Despite objections from local media reports and gun owners, voters in Switzerland have voted in favour of tightening the country’s gun laws, which will bring them in line with many other European countries.
Tighter firearms rules were initially approved two years ago, following fatal attacks in France, Germany, the UK, and Belgium. The latest vote is part of regular referendums, and the result was 63% in favour of aligning the local laws to the European Union’s rules on firearms.
Switzerland has a long history of private gun ownership, as well as the use of guns in target shooting and sports events. Unlike most of Europe, military service-people are also allowed to take their weapons home after being on duty.
The new proposals would tighten the current legislation. One way it would do this would be by requiring regular training for gun owners on how to use them safely. It would also mean a number tracking system and gun owners needing to register any weapons in the next three years.
The legislation has seen opposition. For example, Jean-Luc Addor, from the Swiss People’s Party described the move as “unjust, freedom-killing, useless, dangerous, and above all, anti-Swiss”.
On his website, he continued: “With no effect on the fight against terrorism, it will only hit honest, law-abiding citizens who possess legal weapons. It’s the epitome of injustice.”
Other critics argue that it violates the constitution and won’t be effective in fighting extremism or crime, as the weapons used in the recent attacks in Europe weren’t purchased legally.
But among the supporters of these changes is the Swiss parliament and executive branch, who say that the measures need to be in line with the EU’s rules due to the risk of extremist attacks.
They also say that they are essential if Switzerland is to maintain its strong economic ties with the EU and to be co-operative the visa-free Schengen travel zone, which Switzerland is a part of.
However, they noted that law-abiding citizens won’t be blocked from purchasing and owning guns legally. They will just be liable for more legal checks, including the tracking system.
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