Časopis Dimenzie Article (en)

Update 2017:  There have not been any substantial changes yet to the firearms law in Slovakia.  However the approval by the European Parliament in March of the changes to the EU firearms directive will have some affect on Slovak law.  A discussion of this can be found in the GUNSweek.com article under the expandable section "Focus on: What now?"  Member states have more than a year to bring their laws in line with the directive, so expect these pages to be updated in 2018.

Detailed statistics for the year 2011 on gun ownership are here: http://www.minv.sk/swift_data/source/policia/op/zdroje_statistky_op_zbrane/statistika%20zbrane%20za%20rok%202011.pdf

Summary of these statistics:
There are 163,176 registered gun owners in Slovakia, of whom 87,608 have permission to carry a gun on their person for self defense, or about 2% of the adult population.

This article first appeared in the July-August 2012 issue of Časopis Dimenzie in both English and Slovak (PDF, 4.6MB)http://www.casopisdimenzie.sk/

by: Andrew Ray

The sound of a car crashing interrupts services at New Destiny church in Aurora, Colorado one Sunday morning last April. Worshipers run out into the parking lot to offer aid to the man in the crashed car. Instead, he opens his door, pistol in hand, and starts shooting. The mother of the pastor is killed by his shot, but before he can turn the church into a killing field he is stopped dead by a bullet from a man carrying a concealed pistol. This story didn't make it into the news outside of Colorado.

A few months later another shooting with much deadlier results put Aurora, Colorado on the map not only for the U.S. but also the world. The so-called “Batman massacre” occurred in a crowded theater with one major difference from the parking lot of New Destiny church: per theater policy, no-one was allowed to carry their gun with them to the movies. 1 out of every 50 Coloradans has a permit to carry a handgun-- had guns been allowed by the theater owners, as many as 5 patrons might have been armed and put an early end to the massacre.

According to John R. Lott, the author of the book More Guns Less Crime, with only one exception in the past 50 years, all of the massacres in the U.S. have occurred where guns are explicitly banned: all elementary and high schools, most universities, many churches, many malls, many government buildings-- even army bases. The simple fact is that these deranged killers who successfully carry out massacres choose locations that are rich in unarmed victims who are prevented by law or corporate policy from defending themselves.

Lott's book expounds upon his academic study of how changes in the gun laws of the past 30 years in the U.S. have impacted criminality. Specifically, he exams from many different aspects the the liberalization of gun laws in 39 states as they move from something similar to those in Slovakia where a reason for needing to carry a gun and corresponding police approval are required to simply checking that those requesting a permit to carry a gun have no criminal background. Coming from the perspective of an economist, he strives to give an answer to the question: Does easier access to firearms for self-defense result in an overall benefit to society?

As 53 year old woman is getting out of the shower when the lights go out and a young, knife wielding man attacks, throwing her down and attempting to rape her. She struggles to get away and runs to her bedside drawer with the attacker right behind her. Only after she grabs her revolver and shoots him several times does he turn and run away. She escapes from the attack with mild injuries instead of being raped and losing her life. The rapist in this case did not get far before dying from the gunshot wounds.

Lott found that making it easier for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves with firearms significantly reduced violent crimes, especially murder and rape. On average, murders fell by 6% and rapes by 10%, with the sharpest decreases seen in the most densely populated area. Why is this so? Criminals, for the most part, are rational actors who pick their victims with an aim towards success in carrying out the crime. States which adopted permissive laws have populations therefore more likely to be armed and thus the victims of crimes are more likely to fight back. Surveys of prisoners have found that criminals are most afraid of the victim of their crime being armed-- even more so than the police appearing while they are committing the crime. Not only do those who arm themselves suffer less losses due to crime, but because criminals cannot identify who is carrying a concealed weapon, all of society benefits from lowered violent crimes. The only type of crimes that increased in response to permissive concealed carry laws were those crimes not involving direct contact with the victim-- auto theft, robbery of homes while the occupants are away, etc. In spite of the increase of guns being carried in public, there was no increase in accidental deaths or suicides from guns. In fact, many criminals are deterred simply by the would-be victim's gun being displayed without any shots being fired. Moreover, those with permits to carry handguns are 180 times less likely to commit murder than the general population.

Women benefit disproportionately compared to men: “an additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about three to four times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men” (Lott). A common American saying is “God created all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.” Guns put women, the elderly, and others who are physically weaker on an equal footing with stronger armed or unarmed criminals. No-one is an easy target in states where even elderly women are carrying guns.

Beatrice Turner, a black, 89 year old grandmother, awoke one morning last year to the sound of her front door being kicked in. She grabbed the revolver she keeps by her bed and walked out of her bedroom to find a 120kg man stepping into her home. She fired one shot at his head, barely missing, and he turned and fled, only to be quickly captured by police.

Every 1% increase in gun ownership leads to a 4% decrease in violent crime with an associated reduction in costs to victims of $3 billion, according to Lott's estimations. Additionally, he looked at how the increasing numbers of people carrying a handgun affected violent crime and found that for every 1% increase of the population carrying pistols murders fell 30%, rapes 6%, and assaults 5%. In comparison a 1% increase in arrest rate results in a less than 1% decrease in violent crimes. The small costs to citizens to arm themselves (which Lott estimates at about $50/year) is carried entirely by private individuals, whereas salaries for more police require increases in strained state budgets. His conclusion is that the most economical way to reduce violent crime in society is to allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms to defend themselves.

Košice, Slovakia, a few days before Christmas 2011, a man entered a Kaufland supermarket with a knife and stabbed his ex-girlfriend, a cashier, a dozen times, then calmly stands and waits for police while she bleeds to death. Bystanders do nothing.
Utah, USA, April 2012, a man takes a kitchen knife he has just purchased at Smith's department store and begins to attack at random shoppers. Another shopper pulls his gun and orders the man to drop his knife and holds him at gun-point until police arrest him.

Self-defense is about more than defending oneself. The willingness of individuals to defend themselves usually transfers over to a willingness to defend others. A gun does not, in the long run, cost very much. A 300€ purchase for a good gun that will last several decades is really a small cost. The slight inconvenience of carrying the increasingly light weight (250 grams), compact handguns available today is approaching the same level as the inconvenience of carrying a smartphone, which has become standard for most people today. The lifetime likelihood of being a victim of violent crime in the U.S. is around 80%. Based on that, there is an almost 100% certainty that you will either be a victim yourself or witness to someone else being victimized. Wouldn't it be better to carry a small piece of insurance with you, so that when a criminal attacks you, you are not at his mercy?

What ramifications do Lott's study have for Slovakia? What is the situation here on guns? What is the best path for self-defense?

As of 2010, there are 157500 Slovaks with legal guns requiring a license, representing 3% of the population. This is an increase of 250% since 1993 when there were only 61595 registered gun owners. There are no statistics available on how many of these gun owners have an 'A' license for carrying a gun for self-defense, but based on my own observations of gun-owning Slovaks, 2% of the Slovak population probably has a license to carry a gun in self-defense, even though most gun-owners I have talked to do not regularly carry their gun.

Slovakia, as well as the Czech Republic which has very similar laws, are unique in the EU in being the only countries where it is easily possible to get a permit for carrying a firearm. All other EU states, if it is possible at all, require extreme reasons and/or political connections. The gun licenses (Zbrojny Preukaz) can be for several reasons: carrying a gun concealed for self defense, keeping a gun at home or business for self-defense, target shooting, hunting, collecting. Gun licenses are issued not only to citizens, but also to residents of Slovakia, in both cases on the completion of an oral examination on the law related to guns. A reason must be given for why an applicant wants an 'A' license for carrying a gun-- such things as being self-employed, a business owner, handling large amounts of cash are pretty much automatically accepted-- if the reason is not accepted the applicant will get a 'B' license for keeping the gun at home.

Under the law the use of firearms in self-defense is allowed when it is necessary and in proportion to counter the assailants force. Also, even if, for example, one shoots a knife wielding attacker, the law provides that those acting out of extreme fear are not punished for use of excessive force. The law on guns, as well as the questions for the exam,

Based on some limited data, these points can be made about crime and guns in Slovakia: From the time between 1993 and 2010, when the number of gun owners increased 250%, changing from 1% to almost 3% of the population, the number of murders decreased from 137 to 89, a 35% decrease, the number of assaults decreased from 4382 to 2428, a 45% decrease, and violent crimes between 1996 (the earliest year data is available for the overall category) and 2010 decreased 34%. If nothing else, the great increase in Slovaks owning guns does not appear to have increased crime.

The cost to get a Zbrojny Preukaz is around 150€ between fees to the state for the test and to doctors for the health and psychological checkup. An easily concealable, used pistol in 6,35mm Browning costs around 75€. However, the time it takes from registration to completion of the exam is up to 90 days. It is also possible that you may not be able to get an A license if police are not satisfied with your reasons or you are under age 21. This leaves the option of Category D weapons-- gas guns, air guns, as well as non-repeating percussion guns. Many carry gas guns which fire cartridges making a loud noise and ejecting a small amount of tear gas. These devices may help deter some crimes, in part by a criminal not being able to tell whether it is a real gun or not, however, using one of these in self-defense could also escalate the violent reaction of a criminal. The clear, best choice for those who either need a gun quickly for self-defense (e.g. a woman threatened by her ex-boyfriend) or are unable to get the 'A' gun license are the two-barreled percussion pistols. These use old-fashioned black powder hand loaded into the barrel with a bullet pushed down on top. However, once properly loaded, it gives the owner a compact gun with an energy similar to a 9mm Makarov and two shots. (Please visit http://guns.freedomlives.net/ for information on the proper loading technique of percussion pistols for long term carrying as well as advice to foreigners living in Slovakia on getting a gun permit.)

In addition to the practical role of self-defense, firearm ownership also allows one to participate in the shooting sports. As with any other sport, shooting requires great discipline over the body, but does not require the same level of physical strength as other sports, and therefore is open to those who are “past their prime” to compete on an equal footing with the young. While Olympic precision shooting is not necessary for self-defense, many enjoy practicing and competing to become a better shot.