Swiss voters approve tighter gun laws

By Jamey Keaten, Associated Press

Swiss voters have approved a measure to tighten the country’s gun laws, bringing it in line with many of its European partners, according to media reports.

Switzerland’s public broadcaster said more than 63% of voters nationwide had agreed to align with European Union firearms rules adopted two years ago, after deadly attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and Britain.

The vote on Sunday was part of Switzerland’s regular referendums giving citizens a direct say in policy-making.

A poster against the EU gun laws and policies (Peter Schneider/Keystone via AP)

It had stoked passions in a country with long traditions of gun ownership and sport and target shooting.

Switzerland, unlike many other European nations, allows veterans of its obligatory military service for men to take their service weapons home after tours of duty.

Among other things, the Swiss proposal requires regular training on the use of firearms, special waivers to own some semi-automatic weapons and a serial number tracking system for key parts of some guns.

Gun owners would have to register any weapons not already registered within three years, and keep a registry of their gun collections.

Supporters of the measure, including the Swiss parliament and executive branch, said similar measures adopted by the EU after deadly extremist attacks were needed to ensure strong police cooperation and economic ties with the country’s partners in Europe’s Schengen visa-free travel zone.

They insisted it would not block law-abiding citizens from obtaining legal guns, but would simply do more to track them.

Switzerland is not an EU member, but is in the Schengen zone.

Opponents insisted the proposal would violate Switzerland’s constitution and do little to fight extremism or crime.

They said the weapons used in recent attacks in Europe were not obtained legally.

They argued the proposal cracks down mainly on lawful gun owners in Switzerland and rams through what they see as the latest diktat from Brussels.

Jean-Luc Addor, a populist Swiss People’s Party lawmaker from the southwestern Valais region, said that adopting the EU directive would be “unjust, freedom-killing, useless, dangerous, and above all, anti-Swiss”.

“With no effect on the fight against terrorism, it will only hit honest, law-abiding citizens who possess legal weapons,” he wrote on his website.

“It’s the epitome of injustice.”