This week, the Czech Republic made good on their promise to pursue a legal challenge to the European Union’s (EU) onerous new changes to the European Firearms Directive. The small Central European nation filed suit in the European Court of Justice, demanding that the new gun controls be scrapped, postponed, or that certain countries be given exemptions from the measure.
The centerpiece of the changes is a severe restriction on the civilian ownership of certain types of semiautomatic firearms. The new rules also reduce gun owner privacy and place new restrictions on state-issued firearms licenses. The Czechs have a strong tradition of civilian gun ownership and were at the forefront of the opposition to the new rules throughout the EU legislative process. The new gun controls went into effect on June 13.
Coinciding with the lawsuit, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec issued a robust statement in defense of the Czech people’s right to arms. Targeting the new directive, Chovanec explained,
Such a massive punishment of decent arms holders is unacceptable, because banning legally-held weapons has no connection with the fight against terrorism… This is not only a nonsensical decision once again undermining people's trust in the EU, but implementing the directive could also have a negative impact on the internal security of the Czech Republic, because a large number of weapons could move to the black market.
With a difficult legal battle ahead, the Czechs are not relying solely on the European Court of Justice to vindicate their rights. On June 28, the Czech Chamber of Deputies approved a change to the Czech constitution that would protect citizens’ right to possess firearms. The amendment recognizes an armed citizenry as part of the country’s security scheme, which curtails the EU’s authority to interfere with Czech gun laws.
Further, Chovanec, a staunch opponent of the changes to the Firearms Directive, has previously suggested that the Czech Republic may defy the EU altogether. Chovanec told the Czech News Agency, “In my opinion, the directive should not be implemented even if it meant that Europe will sanction the country.”
The Czech Republic’s lawsuit, as well as their decision to exhaust all of its options to combat the EU’s legislative overreach, exhibits the Czech government’s rare and admirable determination to defend the rights of it citizens in the face of international pressure. There are many U.S. politicians that could learn from the Czechs’ shining example.