Swiss right angered by EU gun laws
The Federal Chancellery said nearly 64 per cent of voters agreed to align with European Union gun laws adopted in 2017 after terror attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and the UK.
The regulations restrict the use of semi-automatic weapons like those used by members of so-called Islamic State to kill 130 people in Paris in 2015. Enthusiasts will only be able to acquire semi-automatic firearms for sports and will need special authorisation.
Supporters of the measure, including the federal parliament and executive branch, said similar measures adopted by Brussels after extremist attacks were needed to ensure strong police co-operation and economic ties with partners in Schengen visa-free travel zone.
They said the measures would not block law-abiding citizens from obtaining legal firearms but rather do more to track them.
Owners will now have to declare their firearms to the municipal authorities and undergo verification every five years.
Although not an EU member state, Switzerland is tied to the bloc, especially through the Schengen agreement, which ensures border-free travel between signatories.
The Swiss government was warned that it could be kicked out of the travel agreement if it rejected the new controls.
The vote was held after the Swiss Shooting Interest Group handed in a 125,000-name petition denouncing Brussels’ measures as an attack on their freedom.
Opponents said the laws would violate the Swiss constitution and do little to tackle Islamist violence or crime.
They said the weapons used in recent attacks across Europe were not obtained legally.
Jean-Luc Addor, a populist Swiss People’s Party MP from the southwestern region of Valais, said adopting the Brussels’ 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 blogged. “It’s the epitome of injustice.”
Swiss law states that a petition with more than 50,000 signatures triggers a referendum.
An estimated 2.3 million citizens possess a firearm and many keep their rifles after military service.
The federal government agreed on an exemption with the European Commission that enabled gun-owners to take home semi-automatic rifles after their conscription, with the firearms only needing to be declared if they are sold or given to a new owner.
Switzerland has a strong tradition of gun ownership. Picture credit: Flickr