Swiss voters approve tighter gun laws

Voters sign off on firearms reforms which the government said was crucial to maintain treaties with EU.

    Switzerland boasts the world's 16th highest rate of gun ownership, according to a 2017 report by the Small Arms Survey [File: Denis Balibouse/Reuters]
    Switzerland boasts the world's 16th highest rate of gun ownership, according to a 2017 report by the Small Arms Survey [File: Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

    Voters in Switzerland have approved a measure to tighten the country's gun laws and bring them in line with European Union legislation.

    Final results on Sunday showed more than 63 percent of voters agreed to align the country's laws with EU firearms rules adopted two years ago after deadly attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and Britain.

    The ballot was part of Switzerland's regular referendums that give citizens a direct say in policymaking.

    The measures restrict semi-automatic and automatic rifles, demand regular training on the use of firearms and require gun owners to keep a registry of their firearms. 

    A majority of voters in all but one of the country's 26 semi-autonomous cantons backed the reform, with the Italian-speaking southern canton of Ticino the only outlier.

    Supporters of the change, who included members of the Swiss parliament and executive branch, said the amendments were needed to retain strong police cooperation and economic ties with Switzerland's partners in Europe.

    They cautioned that a "no" vote would lead to the country's exclusion from the Schengen travel region and also the Dublin accords regulating Europe's asylum-seeking process, potentially creating far-reaching consequences for security, asylum and even tourism.

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

    Gun ownership

    But opponents insisted the proposal would do little to fight crime, violate the Swiss constitution and encroach on the country's tradition of a well-armed citizenry.

    Critics also said the weapons used in recent attacks in Europe weren't obtained legally and argued the new measures would unfairly affect law-abiding gun owners in Switzerland.

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

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    According to a 2017 report by the Small Arms Survey, Switzerland boasts the world's 16th highest rate of gun ownership, with some 2.3 million firearms in civilian hands - nearly three for every 10 inhabitants.

    Most Swiss men undergo obligatory military service between the ages of 18 and 30. They are allowed to keep their assigned weapon when their period of service is completed.

    Another issue put to a national vote on Sunday - a government proposal to shake-up the country's corporate tax system and pump more cash into its pension system - also won overwhelming support.

    More than 66 percent of voters, and all 26 cantons, supported that reform, according to the final results.

    SOURCE: News agencies