The automatic rifles which were used in January’s Paris attacks at Charlie Hebdo were obtained legally in Slovakia according to reports on Slovakian newspaper Nový čas.
This has raised questions about whether the purchasing of weapons legally in some European countries should be banned.
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The decommissioned weapons legally bought in Slovakia were reconverted to fire live ammunition – a process that gun experts say can take as little as “an hour” to complete – and used in the deadly attacks on a Kosher supermarket and the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, French police reportedly believe.
The guns are thought to have reached the perpetrators of the attacks – brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi and their accomplice Amedy Coulibaly – via an arms dealer in Brussels, according to the Slovakian Nový čas newspaper.
It cites a senior police source as saying French investigators contacted their Slovakian colleagues last month with the serial numbers of seven firearms believed to be linked to the killings.
The Slovakian police officers tracked the guns to a shop in the west of Slovakia, where records revealed they were sold legally, as “expand” (expansion) weapons. The sale of such arms is perfectly legal in Slovakia.
Expansion weapons are once live firearms that have been mechanically deactivated to fire blanks for use as props in movies, for historical re-enactments or private collections.
In Slovakia, such weapons – even the heaviest machine guns – can be sold to anyone over 18 who carries ID. It took five minutes for a Novy Cas reporter to purchase a neutralised VZ 58 the double-action, semi-automatic pistol Coulibaly shows off in a video which emerged after his death. After producing some ID, he walked away with the gun for just €250 (£183).
The shop owner confirmed to Nový čas reporters that the police had contacted him, but said police had asked him not to discuss the investigation.
The store and its website sell the deactivated versions of the firearms the Paris attackers are reported to have used in the Paris attacks between January 7 and January 9. These include AK-47 assault rifles, Tokarev pistols, Skorpion submachine guns or the compact VZ 58.
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