The subject of gun ownership and rights have been contentious in the United States for decades, creating the impression that this is how things must be. This view is only reinforced by references to the United Kingdom or Australia, cases in which guns were regarded as an increasingly less allowed privilege.
But there is at least one example in the world that shows this state of affairs isn’t necessary: the Czech Republic. Firearms have a long history in this region. Even the origin of the word, pistol, may come from pis’tala, a word in the Czech language for firearm that was an adaptation for the verb, whistle, connected to the Russian word for a shepherd’s pipe. In the gun community, many of us, and I include myself here, are fans of Czech firearms. The Czechs have a reputation for independence and excellence in their designs, even during the period of Soviet domination, as Jeff Cooper’s respect of the CZ vz. 75 illustrates.
After the fall of communism, the Czech people chose to restore the opportunity of ordinary citizens to own and use guns. The choices that they made sound like fantasy to those of us used to debating gun rights with people dedicated to putting such rights to an end.
If you want to be a gun owner in the Czech Republic, you have to be a citizen or permanent resident, have a background check and a visit with a physician, then take a test. Pass these things, and you get a license. This can be for one’s profession, as well as for collecting, hunting, sport shooting, but also specifically for self-defense, something that isn’t allowed in many other countries and some American states.
These are among the things demanded here in the United States by advocates of gun control. The key difference is that in the Czech Republic, this isn’t a subject of vitriol. It’s broadly accepted, and there aren’t opposing sides, at least in the sense that we perceive them.
Could this blessed condition exist in this country? I can’t see how.
Our culture thrives on opposition. Throughout our history, if we haven’t liked our neighbors, we moved, often westward. We will bicker with anyone over the slightest matters. And more than that, we come from a long list of backgrounds, many of which don’t get along with each other.
As a contentious American, I’m a part of this. My ancestors were the definitive oppositionalists—the Scots-Irish. They didn’t like the English, didn’t like the majority of Irishmen, and didn’t like the American government interfering with them here—if you quibble about the details here, we’ll fight out the claim. I don’t feel the need to be agreeable. If there’s a difference between the European and American approaches, speaking in broad terms, it’s the relationship between the individual and society. We are unlikely ever to come to a point in the United States in which we all agree on everything. And this is why we have to have the constitutional protection of basic rights.
We can admire the successful consensus in the Czech Republic, as much as we recognize that it won’t happen here. In this country, we have chosen the classical liberal argument that values personal autonomy, a fundamental core of not having to give account to others. This astonishes a lot of outside observers, but it’s what we have, and the commitment to individual liberty that doesn’t require approval is also a worthy model for organizing a society.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.