- Switzerland voted Sunday on a measure that would impact its gun laws, including serial-numbering of certain gun parts and additional training requirements for ownership.
- The country is traditionally gun-friendly, and is also a member of the Schengen visa-free travel zone.
- Opponents of tighter gun measures say increased regulations would only hurt law-abiding firearm owners.
Exit polls Sunday indicate Swiss voters will likely adopt tighter gun measures more aligned with the European Union by a comfortable margin.
Swiss citizens voted Sunday on a referendum that included laws entailing serial-numbering of some gun parts, training requirements and waivers to possess certain semi-automatic weapons. The referendum could also impact Switzerland’s standing in the visa-free Schengen travel zone, according to USA Today.
The preliminary exit polling shows nearly two-thirds of voters approved the referendum, with final results expected within a few hours, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation reported.
“We don’t have a problem with weapons in Switzerland so we don’t need a new law,” Luca Filippini, president of the Swiss Shooting Sport Federation, told USA Today.
Switzerland can either change its gun laws, or fall out of Europe’s open-border system. https://t.co/NeXgbbQlbr
— DW News (@dwnews) May 18, 2019
The Swiss government and many of its political parties favored the referendum.
“If you weigh the security you get on the one hand and the small restrictions on the other, one should vote ‘yes,'” Daniel Jositsch, a member of parliament’s upper house for the Social Democrats, told Bloomberg.
The EU enacted the aggressive gun control regulations after the Paris shooting that killed 130 in November 2015.
The vote has ignited passionate debate in the nation, home to 8.5 million people and proud of its high per-capita gun ownership. There are 28 guns for every 100 residents in Switzerland, according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey. The nation’s gun lobby group PROTELL argues those numbers are low, given centralized gun registration started only in 2008.
“Our best estimates are between 14 and 18 million firearms in a country of 8.5 million people, making Switzerland’s density double that of the USA,” Marc Heim, a PROTELL board member, told Time.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) May 18, 2019
Switzerland is equally proud of its low gun violence statistics and hasn’t had a mass shooting since 2001. Thirteen people were killed by guns in 2018 (excluding suicide), down from 14 the previous year, according to Reuters.
“This vote is just a step, and the next step will be the full prohibition of weapons,” 51-year-old accountant Olivier Curty, an opponent of the proposal, told Reuters. “This is what I can see coming, and even we shooters soon won’t be able to keep our weapons at home.”
Many credit Switzerland’s low gun crime rate with mandatory male military service. They are allowed to keep their weapons at home after their service so long as they follow proper requirements. (RELATED: Second Swiss Region Votes To Ban The Burqa)
Additionally, Swiss citizens engage in frequent marksmanship practice. The Feldschiessen, a field shooting competition held each year, attracts up to 130,000 people, according to Time.
Switzerland does not belong to the EU. It is, however, part of Europe’s Schengen visa-free travel zone, which means citizens of 26 European countries can visit the country without a visa or passport — so if the Swiss vote against tighter gun laws, they risk being excluded from the Schengen zone, according to Time.
Leaving the Schengen zone would have a major impact on Swiss travel, as 300,000 people who commute to Switzerland for work each day from nearby EU countries would be forced to undergo passport checks and other inconveniences, Bloomberg reported.
— Big Think (@bigthink) May 17, 2019
Opponents argued stricter rules would not reduce mass shootings.
“It’s a useless regulation because none of the terrorist attacks that the EU has used to legitimize the tightening of laws has been carried out with a legal weapon,” said Filippini.
Proponents like Nicolas Haesler, spokesperson for the Social Democratic Party, a group in support of tighter gun laws, disagree.
“Switzerland has committed itself to these guidelines and is obliged to adopt the regulations into national law,” Haesler said.
Critics like the Swiss People’s Party, one of the only political parties to oppose the referendum, continue to argue the referendum is an attempt to control a country that declined to join the bloc.
“The guns matter, of course, but most importantly, our independence will be lost,” PROTELL’s Heim said.
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