The leader of the Spanish far-right political party Vox, Santiago Abascal, has called for the country’s criminal code and gun regulations to be reformed to make it easier to own a gun and to ensure people who shoot home invaders are not prosecuted by the law, as is the case in the United States.
In an interview with the weapons publication Armas.es last weekend, just days after the deadly shooting at two mosques in New Zealand, Abascal proposed “a radical and urgent change to the law” to allow Spaniards not only “to keep a weapon at home but also to ensure they can use it in situations of real threat to their life without having to face a legal nightmare, prison sentences or even compensation to the families of the criminals who assaulted them.”
Juan Fernández, Civil Guard association AUGC
“Vox is a common-sense party and of course we support the right to self-defense of upstanding Spaniards,” he added.
Currently, citizens in Spain without a criminal record and in full use of their mental faculties are able to keep a hunting rifle in their home. Other firearms are also permitted if the owner has received a license from the Civil Guard proving they need the weapon.
According to Civil Guard sources, there are handguns in just 10,000 households in Spain, while there are hunting rifles in a million homes. Tens of thousands of military members and security personnel also possess weapons.
Abascal, who was once threatened by the Basque terrorist organization ETA, has stated that he has a Smith & Wesson pistol with him at all times.
The leader of Vox, a party known for its controversial stand on a number of issues, wants a complete overhaul of the criminal code to “widen the concept of legitimate defense.”
Vox leader Santiago Abascal
Under Article 20.4 of the current Spanish criminal code, a person is exonerated of criminal responsibility, including compensation, if the case meets three conditions: it was a response to unlawful violence, there was a rational need to stop it using the means employed, and it was unprovoked by the defendant. The article expressly states that “illegal entry” into a home is considered an unlawful cause for violence.
A defendant, however, must prove they have met these requisites to be exonerated. The alternative, which is what Abascal has proposed, is total immunity.
In the interview, Abascal mentioned two self-defense cases that are still awaiting judgment. One involves an elderly man in Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for killing a burglar who entered his house and abused his wife in 2015. The High Court of the Canary Islands threw out the sentence last August and ordered a retrial.
The other concerns a local police officer in the southern city of Seville who is facing 20 years in prison for shooting at four men who fled after breaking into his home in 2011. The officer says he did not know the assailants but they claim they had come to his house to demand repayment of a €15,000 debt. According to the assailants, the officer was involved in drug trafficking.
“The law is treating these people like villains and their attackers like victims, something that also occurs with squatters. We find this dramatic,” said Abascal.
“Unnecessary and dangerous”
Representatives of several police unions and Civil Guard associations have told EL PAÍS that Abascal’s proposal is “madness,” arguing it would only increase violence in the country.
Spain has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. According to the latest crime statistics from Eurostat from 2016, Spain has the fourth-lowest homicide rate in the European Union. In 2018, there were 289 murders in Spain, 6% down on 2017, according to the Interior Ministry.
Juan Fernández, spokesperson for the main Civil Guard association AUGC, says these figures show that Abascal’s plan is “unnecessary, as well as dangerous.”
“The experience of other countries has shown that more weapons lead to greater violence,” he said.
José María Benito, from the Federal Police Union (UFP), believes the Vox leader is exaggerating the problem to win votes ahead of the general election on April 28. “It’s total madness, an electoral promise of a party that has no possibility of governing and will not have to fulfill it.”
English version by Melissa Kitson.