Official: “In-depth public discussion” on firearms critical in wake of December shooting

A Thursday night screening at Prague's Edison Filmhub of the film Utøya, about the mass shooting at a summer camp in Norway, provided an opportunity to discuss the aftermath of December’s shooting at Charles University. One topic was potential changes to Czech gun legislation, which guest speaker Jan Bartošek, who works for the Ministry of the Interior’s Security Policy Council, told me more about.

“Speaking purely about gun policy and the regulatory policy concerning firearms, it is definitely necessary after any tragedy or incident like the one in December, to have a really in depth public discussion about the system. It is perfectly understandable that the public discussions are focussed on the dangers that firearms can pose to public security.

“It’s necessary to discuss this, and it is especially important to discuss it with good knowledge of the issue and lots of facts and context of the attack. At this precise moment, the police investigation is still ongoing, so we need to wait for the facts that will come out from the report. At this time, these findings are not published or available to the authorities or parliament.”

There were official statistics released by the police that indicate gun ownership in Czechia has gone up by nearly three percent since last year. In this case, it means that more people have firearms in their possession, making this problem a little bit more immediate. Is there anything being done to implement more immediate checks or regulation for firearms?

Photo illustrative: Jabbacake,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

“We are currently working on an amendment to the current firearms act. It should be a swift change to the legislation if it’s approved by the parliament and come into effect in July of this year. It would introduce new powers to the police and allow them to seize weapons preventatively from a person who is suspected or identified as posing a security risk to the public.”

Of course it’s hard to ever be prepared for an event like this. Do you think the government and emergency services were prepared? Have there been any lessons learned in terms of emergency preparedness going forward?

“I am quite confident that the police and emergency services were well prepared for an incident of this nature. But it must be said, you can never be fully prepared for anything like this to happen. For more than 10 years, the police, emergency agencies, and other branches of the government train regularly and simulate scenarios in schools, hospitals, government buildings, that are aimed to prepare police for attacks by active shooters.

“Of course there could be some deficiencies that may be identified. The police president of the Czech Republic has set up a working group that identifies possible changes to the system – be it the system of training, communication, equipment, and so on. The possible findings will be prepared in a report by June or July of this year. I think that everyone within the government and police is ready to learn from any findings that might identify what went wrong.”