As some of you may know, the European Union’s Directive on Firearms has been implemented in the Schengen Agreement member countries for three years now. While Switzerland isn’t an EU member, the country is a part of the Schengen agreement, which largely abolishes border controls within Europe.
The EU used Switzerland’s Schengen membership as leverage to pressure the Swiss to vote for EU-style gun controls. Yesterday, the Swiss voted 2:1 to adopt the EU-style restrictions on gun ownership.
As reported by the New York Times;
The referendum proposition was hotly debated in Switzerland, which has maintained compulsory military service and has a long tradition of marksmanship, including what is billed as the world’s largest annual shooting competition.
The government had warned voters that Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union but follows many of its rules, could lose its membership in the Schengen area — which allows free movement among 26 European countries — if it rejected stricter gun rules.
Polls closed at midday local time, and the final results showed that almost 64 percent voted in favor of tighter gun controls, in line with what opinion polls had predicted. Only the citizens of the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland rejected the gun initiative.
The Swiss government sold the referendum, telling voters that it had negotiated exceptions to the law.
The Swiss Parliament approved the new rules last September. But firearms and hunting lobbyists and associations, with the support of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, campaigned to force a national referendum.
The true story is that there is no exceptions and that the new law turns the right to own semi-automatic firearms a privilege linked to an activity (sport, collection, etc).
All semi-automatic handguns holding more than 20 rounds and rifles holding more than 10 rounds will go into the restricted category, which will now only be accessible with government approval.
All firearms once legally owned will now need to be declared and added to the EU-wide registry. Assuming full compliance (a big if) that means every Swiss gun owner will be known to all EU law enforcement agencies, with a list of who owns what firearms.
This law is supposed to be tightened by parliamentary vote in two years and then every five years afterwards if there is no sign that it has stopped terrorism or criminal acts. And since this will do nothing against terrorism, and terrorism will still happen, it will be tightened.
ProTell, Switzerland’s Pro Gun Organization (which I’m a member of) opposed the new law and fought hard against it.
They collected 125,000 petition signatures within three months to force a national referendum on this in hopes that the public would reject what the parliament had already passed. They wanted to counter (as my friends in the Alps put it) “the treasonous acts of their government and parliament”.
Only the conservative Swiss People’s Party (SVP) supported the referendum, and they have only about 35% of the vote in Switzerland. That meant in order to win, they needed about 15% of the centrist public to vote in favor of keeping the new law off the books.
Alas, almost 64% of voters in Sunday’s referendum supported tougher restrictions on semi-automatic and automatic weapons. The Swiss people have the highest rates of firearm ownership in Europe (close to 48% of homes have a firearm), but it wasn’t enough.
The SVP have voiced concern about how the gun control laws would affect Swiss national sovereignty.
“By approving stricter gun control, Switzerland has given in to pressure by the E.U.,” Lukas Reimann of the People’s Party told the local public broadcaster.
Soon, shooting ranges in Switzerland will no longer look like this:To my friends across the pond and in the Alps, my heart is with you. We here in the Land of Liberty aren’t fairing much better in some states.