Amid opposition from across the political spectrum, the French Senate on Thursday passed Article 25 of a security law that allows off-duty police officers to carry their firearms into public establishments such as theatres and shopping centers, and forbids the management of such places from preventing it, reported FRANCE24.
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 centers and schools, which France classifies as ERP – establishments open to the public.
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.
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-center Les Republicains and Independents also backed the amendments, reported FRANCE24.
Meanwhile, Denis Jacob, the Secretary-General of Alternative Police, a union associated with the CFDT labour federation, told FRANCE 24 that concerns about Article 25 constitute a “false debate”.
“Since 2016, police officers have been going to public places with a hidden firearm in a holster or a bag in the summertime and it’s never been a problem,” Jacob said. “On the contrary, it is an additional security guarantee to know that police officers and gendarmes can intervene in case of an attack.
Frederic Ploquin, a police specialist and the author of the book Les Narcos francais brisent l’omerta also has a positive view of Article 25.
“Firstly, there is no obligation for officers to carry a weapon off duty,” Ploquin said to FRANCE 24. “And it’s only a question of intervention in a terrorist context like the Bataclan,” he said, referring to the Paris concert hall where armed Islamist militants killed 90 people on November 13, 2015.
Whether reassuring or alarming, the French Senate has spoken on Article 25. Since it was adopted by both chambers of parliament on the first reading, the article cannot be amended in the National Assembly, reported FRANCE24.
Earlier, France had passed Article 24, which aimed to criminalise the dissemination of images of police officers that could harm their “physical or mental integrity”.