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What if gun house owners needed to cross a check? Czech Republic provides a solution.

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PRAGUE — When eight individuals had taken their seats within the classroom, the proctor placed on his glasses and mentioned it was time to start. He took attendance. He glowered as one individual walked in late. He described how the check would work — 30 multiple-choice questions, 40 minutes — and how you can correctly mark an X on the reply sheet. Then he ordered telephones away; solely a pen and paper, he mentioned, have been permitted on the desk.

“If anybody needs to go to the toilet, now is the time,” he mentioned.

The check had all of the tedious markings of a highschool examination, right down to the motivational poster on the wall saying “I will.”

But within the Czech Republic, that is a part of the way you get hold of a gun.

And 40 minutes later, three of the 9 had already failed, ushered out the door because the others went on to the later levels of the examination, by which they needed to show the power to deal with a weapon safely and shoot precisely.

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In an America riven by gun violence, with current mass shootings at a Walmart in Virginia and an LGBTQ membership in Colorado, weapons can typically be bought with out even a background test. With the nation divided about even the smallest adjustments to gun legal guidelines, the query is just hypothetical: What if anyone who wished a gun needed to first show their competence?

The Czech Republic embodies a solution. By European requirements, its gun legal guidelines are permissive. It permits individuals to hold hid weapons for the aim of self-defense, and it is likely one of the few international locations on the planet — and the one one in Europe — that gives the constitutional proper to bear arms. But exercising that proper is contingent on the check.

Czech lawmakers and gun house owners say their nationwide system dramatically will increase the percentages of accountable possession. The guidelines additionally require a well being clearance and a background test, and demand secure storage of weapons as soon as they’re bought. In a rustic extra populous than New York City, there have been seven homicides utilizing weapons throughout all of final 12 months.

“We really have bad politics in many ways here — corruption. But something I am proud of is this law,” mentioned Martin Fiser, 35, a weapons teacher. “It can be a model for the rest of the world.”

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The check is compulsory for anyone who needs a weapon, together with hunters, collectors, even somebody inheriting a shotgun from a grandfather. The requirements are excessive: The check consists of questions randomly drawn from a pool of 501 attainable. Those making an attempt to acquire the hardest-to-get license — for hid carry — can miss no a couple of query. The failure charge is round 40 p.c.

“Practice lessons aren’t mandatory. But without it you have a minimal chance of passing,” mentioned Pavel Ausficir, who works at a capturing vary in Prague.

He talked about a authorities app and a web site the place individuals can research for the written a part of the examination.

The questions are particular, plumbing the small print of security laws and the legal code. One instance:

According to Government Regulation No. 217/2017, black searching gunpowder, smokeless gunpowder and matches can solely be saved:

A: In a spot with a most air humidity of 70%, and at a temperature not exceeding 25 levels Celsius;

B: In a dry place with out direct daylight, at a temperature not exceeding 30 levels Celsius;

C: In a dry place, at a temperature not exceeding 40 levels Celsius.

“It’s not that a person needs to memorize the law,” Ausficir mentioned, “but the test surely checks that they have read it.”

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The notion of testing would-be gun house owners isn’t solely the purview of the Czech Republic. Many European Union international locations have some type of competence examination, although the problem varies.

Some U.S. states, together with California and Connecticut, require both security coaching or an examination earlier than the issuance of a gun license. But the vast majority of states permit individuals to hold weapons with out ever studying how you can shoot one. On a nationwide scale, the patchwork of guidelines presents an issue. Even these in additional restrictive states can circumvent testing necessities by buying weapons from personal distributors on-line.

In the states that do have exams, the necessities “are not as difficult as what the Czech Republic has put in place,” mentioned Sean Holihan, the state legislative director for the gun violence prevention group led by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Czech lawmakers say they’ve a luxurious that Americans don’t. Guns should not a politically fraught situation. About 1 in each 30 Czechs maintain a gun allow. For a lot of the relaxation, the difficulty isn’t mentioned.

The constitutional proper to bear arms was put in place solely final 12 months, not due to some fashionable groundswell, however as a result of lawmakers favored the nationwide legal guidelines as they stand and wished to ensure E.U. initiatives handed in response to terrorist assaults wouldn’t jeopardize them.

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“Guns are valued by gun holders,” mentioned Martin Cervicek, a senator and former president of the Czech police forces. “But they are not viewed as sacred.”

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That sentiment, and the absence of any main gun foyer, has made it simpler to toughen the system. After a gunman killed eight individuals at a Czech restaurant in 2015, in a uncommon mass capturing — carried out by a legal-firearm proprietor who had been displaying indicators of psychological instability — legal guidelines have been shortly modified to present police energy to grab weapons when an individual’s psychological capability is doubtful.

The final Czech mass capturing occurred in 2019, when a gunman killed seven individuals in a hospital. But the perpetrator, who had been ineligible to legally possess a gun, had wanted to go to nice lengths to style a weapon.

The Czech nationwide testing system was born within the vacuum of the 1989 Communist collapse. The Communists had decreed that weapons could possibly be licensed solely to these proving functionality. But in follow nearly no one other than police and get together apparatchiks had been in a position to get one. As the brand new Czech democracy tried to interpret that obscure regulation, native police began conducting examinations. Within a couple of years, the system was formalized: a written and sensible check, overseen by a government-appointed commissar. The nation has often expanded the pool of attainable questions for test-takers.

The Czech Interior Ministry, which oversees the testing system, didn’t permit The Washington Post to sit down in on exams. But it shared uncut movies of a number of testing classes, which occur at gun facilities throughout the nation, usually in teams of 15 to twenty individuals.

Jan Bartosek, the ministry’s firearms coverage director, mentioned probably the most troublesome half entails secure dealing with, when anyone has to indicate they will take a gun aside, put it again collectively, and cope with failures like a squib load or a double feed. One of the movies confirmed a girl who was requested to simulate the occasion of a failure to fireside. She was supposed to maintain the weapon pointed at a goal for 10 seconds, simply in case the firing would possibly happen on a delay. But she as an alternative tried to unload it instantly.

“Unfortunately, I have to finish your exam right here,” the check administrator mentioned.

Bartosek, displaying the video to The Post, mentioned the girl then wanted to signal a doc affirming the failure. She could be eligible to finally retake the check. But many individuals who fail quit after one strive, he mentioned.

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In any nation “you can focus on regulating the weapons or the people,” Bartosek mentioned. “We focus mainly on the people.”

The Czech Republic has seen a slight enhance this 12 months within the variety of individuals looking for weapons, one thing officers attribute to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ludek Cakl, 43, an IT developer and father of two, mentioned that the conflict, by which so many Ukrainians have been compelled to take up arms, made him reassess the worth of understanding how you can deal with a weapon.

So final month he began the method of acquiring a gun: visiting his physician, getting a clear invoice of psychological well being, paying a processing payment, after which, 5 days earlier than his official check, arriving at an underground capturing vary, the place he stood in entrance of a yellow desk and pieced collectively a CZ-75 semiautomatic pistol.

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“The commission is going to ask you to describe the various parts of the gun,” an teacher instructed Cakl.

Cakl took notes on a clipboard.

After a number of hours, it was time for the capturing follow, and he was ushered to a darkish, tunnellike vary beneath the Prague subway tracks, its partitions rattling each time a practice rolled by.

Cakl was instructed that on the day of the check, he’d should hit the goal 4 instances out of 5. He’d shoot a pistol 10 meters away from the goal. And then a rifle 25 meters away.

So that’s what he practiced. The teacher instructed him how you can plant his ft, how you can preserve a gentle hand, and the way even his respiratory may affect purpose of the rifle nestled towards his shoulder.

He tried the pistol first: all on the goal.

Then he tried the rifle from farther away: he hit 4 of 5.

“My first shots ever,” Cakl mentioned, trying on the bullet holes.

The teacher provided a handshake and took out a pocket knife, chopping away the goal sheet — a memento for Cakl.

“An excellent result,” the teacher mentioned.

But Cakl, leaving the capturing gallery, mentioned he was nonetheless nervous. He had a lot operating by his thoughts.

“It’s harder than I expected it to be,” he mentioned.

He instructed the teacher that he wished to come back again for yet another lesson earlier than his check.

“Just for reassurance,” he mentioned.

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