Prague, Czech Republic – On Tuesday, the Court of Justice of the European Union dismissed the Czech Republic’s case against an EU directive on firearms it said overstepped its prerogatives and unlawfully restricted the rights of firearms owners.
The Czech Republic was supported by Visegrad allies Hungary and Poland during the judicial proceedings.
An EU directive on gun control passed in 2017
Originally proposed in the wake of the terrorist attacks that struck European countries since 2015, the EU directive on firearms, seeks to restrict and implement tighter rules for the acquisition and possession of firearms, banning a number of semi-automatic weapons and large magazines.
It was approved by the European Parliament and the European Council in 2017, but faced resistance from a number of EU countries, including the Czech Republic, which spearheaded efforts to have it cancelled or to secure an exemption.
Under pressure from shooting associations and hunters’ lobbies, the Czech government filed a lawsuit against the directive two years ago, claiming the EU legislation, which went into effect in June 2017, would hurt rightful gun owners’ rights and only contribute to flooding the black market with more firearms.
A hot-button issue in the Czech Republic
“We have turned to the European Court of Justice with the request that this directive be scrapped, postponed or that certain states, primarily the Czech Republic, can get exemptions from it on the grounds that it is discriminatory”, then-Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said at the time.
EU Member states had until October 2018 to implement the directive into domestic law, a deadline the Czech Republic missed. Publicly opposed by a wide part of the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Andrej Babis and President Milos Zeman, the directive sparked a nation-wide debate, unseen in most other countries.
“What angers us the most is the fact that the EU is using the combating of terrorism as a pretext to affect citizens who are doing nothing wrong”, declared David Karasek, spokesman for LEX, one of the country’s main gun owners associations. According to official estimates, the Czech Republic has around 300,000 gun owners holding a total of some 800,000 firearms.
EU top court dismisses Czech Republic’s case against gun restrictions
In its decision, the EU’s top judges consider that European authorities were perfectly allowed to impose such restrictions and that they were in line with EU law.
“The EU legislature cannot be denied the possibility of adopting that act […] to any change in circumstances having regard to its task of safeguarding the general interests recognized by the [EU] Treaties. Those general interests include the fight against international terrorism and serious crime and the maintenance of public security”, the European Court of Justice stated.
“Consequently, the Court held that, in the case at hand, the EU institutions had not exceeded their wide discretion when called upon to conduct such complex assessments and evaluations of political, economic or social nature”, it concluded.