France: Amid Terror Threat, Civilian Security Guards for Celebrities, Executives, Tourist Sites Get Guns

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CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

Civilian security guards in France will be allowed to carry handguns to help combat the continuing radical Islamic terror threat.

Semi-automatic pistols and revolvers will be issued to guards working at sensitive sites including tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, busy shopping centres, and concert venues, The Times newspaper reports, citing French media.

Radical Islamic terrorists inflicted around 150 fatalities and over 400 injuries with fully automatic firearms in Western Europe in 2015 — despite the draconian gun controls present in most of the continent — with the majority of the slaying taking place in France, and the Bataclan theatre in particular.

The interior ministry expects around 3,000 to apply for weapons permits for work pertaining to sensitive areas — but The Times reports that a further 600 private bodyguards “employed by celebrities and executives” are also expected to apply, leading to concerns that the wealthy and powerful will be able to purchase a higher degree of security than the average French citizen, who has no right to bear arms.

The National Consultative Committee on Human Rights is reported to be unhappy with the changes, indicating that it is more concerned with firearms becoming more commonplace in society than in increasing the country’s resilience to radical Islamic terror attacks.

France suffered 20 such attacks since 2014 to March this year and has been targetted by jihadists to a greater extent than any other European country — thanks in part to immigration and deportation policies which are fairly weak relative to, for example, Italy, according to counter-extremism experts.

“Italy’s expulsion policy is a crucial factor in explaining the country’s success in preventing episodes of violent Islamist fundamentalism,” radicalisation expert Francesco Marone, of the Milan-based think tank ISPI, told Haaretz.

Italy finds such expulsions easier to carry out than countries such as France and Great Britain do, because it does not award second-generation migrants citizenship automatically.

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