Czechs questioning responsibility of gun license holders

One of the country's most influential men is in hot water after he shot at two men, who he believed attacked him minutes earlier. This is the latest of a number of incidents in which licensed gun owners have used their firearms supposedly in self-defence, and has left people asking whether Czech law makes it too easy for irresponsible citizens to hold guns legally.

One of the country's most influential men is in hot water after he shot at two men, who he believed attacked him minutes earlier. This is the latest of a number of incidents in which licensed gun owners have used their firearms supposedly in self-defence, and has left people asking whether Czech law makes it too easy for irresponsible citizens to hold guns legally.

On New Year's Eve, two of the then Prime Minister Stanislav Gross's body guards were keeping an eye on Mr Gross's home on a monitor in the building's garage. One of the guards got bored and started playing around with his gun. It went off and luckily only damaged one of the parked cars. A few months ago, a young man training to become a security guard died a senseless death, after his colleague put a gun, which he had forgotten to unload, to his head and pulled the trigger.

But this latest incident involving Czech Telecom's general director Gabriel Berdar was neither negligence nor stupidity. It was intentional. Last Friday, Mr Berdar was brutally beaten up in front of his villa, a few kilometres away from Prague by two men, armed with iron bars. After Mr Berdar started fighting back, the men ran away. But on his way to hospital, he noticed a car parked by the motorway slip road and thought he recognised the two young men sitting inside it as his attackers. He pulled out his gun and fired several shots in their direction. The men desperately tried to escape and drove into a ditch, unhurt. They deny having had anything to do with the attack and the Central Bohemian criminal police so far have little reason to think they are not telling the truth. Mr Berdar is now being investigated, as to whether he used his gun responsibly or should be charged. He is already facing a lawsuit by the men he shot at.

Gabriel Berdar, photo: CTK
It is not yet clear who attacked Mr Berdar and what the motivation behind it was. According to medical reports, the injuries to his head were so extensive that his assailants had probably wanted to kill him. Mr Berdar himself believes recent public disclosure of his personal finances triggered the attack.

But even if Mr Berdar was the victim of a brutal crime, he has not received a great deal of sympathy as he clearly was not using his firearm in self-defence. Gun use and ownership is not widespread in the Czech Republic, and crime statistics involving the use of firearms are also relatively low, but these latest incidents have many people worried about the future, not least because parliament is preparing to discuss a bill that would allow licensed gun holders to shoot at any burglar they catch red-handed.