By Andrzej Turczyn and Maciej Rozwadowski
In Poland, the right to possess a firearm does not exist in the terms defined by the American Second Amendment. The basis of the regulations in this area was created at a time when Poland was a USSR satellite country and was necessarily permeated by the communist way of thinking. The possession of weapons by civilians is a privilege and a distinction under Polish law, which is also an expression of level of trust of state authorities in the average citizen.
Possession of firearms without a permit issued by the police is a crime punishable by up to 8 years of imprisonment. Possession of even a single round of ammunition (e.g. .22 short caliber) may result in the initiation of cumbersome and lengthy court proceedings and could result in criminal liability.
Poles may only possess, without any permits, black powder guns and replicas of weapons from from before 1885. To buy this kind of weapon, Poles only have to be 18 years old. This is one of the very few exceptions to the strict rationing of firearm access in the country.
You must have a “reason”
Permits to own a firearm are issued by the police in Poland. In order to obtain such a permit, you must demonstrate a justified need to possess a weapon. Such needs, indicated in the law, include sport shooting, hunting, collecting weapons, historical reconstruction, training, and personal protection.
Permits are issued for an indefinite period of time after undergoing a rather expensive and time-consuming procedure. The police specify for what purpose the permit was issued, what kind of weapon and how many firearms can you have. Each weapon must be registered and its location must be indicated.
In addition to proof of need, a number of general requirements must be met in order to obtain a permit. You must undergo psychological, ophthalmological, and psychiatric examinations as well as a general physical exam (reasons for refusing to issue a permit may include e.g. diabetes or a visual impairment). The police may appeal against the medical or psychological opinion without giving any reasonable arguments.
In addition, there are specific requirements for each type of permit. In order to obtain a permit for sport shooting you have to be a member of a shooting sports association, you must have a shooting license which is issued for one year and which must be renewed annually for a fee. You also have to take part in a certain number of shooting competitions each year and have this fact documented.
The procedure for obtaining a gun permit for sporting purposes takes at least half a year, and it can be much longer. The cost of such a permit is higher than the average monthly salary and doesn’t include the cost of buying the gun itself. This means that not everyone can afford to become a gun owner.
The weapon permit covers any kind of weapon, except for full-auto weapons and those with a calibre greater then 12mm. The police issue a single sport permit for four to six firearms.
In order to obtain a weapon permit for hunting purposes you must be a member of the Polish Hunting Association. You have to pass a one-year course organized by the association including compulsory volunteer work within the framework of the hunting circle of which the future hunter is a member. The necessity to work unpaid for the association for one year discourages many Poles from becoming hunters.
The procedure for obtaining a hunting permit always takes more than a year. The weapons permit only covers long weapons, rifles and shotguns, and combined hunting weapons. On this permit, the hunter is not allowed to possess any small arms or any rimfire weapons. The police issue a permit for approximately five firearms.
In order to be approved for weapon ownership as a collector, you have to be a member of the association whose activity concerns the collection of firearms and you have to pass a police exam on your ability to use the weapons. The procedure takes several months. The permit is valid for any kind of weapon, except for full-auto weapons.
Within the framework of this permit you can have several firearms, both short and long weapons, however, you cannot carry this weapon, only transport it unloaded in a suitable case.
Weapons possessed on the basis of the permit for personal defense, for sports or training purposes may be carried loaded and concealed. Open carry is totally prohibited in Poland.
You can have a weapon for self-defense, but…
Under Polish law, in order to obtain a permit for a weapon for personal protection, you must prove that your life is in constant, real, and above-average danger. Thus, in order for the police to even begin considering whether a citizen can be given the means of armed self-defense, there must be a real threat to his or her health or life.
Of course, the start of an appropriate administrative procedure requires that the citizen is still alive after this kind of “trial by fire.” It is very difficult to show any logic in this procedure, so let the above rules be a warning to American citizens how complicated the law can be when political power is taken over by a disease called “leftism.”
In actual practice, permits for self-defense weapons are issued only to persons who are somehow privileged; politicians, former members of the uniformed services or persons from a privileged background. Permits for personal defense were also issued to officers of the former communist forces.
For ordinary citizens, such permits are generally unavailable. The police are able to refuse to issue permits for weapons to people who have been shot at by criminals because they do not see an “above-average danger” in such a situation.
Police have even refused to allow other policemen or service officers to defend themselves. There is a known case of an average citizen who requested permission for a weapon for self-defense. He did not receive such a permit, and a year later a criminal shot and killed his wife and also tried to kill him. The only reason it wasn’t a double murder was because the assailant’s weapon jammed.
Only 144 permits for carrying a gun for self-defense purposes were issued in Poland in 2019.
Hard to get and easy to lose
A weapon permit can be revoked at any time if any reason for originally obtaining the permit becomes obsolete (e.g. a sports shooter doesn’t take part in a sufficient number of competitions). Another reason is a conviction for any crime in Poland. A conviction for the tiniest act excludes the possibility of ever obtaining a gun permit.
If a permit is revoked, firearms are confiscated by the police and placed in a depository. For each day of storage, an official fee is charged to the citizen for each weapon.
About 38 million people live in Poland. Over 200,000 people have a gun permit of some kind. In total, there are about 600,000 firearms in the hands of civilians. The actual number of firearms per 100 citizens is about 1.5 to 2.5 (depending on the criteria adopted), which places Poland firmly at the low end of countries in this respect.
A significant increase in weapons permits has been recorded since 2011 when there was a change in the law. The firearms permitting law, the origin of which dates back to the 1960s, was replaced by a law that makes it significantly more difficult for the police to refuse to issue weapons permits.
Since 2011, if someone meets the criteria described in the law, he be issues a permit. However, this does not change the fact that the authority responsible for issuing permits acts in a way that discourages people from possessing weapons and minimizes the number of permits issued.
According to statements made by representatives of police authorities, which can be easily found in the media, Polish taxpayers are not suitable gun owners. They warn that the increased number of firearms in the hands of citizens will surely lead to a situation where people will commonly deal with their neighbors by using their legally-owned firearms.
The right to self-defense is a natural human right
The difficulty of Polish citizens obtaining firearms permits results from the fact that socialist parties are constantly ruling in Poland. Sometimes they call themselves conservatives, but they always have a socialist agenda. It should be remembered that left-wing thinking never goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of civil rights and individual liberties.
An example is the currently ruling Law and Justice party. The politicians of this party call themselves conservatives. The fact is that the leader of the party demands even more regulations and restrictions on civilian access to firearms.
In 2011 there was an association established in Poland which was supposed to be like American shooting associations. Similar to America’s National Rifle Association, the Polish equivalent is the ROMB which translates to the Polish Gun Enthusiasts Association.
For 10 years the ROMB has been making efforts to introduce the subject of the possession and carrying of firearms by law-abiding citizens into the public debate and to give this issue its proper social rank. In Poland, there is still no civilized right to keep and bear arms. Instead we have strict rationing, forced registration and the omnipotence of the state power apparatus. Citizens and their rights are completely ignored.
Unfortunately, successive socialist governments have no interest in expanding the right to keep and bear arms. Instead, they deceive and hinder it. Poland seems to be a very socialist country where there is no respect for individual natural rights, in particular the God-given right to armed self defense.
People who created and support the ROMB treat the right to keep and bear arms as a natural right of every human being. The example of Poland shows how deeply the authorities can interfere in civil rights issues, allowing a law-abiding citizen to be deprived of the possibility of effective defense against a criminal attack.
Watching from afar, we view the struggle of Americans to protect their Second Amendment rights as a normal and understandable action. The disarmament of a law-abiding society puts individuals entirely at the mercy of government and criminals.
America, one of the last bastions of freedom and cannot give up or give in to totalitarian politics. The people of Poland have been under the communist boot, so we understand perfectly well the resistance of American society to the leftist power of the Democrats.
There is an old Polish proverb that says “A wise Pole…after the failure.” We hope our American colleagues not to follow are wise before this failure occurs.
Andrzej Turczyn is the president of ROMB, Poland’s equivalent of the NRA, the publisher the Firearms Tribune blog, and an NRA member.
Maciej Rozwadowski is a Firearms Tribune contributor and an NRA member.