Members of the security forces in France are to be allowed to enter public places with their handguns when off-duty.
The Ministry of the Interior has prepared a decree to be published in the Journal officiel – the French government publication which lists all new national laws and decrees.
Last week the decree was examined by France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat. It will not limit the carrying of weapons to certain types of public spaces but be open to all, the Interior Ministry told RMC radio station.
Currently, off-duty police officers and gendarmes can be refused access to places open to the public if they come armed.
However after the publication of this decree, such a refusal will no longer be possible.
Instead police officers would be able to carry their handgun in any public place when off duty but would be obliged to carry their professional card and a police armband, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
Support for the rule
The plan has been welcomed by police unions, which have been calling for it since the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.
David Le Bars, secretary general of the union of national police commissioners said on RMC: "At all public events, whether concerts, shows, rugby matches, the police should be able to enter with their weapons. When there is an attack, what you want is to have armed police around you and to be able to be defended.”
Up until now it has been the responsibility of the event organiser to allow armed police at public events, but Mr Le Bars said this new decree would mean additional reassurance.
“In this climate of heightened anxiety, the public would prefer to know if something were to happen that the police are everywhere,” he added.
MPs and senators first reached an agreement in 2021 and ever since then there has been opposition.
At the time, eight cultural organisations signed a statement expressing their concern, which said that, for them, the presence of weapons in theatres or performance halls constitutes "a serious danger".
Concerns include members of the public panicking if they saw a plain-clothed armed man in a public place, as well as stating that event organisers do not have the skills to check the identity of police officers.
Other concerns were for the police officers themselves, arguing they will be under too much pressure if they are to be armed and on the alert 24 hours a day, even when off-duty.