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Europe
Swiss reject bid to tighten gun law
At least 14 cantons vote against proposal to ban army rifles that was launched by doctors, churches and women's groups.
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2011 13:25 GMT
Proponents saw the bill as a way to reduce domestic violence and Switzerland's high rate of firearms-related suicide

Swiss voters have rejected a proposal to tighten their country's liberal firearms laws.

Official results showed on Sunday that at least 14 of Switzerland's 26 cantons (states) voted against the proposal to ban army rifles from homes and impose new requirements for buying other guns.

The Alpine nation has a long tradition of men keeping army rifles at home even after completing their military service.

Gun clubs and supporters of Switzerland's distinctive citizen soldier militia fiercely opposed the ban on army rifles in secure storage and imposition of new requirements for buying other guns.

Proponents saw it as a way to reduce domestic violence and Switzerland's comparatively high rate of firearms-related suicide.

The government said that existing laws are sufficient to ensure some 2.3 million mostly military weapons in a country of less than eight million people are not misused.

The outcome of the nationwide referendum hinged to a large part on the votes of women and young people.

Voters leaving a polling station in Geneva largely supported the proposal, which was launched by doctors, churches and women's groups in order to force ex-soldiers to store their military-issued firearms in secure army depots.

They also wanted the Swiss government to establish a national gun registry and ban the sale of fully automatic weapons and pump action rifles.

Both sides used graphic images to make their point, with proponents producing posters showing teddy bears oozing blood below the slogan "Protect families".

Opponents' posters featured muscular cartoon criminals threatening the nation's law-abiding citizens.

About a quarter of Switzerland's 1,300 suicides each year involved a gun, according to federal statistics.

The exact number of military-issued weapons involved is disputed, but those calling for tighter rules claim they account for between 100 and 200 suicides a year, mostly among men.

Advocates of change also noted that since Switzerland cut the size of its army in 2004, the number of firearms suicides among men aged 30-40 has been cut in half.

Source:
Agencies
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