firearms in civilian hands been steadily rising. At the same time, the Czech Republic remains one of the safest countries in the world, with Prague one of the safest cities in Europe.

One of the unique things about the United States is that we take — or at least claim to strive to take — our Constitution both literally and seriously. I’m certainly no expert on the inner workings of the Czech political system. I have no clue if the amendment will pass. But even if it does, it seems that the change would be more aspirational than revolutionary. “Given the importance of the right to life, which is the most basic right, because without life other human rights cannot be fulfilled,” the literature proposing the change states, “the proposal considers it appropriate to symbolically elevate this right to the constitutional level.”

In any event, the fact that the Czechs are attempting, with some success, to make the philosophical and political case for self-defense and gun ownership is certainly good news.


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