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21 May 2019

Switzerland’s Vote to Tighten Gun Laws Safeguards Its Schengen Membership

Switzerland’s Vote to Tighten Gun Laws Safeguards Its Schengen MembershipOn Sunday, May 19, an overwhelming number of Swiss voters showed in a referendum their support for stricter gun laws in Switzerland. With this vote, the non-EU country aligned with the new EU regulation thus safeguarding its Schengen Area membership.

A majority of voters in 25 cantons of Switzerland backed the reform, while only in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland the majority of voters were against the new laws.

The new law bans certain types of semi-automatic guns, and obliges gun owners to justify why they need a gun. Those wishing to buy new semi-automatic weapons will need to secure a special permit. Only military service firearms are exempt from the new laws.

In Switzerland, after the end of their mandatory military service, novices are permitted to take their military-issued weapons home with them. For years, Swiss leaders had argued that this was an effective way to uphold the country’s ability to defend itself.

After the European Union updated its gun laws in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks across Europe, all its member countries were bound to apply the same laws. Switzerland is not part of the EU but rather part of the border-free Schengen Area. Its Schengen Membership obliges it to apply these laws.

A “No” vote in Sunday’s referendum would have led to Switzerland’s exclusion from the visa-free Schengen travel region, what would cost the country several billion Swiss francs each year.

Several Swiss officials were against the reform including members of the populist, rightwing Swiss People’s Party (SVP).

We acknowledge that there is a certain need to remain within Schengen and Dublin, but we cannot accept just anything to do so,” SVP vice president Celine Amaudru insisted.

The ProTell gun lobby was also unhappy with the outcome of the referendum.

Today, our liberties have been eroded,” ProTell President Jean-Luc Addor said, insisting that the reform would “obviously not avoid a single terrorist attack“.

Switzerland has a strong gun culture tied to its tradition of national defense service.  A 2017 report by the Small Arms Survey showed that the country has the 16th highest rate of gun ownership, with some 2.3 million firearms in civilian hands — nearly three for every 10 inhabitants.

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