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Article 25: Keep guns out, urge French festivals

French festival associations De Concert! and France Festivals have expressed their concerns about a controversial new security bill that would allow off-duty police and gendarmes to carry their weapons into music festivals, entertainment venues and other places open to the public.

Article 25 of the proposed global security (sécurité globale) law, introduced last October by the incumbent Jean Castex government, would remove the right of so-called public establishments (établissements recevant du public, ERP) to deny entry to police officers or soldiers of National Gendarmery who are carrying guns when they are not on active service.

The bill, which is opposed by many civil liberties groups, also contains several other provisions strengthening police powers, including giving municipal police access to CCTV footage, restricting when police and gendarmes may be filmed by the public, and expanding the use of police drones.

Ahead of the bill reaching the Senate, the two associations – along with six other groups, including the SMA (Union of Contemporary Music), Fedelima (Federation of Contemporary Music Venues) and Profedim (Union of Producers, Festivals, Ensembles and Independent Music Distributors) – have urged politicians to act to keep weapons out of ERPs, which also include concert venues, rehearsal spaces, theatres, cinemas, hotels and restaurants.

“With the adoption of article 25, the presence of weapons within ERP, and therefore cultural places, would be facilitated or even trivialised, and we see a serious danger,” say the eight associations in a statement.

“Our teams are unable to absolutely check the validity of a potentially falsifiable police card”

The associations’ objection is two-fold: First, that anyone posing as a policeman or gendarme could smuggle a gun into a live event, and secondly, that it reduces ordinary concertgoers to second-class citizens not entitled to the same privileges the police would enjoy.

“Our teams and our private security agents are unable to absolutely check the validity of a potentially falsifiable police card,” they continue. “Nothing could be simpler, therefore, for those who would like to commit a mass murder.”

Secondly, the statement adds, “because an undercover police officer who is not on duty is a citizen like any other, and citizens remain free and equal in rights, we see in this difference in treatment as an attack on the founding principles of our Republic.

“Thus, it seems to us that the benefits that the extension of the authorisation to carry weapons within the ERP would represent [pale in comparison] to the heavy risks involved.”

The draft global security law returns to the French parliament next month.

 


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