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Updated Dec 21, 2023, 4:28pm EST
Europe
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A rare mass shooting in Europe puts spotlight on gun control laws

Insights from Charles University, YouTuber Johnny Harris, Council on Foreign Relations

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Prague police
REUTERS/David W Cerny
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The News

At least 11 people were killed and dozens injured during a shooting at a university in downtown Prague on Thursday, police said.

The shooter has since been ”eliminated,” authorities said.

Images on social media showed students at Charles University barricading themselves in classrooms and police rushing to a historic square in Prague’s old town where the university is located. Authorities said that it appears there is no other suspect, but urged residents to stay indoors and cooperate with police.

Mass shootings are rare in Europe, given its stringent gun-control laws compared with the U.S.

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Gun ownership is a “niche interest” in the Czech Republic

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Sources:  
Washington Post, Charles University

The Czech Republic is the only European country with a legal right to bear arms, but “exercising that right is contingent” on a test which quizzes potential gun buyers on a range of gun safety questions. This test – coupled with stringent background checks and reforms imposed after previous mass shootings to allow police to seize guns from those considered a danger – have made gun ownership “a niche interest” where “responsible, capable owners are essentially self-selected,” Charles University researchers wrote earlier this year. The researchers noted that despite the predominantly hobby-driven gun culture in the Czech Republic, more people wanted to own guns for personal use after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — a shift that has “parallels to the American experience.” The shift was especially noticeable with women, who accounted for 23% of new firearms licenses.

Switzerland often seen as a model for U.S., but their gun cultures differ

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Source:  
YouTuber Johnny Harris

Following U.S. mass shootings, Republicans often point to Switzerland as a model example of a country that has high rates of gun ownership and nearly zero mass shootings. But while both the U.S. and Switzerland see guns as a national symbol, their histories have shaped two very different gun cultures, journalist and YouTuber Johnny Harris explained in a recent documentary. In Switzerland, the government historically mandated citizens to bear firearms as a duty to defend themselves from invaders, and that fervor for national defense has created a gun culture of “competition, camaraderie, and tradition.” America’s founding fathers used Switzerland as a model for their gun laws, but as the U.S. grew more powerful and impenetrable to invaders, the duty to bear arms was largely forgotten. Instead, Americans saw guns as a personal tool to “pursue their American dream, to hunt, to protect their family, to exterminate.” That has translated into a highly individualistic, anti-reform gun culture.

Loose Thai gun laws fuel mass shootings

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Sources:  
Council on Foreign Relations, Voice of America, East Asia Forum

Outside the U.S., Thailand has seen a string of mass shootings in the past year, owing to what experts say are “its archaic and often ineffective gun laws” that have perpetuated a thriving black market for firearms. Nothing has changed since the Thai’s government promise to reform gun laws after a shooting at a nursery last year, as an October shooting at a Bangkok mall tragically showed. Experts say that high gun ownership rates in Thailand are likely due to a lack of trust in public safety, a sentiment shared by American gun owners. To reduce gun violence, Thailand needs to abolish laws that encourage a black market and restructure law enforcement, to regain public trust in law and order, the East Asia Forum said.

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