Gun-loving Swiss agree to harsher firearm control to avoid Schengen tensions

In a national referendum, Switzerland has overwhelmingly voted to approve stricter gun control measures and bring them closer in line with European Union rules toughened following a number of terrorist incidents across Europe.

Residents of Italian-speaking Ticino canton were the only ones to reject the stricter rules on handling firearms after 63.7 percent of the country voted to amend the nation’s relatively liberal gun policies, which in the past somewhat mirrored gun laws in the United States.

Switzerland, whose population owns roughly 42 guns per 100 residents, allows adults to purchase semi-automatic rifles and hollow-point ammunition for hunting through easily obtainable weapon acquisition permit, but requires special permits to buy automatic weapons, suppressors and laser sights.

Following Sunday’s referendum, which witnessed 43.9 percent turnout, ownership of semi-automatic weapons will now require mandatory regular firearm training and serial numbering of gun parts to track them. Weapons will now also have to be registered.

Over 875,000 weapons were registered in Switzerland by August 2017 to 279,000 owners, while it is believed that civilians are in possession of between 2,3 million and 3,4 million firearms. Despite such a massive presence of firearms in a country of just under 9 million people, the gun homicide rate in Switzerland stands very low with 0.5 cases per 100,000 people.

Despite such an exemplary gun heritage, Switzerland, which is not part of the EU but part of the Schengen visa-free travel zone security agreement, was urged by EU to tighten its laws in line with rules adopted by the bloc following the 2015 Paris terror attacks.

Prior to the referendum, the Swiss government warned voters that a rejection of this new legislation could result in the exclusion of the country from the Schengen zone. Opponents slammed the government’s drive for stricter gun controls arguing that “EU-dictated” measures amount to “disarming” Switzerland through “useless, dangerous, un-Swiss” requirements.

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