The Washington Post had an interesting article two weeks ago (h/t reader ibrahimdaoud) about the widening rift between the Czech Republic and the EU on gun policy. The article focused on two aspects of it: a movement in Prague to empower armed citizens to take down terrorists, and the EU’s politically correct march to ever more limiting gun restrictions.
Let me backtrack for a moment, however. Two years ago, just after the first major ISIS attack in Paris – the one on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, followed by the bloody stand at the Jewish deli – I wrote about Europe’s need to revisit its own legacy of armed citizenship. An armed yeoman citizenry is a concept that arose distinctively in Europe, and is too obviously suited to the problem of deterring domestic terrorism for it to be long ignored.
In the two years since, I’ve had occasion to hark back to that point more than once. See here and here, for example. In October 2015, Czech TV reported on a fast-accelerating trend of new gun purchases in Central Europe; i.e., parts of Europe where it remains more practically feasible to buy and own a gun.
And at the end of a longer article in February 2016, I focused on the dynamic of armed-citizen deterrence, bringing in a very interesting video from an encounter in France. I’ll quote from that earlier passage here (the video is below):
In all this growing dysfunction and disorder, it’s poignant – and maybe instructive – to see this lone, final video. In it, an unassuming middle-class Frenchman in Calais is carrying. It isn’t clear quite why he has the authority to. But he does handle his sidearm properly in an ugly encounter with migrants who pursue him on the street. He never unholsters it. He just puts his hand on it, has it ready, and makes sure the taunting, prodding migrants know he’s got it.
He walks away unharmed. A handful of other people who were walking in front of him are also able to get away unharmed, because he was there, armed, to turn and confront the migrants.
Until Europeans wake up and figure out that this is the man they need – a man they have forgotten is quintessentially European – they will keep sinking further into Weimarism.
To preserve a middle class, with a political middle and centrist solutions, you have to let the middle class enforce boundaries that keep it viable. You can’t stake it to an anthill and let extremists prey on it. Fortunately, letting the middle class harden and arm itself, and take the streets back encounter by encounter, is the most effective way to “support” it.
The leftist “elite” probably won’t wake up to this before it’s too late. But maybe – just maybe – this video shows that enough of the ordinary middle class will.
So it’s especially interesting now to see what the Czech government wants to do:
A couple of months ago, Czech President Milos Zeman made an unusual request: He urged citizens to arm themselves against a possible “super-Holocaust” carried out by Muslim terrorists.
Never mind that there are fewer than 4,000 Muslims in this country of 10 million people — gun purchases spiked. One shop owner in East Bohemia, a region in the northern center of the Czech Republic, told a local paper that people were scared of a “wave of Islamists.”
Now the country’s interior ministry is pushing a constitutional change that would let citizens use guns against terrorists. Proponents say this could save lives if an attack occurs and police are delayed or unable to make their way to the scene. To become law, Parliament must approve the proposal; they’ll vote in the coming months.
WaPo’s Amanda Erickson observes that this proposal, and the Czech Republic’s “lenient” gun laws, put the Czechs at odds with the EU.
This puts the country at odds with much of Europe, which has long supported much more stringent gun-control measures. In the wake of the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, France pushed the European Union to enact even tougher policies. The European Commission’s initial proposal called for a complete ban on the sale of weapons like Kalashnikovs or AR-15s that are intended primarily for military use. Ammunition magazines would be limited to 20 rounds or less.
The Czech Republic came out hard against the directive.
The final EU plan is a compromise bill, but it will be considerably more restrictive than Czech laws.
All member states will have 15 months to comply with the new gun restrictions. The final measure bans the sale of most military-style rifles and requires all potential buyers to go through a psychological check before they can buy a weapon. If someone fails a check in one E.U. state, that information will be shared in an international database so that the person can’t procure a gun somewhere else. Online sales are also severely curtailed. The Czech Republic was the only country to oppose the directive for being too strict.
Of course, the gun laws of virtually all EU nations were already very restrictive prior to the January 2015 terror attack. I pointed out after the Charlie Hebdo attack that Belgium, which has some of the most restrictive laws, was where the terrorist attackers got their guns – illegally, through a flourishing black market that operates near major train stations.
It’s a thought-provoking sign of how different European and U.S. legal ideas have become, that the Czech government even has to think in terms of explicitly authorizing citizens to shoot a terrorist attacker.
But the EU won’t be able to put a lid on this movement. It makes too much sense for the people to be able to defend themselves. The cost of adhering to a highly centralized, restrictive concept of public security is too high – and it leaves out the most important feature of an armed citizenry: the deterrent effect of their hardened profile.
Ultimately, however, what it comes down to is this. It is immoral to demand of the people that they pay for politically correct delusions with their lives. A number of trends, including this one regarding the civilian use of small arms, show that Europe is waking up to that truth.