IN AN EFFORT to cut down the number of illegal firearms and to help identify those used in criminal activities, cabinet ministers approved an amendment to the Gun Control Act on March 16.
Opposition MP Robert Kaliňák, a Smer party member and leader of the parliamentary defence committee, proposed the amendment that would regulate illegal, unlicensed firearms. The amendment would give amnesty to current owners of unlicensed firearms, allowing them to voluntarily hand them over to the police within one year without fear of recrimination.
According to the cabinet-approved amendment, all police stations in the country would accept the illegal weapons.
Interior Minister Vladimír Palko said that weapons experts would then inspect the arms and determine if they had been used in a known crime.
Owners with weapons deemed "clean" would be eligible to apply for a firearm licence within a two-month period. If the owner failed to apply for a licence within the time frame, however, the weapon would remain with the state.
Minister Palko supported the proposal, stating it would help reduce violent crime.
"The proposal has a rational core. The amnesty for illegal arms possession will decrease the threat of crime. At the same time, when these firearms are inspected, we will be able to find out which of them were used for criminal acts in the past," Palko told a press conference after the March 16 cabinet meeting.
Kaliňák is enthusiastic about the amendment's initial passage.
"My secret ambition is that around 1,000 firearms are returned to the police. But even if it is just one, I will be glad because every single returned arm decreases the risk of criminal activities," Kaliňák told The Slovak Spectator.
He said that, according to estimates, there are "thousands" of unlicensed firearms in Slovakia.
Vladimír Gemela from the Police Presidium, a senior law enforcement body, told The Slovak Spectator that it "does not have any major comments to the proposed revision". However, Gemela said that more laws need revision if Slovakia is to wage an effective fight against crime.
"Thanks to [Kaliňák's] revision, we expect that a percentage of the country's illegally possessed firearms will be surrendered to the police and that some of them will be properly registered.
We don't expect that weapons used in crimes will be returned to the police, however" Gemela said.
In the neighbouring Czech Republic, where a similar amendment was in effect, almost 4,200 unlicensed firearms were handed over to the police.
Inspections showed that 16 of the 4,200 guns had been used in the commission of a crime.
"It will be positive if at least one such gun is found here as well," said Kaliňák.
Parliament must still approve the amendment. MPs were expected to vote on the revision the day after The Slovak Spectator goes to print.
The parliamentary defence committee already recommended the revision for approval on March 8. It is therefore likely that MPs would okay the change.
If approved, the revision would take effect at the beginning of April, said Kaliňák.
21. Mar 2005 at 0:00 | Martina Jurinová