Europe, so many years after the Cold War, is ideologically divided into a new East and a West. This time, the schism is over multiculturalism. What Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has termed “liberal babble” continues to govern Western Europe’s response to the challenges that migration and Islamic terrorism have brought, especially to personal security.
The Western European establishment considers arming oneself against terrorists, rapists and other ill-wishers outlandish, even in the face of the inability of Europe’s security establishments to prevent mass terrorist atrocities, such as those that took place in Paris at the Bataclan Theater or the July14 truck-ramming in Nice.
The European Union’s reaction to terror has been to make Europe’s already restrictive gun laws even more restrictive. The problem is that this restrictiveness contradicts the EU’s own reports: these show that homicides committed in Europe are mainly committed with illegal firearms.
In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, it is still normal to want to defend yourself. Last summer, Czech President Milos Zeman even encouraged citizens to arm themselves against Islamic terrorism. “I really think that citizens should arm themselves against terrorists. And I honestly admit that I changed my mind, because previously I was against [citizens] having too many weapons. After these attacks, I don’t think so”.
Since the president’s remarks, the Czech Interior Minister, Milan Chovanec, has proposed extending the use of arms in the event of a terrorist attack. He explained that despite strict security measures, it is not always possible for the police to guarantee a fast and effective intervention. Fast action from a member of the public could prevent the loss of many lives.
Such reasoning, often seen as laughable in Western Europe, reflects an understanding of the fear that has become a recurring theme on the continent. In Germany, a recent poll showed that two out of three Germans are afraid of becoming the victim of a terrorist attack and 10% perceive an “acute threat” to their safety. Among women, the figures were even higher. 74% responded that they sometimes feel unsafe in crowded places, and 9% said they felt permanently threatened and scared.
Western European leaders, on the other hand, pretend not to understand this fear. In 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked how Europe could be protected against Islamization. Merkel, who does not move without her own personal security team consisting of 15-20 armed bodyguards around her, working in shifts, answered: “Fear is not a good adviser. It is better that we should have the courage once again to deal more strongly with our own Christian roots.” In December, she told members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who were asking how to reassure the public about integrating migrants, “This could also broaden your horizons.” (This is the same Merkel, who in 2010 said that multiculturalism had “utterly failed”).