Best columns: Europe
Peace at risk in Northern Ireland
Is the government intent on alienating Northern Ireland? asked Siobhan Fenton. You’d think so from its total lack of concern, ever since the Brexit vote, for the way its actions affect local sensibilities. This is a region striving to cement peace after decades of sectarian conflict between Protestant Unionists, who want to stay part of Britain, and Catholic Nationalists, who want to reunite with the Republic of Ireland. Yet only last month Communities Secretary Sajid Javid was suggesting that all public sector workers in the U.K. be made to swear an oath to British values. In Northern Ireland few things could be more divisive—except perhaps the erection of a “deeply controversial physical border” between the North and the Republic, which will remain a member of the European Union after the U.K. leaves the bloc. Yet some six months after the Brexit vote, we’ve still not been told whether such a border is in the cards. And now Theresa May looks set to push on with plans to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, even though that would threaten the human rights upon which the North’s peace deal was founded. “In her bid to make her party the champion of Little Englanders,” May is putting Northern Ireland’s fragile peace at risk.
It’s wrong to pardon this murderer
Franc?ois Hollande has made yet another terrible decision, said Robert Redeker, only this time the public and the media are applauding him for it. The French president recently granted a pardon to Jacqueline Sauvage, a woman serving 10 years in prison for murdering her husbown rifle. The judges convicted her of murder in 2014, and the sentence was upheld on appeal in December. It was the legally correct decision, but to satisfy an outraged public, Hollande overturned the judges’ verdict by resorting to a seldom-used presidential pardon. Where does this end? Will the president now pardon the tobacconist Luc Fournié, 59, who shot dead a 17-year-old robber? No one is shedding tears for Fournié—the young delinquent he killed is being treated as the real victim “in spite of all reality and common sense—yet he, too, could claim extreme provocation. The key point is that it’s not the public’s business to decide which crimes committed in self-defense are good and which are bad. That is precisely why we have the law and legal professionals in the first place.
Czech Republic: Showdown over gun rights
The Czech government wants us all to have a constitutional right to shoot at terrorists, said Barbora Tesnerova in Denik. The Czech Republic already has some of the laxest firearms laws in the European Union. Anyone who passes a simple background check can own a gun— some 300,000 of our 10.5 million citizens have a firearms license—and can legally use that weapon for selfdefense and to protect his or her property. But while the EU is trying to tighten gun laws across the bloc, our government is seeking to amend the constitution so that Czech gun owners can open fire to defend the state during a terrorist attack. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec says he’s not trying to turn the country into the U.S., with its Second Amendment right to bear arms, but simply wants to help “protect the public.” If a jihadist were to plow a truck through a crowd in Prague—as extremists did in Nice last July, killing 86, or in Berlin in December, killing 12—and police were not on the scene, the government thinks armed Czechs should be allowed to take action.
The proposal is yet another irresponsible attempt by the government to stoke Islamophobia, said Jiri Pehe in Pravo. Last summer, after the Nice attack, our pro-Russian, anti-immigrant president, Milos Zeman, called for Czechs to arm themselves against what he called the coming “super-Holocaust.” Muslims would supposedly perpetrate that genocide—never mind that less than 4,000 Muslims live here. This latest proposal to allow citizens, rather than the police, to shoot suspected terrorists “conveys the impression that the state can’t be trusted” to keep us safe. It’s every man for himself in Zeman’s Czech Republic.
Could an armed citizen hero have stopped the massacres in Berlin or Nice? asked Marian Repa in Pravda. In a Hollywood action movie, sure. But in real life, a country where people are so heavily armed that such a guntoting do-gooder is likely to be in the right place at the right time would also be a country where tens of thousands of people were shot dead each year in suicides, accidents, and murders—a country like the U.S. With nearly five killings per 100,000 people, America’s homicide rate is almost five times higher than ours. “The idea that gunslinging civilians can save the world may appeal to fans of Westerns” and wannabe cowboys, “but the rest of us would do better to stick to the facts.”
If we change the constitution, Czechs could end up even more violent and gun-crazy than the Americans, said Julie Hrstkova in Hospodarske Noviny. Encouraged by Zeman, our already “ever-vigilant citizens do not hesitate to report to the police any African or even Slovak they spot as a dangerous migrant.” The eagerness to go after anyone deemed other in this society is “frightening enough” when we’re just denouncing people. Imagine what we would do to one another if we were all armed.