Top EU court should dismiss Czech bid to loosen gun laws: adviser

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s top court should dismiss a Czech challenge to tighter EU controls on firearms introduced after the 2015 Paris attacks, the court’s legal adviser said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is seen in the garage of a home outside Christchurch, New Zealand, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

The Czech Republic maintains that the tougher European Commission rules, which make it harder for EU citizens to obtain semi-automatic rifles, were unduly restrictive for law-abiding gun-owners such as hunters.

It also says the Commission rules encroached on crime prevention policy, a matter for the national governments of EU member states.

“The court should dismiss the Czech Republic’s action in its entirety,” Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston said in a statement.

She said the EU directive mainly concerned the free movement of firearms and that this had an impact on crime prevention, but did not harmonize national crime prevention policies.

She added that the Commission did look into the impact of its planned rules and that its actions, notably reclassifying certain firearms as prohibited goods, were in line with the principle of proportionality.

Judges at the European Court of Justice follow the advice of their advocate generals in the majority of cases although they are not bound to do so. The ECJ generally issues rulings within 2-4 months of an advocate general’s opinion.

In 2017, the EU toughened laws against purchasing certain semi-automatic rifles like those used by Islamic State militants in the Paris attacks, and also made it easier to track weapons in national databases.

The Czech Republic filed a lawsuit arguing that the directive would just shift weapons to the black market and do nothing to increase security in the country, where hunting is a popular pastime and gun attacks are rare.

After 50 people were killed in a shooting at a New Zealand mosque on March 15, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern banned the sale of all military-style, semi-automatic and assault rifles. The New Zealand parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for tough new firearms laws.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo to “for” in last paragraph)

Reporting by Clare Roth; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Heinrich