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September 8, 2010

Shooting stirs gun debate

Slovakia aims for ban after Bratislava killing spree; no Czech plans

Slovakia will unconditionally ban civilian use of automatic weapons.

Authorities in Slovakia have been left searching for the cause of Aug. 30’s deadly shooting spree in Bratislava, while few in the Czech Republic have been willing to consider the possibility of such a tragic incident occurring here.

In the immediate aftermath of the rampage, in which seven victims and the gunman died, the Slovak Interior Ministry vowed to ban automatic rifles and tighten other rules on gun ownership. There are no indications that Czech lawmakers are considering any comparable changes to domestic gun laws, which are similar to those in Slovakia.

Slovak Interior Minister Daniel Liplaic said the legislation being drafted would see automatic weapons unconditionally outlawed for civilian use.

“No one will be allowed to own an automatic gun, not even for sport or in a collection,” Liplaic said.

He also said that rules for owning guns will be made stricter and that psychological tests will have to be repeated every five years.

“It’s not fair to have working weapons in the hands of those who represent a threat to normal people,” Liplaic said.

The shooting spree was the first incident of its kind to occur in Slovakia. The perpetrator has been officially identified as 48-year-old Äuboma­r Harman, an unemployed man who legally owned six weapons.

The legally owned Sa-58 submachine gun he used in the incident – along with two handguns – is currently available in the Czech Republic, although only with a special license.

Most of the legally held automatic weapons here are in the hands of military and police commandos, and many of their largest manufacturers do not offer them for sale to civilians.

Civilian gun ownership is nonetheless prevalent in the Czech Republic, with just under 700,000 registered firearms held here by almost 315,000 licensed holders.

Jan Mellaa, spokesman for the Czech Police Presidium, told The Prague Post the question of whether a shooting rampage could occur in the Czech Republic is “nothing more than speculation.”

Mellaa also pointed out that just eight of the 54 murders the country has seen up to June 30 this year were committed with a gun.

Police in Slovakia have meanwhile admitted they may never know why Harman carried out the shooting spree.

Slovak Police President Jaroslav Spilaiak said Harman may have been angered by noise emanating from the apartment of his neighbors in Deva­nska Nova Ves, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Bratislava.

But speaking before Slovakia’s Parliament Sept. 2, Spilaiak warned that Harman’s motivation may never be fully clarified.

“It was born in the gunman’s head and stayed there,” he said.

Six of Harman’s victims were from the same Roma family who lived nearby – a mother, two daughters, a 12-year-old boy, the husband of one of the daughters and a friend of the other daughter. The seventh victim was a 52-year-old woman on a nearby balcony whom Harman shot while trying to escape.

Experts say most killers of this type are loners with significant mental disabilities.

“Most spree shooters are either schizoid (with deficient interpersonal skills) or paranoid and even paranoid-schizophrenic (psychotic, delusional),” Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited, told The Prague Post.

The Israeli psychology expert said this type of killer suffers from an “all-pervasive dysfunction” in which every aspect of their lives is “adversely affected by their mental mayhem.” He said that the timing of a shooting spree often coincides with a major life crisis that causes the shooter to hit “rock bottom.”

“Frustration builds up and results in pent-up aggression, which ultimately manifests as furious, uncontrollable rage,” Vaknin said.

Vaknin said minority groups can act as “scapegoats” for the shooter in some cases, because if they are persecuted in a way that seems “socially sanctioned,” this can make the shooter feel “his conduct is socially acceptable and peer-condoned.”

Vaknin said that – contrary to popular myth – the shooter remains aware of his actions in the act of such a rampage, and instead “suspends morality, judgment and his sense of danger.” Suicide in this instance is “an act of defiance” that simultaneously “upholds the shooter’s view of himself as worthless,” the author said.

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Jiri Slegr
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