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EU to tighten guns rules despite concern it will restrict hunters, collectors

EU to tighten guns rules despite concern it will restrict hunters, collectors

Reuters

European Union governments should agree tighter gun control laws on Friday in the wake of Islamist shooting attacks in France and Belgium, despite opposition from some states which say they will hurt only law-abiding enthusiasts.

The Czech Republic is among the loudest critics of rules that EU officials expect to secure comfortable majority backing when the 28 interior ministers meet in Luxembourg on Friday. It argues the measures will not prevent criminals acquiring weapons but will penalize hunters and collectors.

Since the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015 by men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles apparently bought in central Europe, France has pushed for a crackdown. It redoubled its efforts after the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.

Prague was among states seeking to water down the original proposals to ensure hunters, sports shooters, collectors and museums can hold weapons, including semi-automatics capable of firing many rounds per minute. Switzerland, which is outside the EU but cooperates on such issues, along with Finland and others also sought exemptions for civilian national defense groups.

The Czech Republic has liberal gun regulation by European standards, with about 775,000 legal guns and rifles in the country of 10.6 million people. Despite the fact that the original proposal was diluted, gun owners in the Czech Republic are still angry with the looming changes.

"People who stage attacks do not use legally held weapons, they use black market ones, primarily from the Balkans," said Jan Vurbs, 30, firing his two rifles at a forest shooting range near Visnova, 50 km south of Prague.

"We have to meet a number of rules on storing weapons, safe boxes, every weapon is registered and police know exactly what we have at home," he said. "Bans for civilians and terrorist threats are two unconnected issues."

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