Voters in Switzerland have backed tighter gun laws that conform with European Union regulations, BBC News reports. Although the country is not a member of the European Union, voting down the restrictions would have meant removal from the open-border area. With nearly 48 percent of Swiss households owning at least one gun, Switzerland has the highest rate of private gun ownership in all of Europe.
A decisive 64 percent of voters weighing in on Sunday’s referendum on the topic voted in favor of the tougher restrictions on automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
The referendum followed the European Union urging the country to tighten its gun laws to bring them in line with those adopted after the 2015 terror attacks in Paris. The new rules will restrict access to automatic and semi-automatic weapons and make it easier to track weapons through national databases.
Here are the specific new rules that were being considered:
- An outright ban on weapons that can rapidly fire multiple rounds
- Banning or heavy restrictions on automatic and semi-automatic weapons
- Owners of such weapons to be subject to registration, with both the owner and the weapon itself known to police across Europe
- Essential weapon components to be labeled and electronically registered
The laws were adopted by the EU in hopes of preventing a repeat of the Paris attacks.
Opponents of the new restrictions point to what seems like the EU imposing their rules on non-member countries and effectively encroaching on the rich Swiss tradition of gun ownership. The Swiss government, however, encouraged its citizens to back the vote and they have done so in a fairly decisive fashion.
All Swiss cantons are counted: a clear yes to the reform of the Swiss gun law. Only the canton of Ticino says no, all others are in favour of it. #CHVote19 https://t.co/72RF4PFuH1 pic.twitter.com/8LuR2vaQJI— swissinfo.ch (@swissinfo_en) May 19, 2019
By voting in favor of the restrictions, Switzerland is able to remain part of the Schengen Area, which allows for free movement across borders from the EU.
Aside from that, many proponents of strong Swiss gun control cite threats of domestic violence and suicide as reasons to curtail the widespread availability of guns in the country.
“The new restrictions are not about destroying Swiss tradition or culture,” Ronja Jansen of pro-disarmament group Switzerland without an Army told BBC.
“It’s about bringing Switzerland to a safer place, where there is not as much gun violence as there is now. There are a lot of guns in Switzerland in private homes, and that is a real problem.”
Opponents of such restrictions have been just as vocal.
“There is no reason for these new laws,” said Beat Bösiger, a farmer and parliamentary candidate. “It would be a breach of trust. We Swiss, we know how to handle weapons.”