France’s Senate approves the right of police to carry weapons off duty
France’s Senate passed Thursday Article 25 of a security law that allows off-duty police officers to carry their firearms into public establishments such as theatres and shopping centres, and forbids the management of such places from preventing it. The article drew opposition from across the political spectrum despite its passage.
Not as well known as the same security law’s Article 24, which aimed to criminalise the dissemination of images of police officers that could harm their “physical or mental integrity” and sparked widespread protests in France, Article 25 provides that local officers and gendarmes (national police) who carry their weapons while off-duty can no longer be refused access to places like museums, cinemas, shopping centres and schools, which France classifies as ERP – establishments open to the public.
While French senators passed Article 25 by a vote of 214 to 121 without any changes to the version already approved by the lower-house National Assembly, the article raised questions and provoked an outcry from senators of all political persuasions.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin pointed out during the Senate’s debate that police officers carrying weapons while off-duty is not a new phenomenon. Since 2016, officers have had the right to carry their firearms outside working hours if they have requested it from superiors. Today, more than 30,000 officers in France bring their firearms home.
“We’re not setting the world on fire,” Darmanin said of Article 25.
“There is simply a custom that the owner of the establishment receiving the public can refuse entry” to an off-duty officer carrying a gun, Darmanin said to senators. To end this custom, “we are proposing to introduce legislation … which should please the legislators that you are.”
But not all present were pleased. A series of amendments aimed at eliminating Article 25 was defended by lawmakers from the Socialist and Green parties, as well as senators from the communist-majority CRCE and European Democratic and Social Rally groups. Furthermore, more than 20 senators among the chamber’s centrists, right-of-centre Les Républicains and Independents also backed the amendments…..read more