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Updated December 22nd, 2023 at 12:54 IST

Prague university shooting: What to know about Czech Republic's gun laws

The Capital of the Czech Republic was rocked by a horrific incident of mass shooting at Charles University that killed 14 people and left 25 injured.

Police officers secure area surrounding Charles University after a gunman killed 14 people in Prague
Police officers secure area surrounding Charles University after a gunman killed 14 people in Prague | Image:AP
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Prague: The Capital of the Czech Republic was rocked by a horrific incident of mass shooting at Charles University that killed 14 people and left 25 injured. The tragic event in a country where gun violence is rare, soon became the deadliest incident of mass shooting the Czech Republic witnessed in its modern history.  “It’s a horrible crime, something the Czech Republic has never experienced,” remarked Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan, indicating the rarity of the incident. 

Shortly after 3 pm local time, the Czech police notified that they were responding to a shooting incident at Jan Palach Square. The area is near tourist sites such as the  14th-century Charles Bridge in central Prague. Within less than an hour after the first intimidation, the police informed that the shooter was “eliminated” after they evacuated the whole building of the university. Soon after the preliminary investigation, the police described the incident as "a premeditated violent attack” which they believe was inspired by similar massacres that took place in abroad. 

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While the gun laws in the European nation are known for their leniency, the country with a population of around 10.8 million has witnessed rare cases of gun violence. If we compare the data between firearm cases in the United States with that of cases in the Czech Republic, one would clearly understand the stark difference. According to the data released by Gunpolicy.org, in 2019, the Czech Republic saw 195 total gun violence-related deaths. In contrast to this, the United States has reported more than 15,000 firearm deaths in 2019. 

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An ambulance drives towards the building of the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in downtown Prague, Image: APthe 

What are the Gun Laws like in the Czech Republic?

According to the 2022 data shared by the Czech police, there are more than 1 million registered weapons in the country. It is important to note that a Czech national has the constitutional right to bear arms and the country also allows its citizens to carry weapons for self-defence. However, the process of actually obtaining the weapon in the country is a very elaborate one. 

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People get escorted by the police as they evacuate the building of the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University, Image: APthe 

Everyone in the country has to go through a thorough background and health check, but the standard of obtaining a gun license varies significantly. In 2015 the country passed a law, in which the police can opt to take someone's weapon away if they deem them to have mental health problems. According to The Washington Post, a Czech national has to take a multiple-choice quiz. The level of difficulty of the test varies in accordance with the type of gun license a person wants to obtain. After the written test, a Czech national has to show that they can shoot a firearm well. If a person has a criminal record, they are immediately not allowed to carry a firearm.  

The culprit legally obtained the arm

When it comes to the Thursday shooting, the Czech authorities revealed that the gunman involved in the incident legally owned several guns. As per the investigation, the gunman shot his father before he went on a shooting rampage. It is important to note that the police have yet to release information about the suspect's connection to any terrorist organization or a possible motive. Prior to the Thursday incident, the deadliest mass shooting the country witnessed in its modern history happened in 2015, when a shooter took the lives of eight people before fatally shooting himself. Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the Czech Republic witnessed a sharp increase in obtaining gun licenses in the country. However, the cases of mass shootings remained relatively less before the tragic incident jolted the country. 

Czech Republic's Police Officer Martin Vondrasek speaks to media after a mass shooting incident in downtown Prague, Image: AP 
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Published December 22nd, 2023 at 12:53 IST

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