Saturday, March 24, 2007

No more guns?


Centre-left wants to end Swiss gun tradition

The Swiss can keep their army guns at home - for the
time being (Keystone)

Related stories
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demand tougher laws on weapons

magazine hands in gun ban petition

Pacifists and centre-left parties
want voters to have the final say on breaking with a long-standing Swiss
tradition of storing personal army rifles and pistols at home.
They said
would launch a people's initiative to ban such weapons in households.
announcement came a day after parliament refused to take action over the

Supporters of the ban are expected to launch a bid to
collect the necessary signatures for the vote within the next few months.The
House of Representatives on Thursday threw out a proposal by the Social
Democrats and the Greens to tighten the gun law, including having a central
register."Firearms are the biggest security risk in the country," said
parliamentarian Jo Lang, while the Social Democrat, Boris Banga,
argued that
current regulations on standard issue firearms were
outdated.Other speakers
pointed out the latest case of murder committed with
such weapons – a man shot
his girlfriend in southeastern Switzerland earlier
this week.Under Swiss law
all-able bodied men are issued with a rifle and 50
rounds of ammunition which
they can keep after completing their military
service.An estimated 1.6 million
firearms are in circulation in Switzerland
and a study found that 300 people are
killed every year by standard issue
weapons.There are also more than 150,000
active members of rifle clubs, many
of whom own more than one gun.
are the biggest security risk in
the country.
Jo Lang, Green Party


However, Justice Minister Christoph Blocher,
a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, downplayed the importance of
guns in crimes, adding the issue of keeping weapons at home should be part
of a
wider discussion on the army.Ulrich Schlüer, also from the Swiss
People's Party,
dismissed allegations that members of Switzerland's militia
army and civilian
shooting clubs acted irresponsibly."It's a sign of honour
for the citizen to
take the weapon home. They feel treated with disrespect
if they are denied this
right," he said.Parliament will continue the debate
on the gun law and on
proposals to ban the storage of gun and rifle
ammunition in households at a
later date.Recent polls show support for
keeping army firearms at home is waning
among the public. Last year a
women's magazine handed in a petition to
parliament in a bid to rid Swiss
households of weapons.Criminologist Martin
Killias of Lausanne University
has said that guns play a central role in
suicides and in the country's grim
history of family killings.Many newspaper
commentators echoed the changing
attitude among the public.Zurich's
Tages-Anzeiger newspaper says the ballot
box challenge mounted by pacifists and
the centre-left is a way out of an
obvious impasse in a parliament.


Arms fetishists

"Arms fetishists
parliament. Their decision had to be expected in a country which
celebrates its
readiness to fight off an outside threat by letting citizens
keep their
automatic rifles and pistols at home," the paper said.Der Bund
from Bern says
understanding for Switzerland's gun tradition is dwindling in
particularly among women."Whether a ban would make Switzerland
necessarily any
safer is another question, but better protection from gunmen
running amok is
reason enough to collect individual army firearms."In a
similar vein, the Basler
Zeitung says parliament missed an opportunity to
reduce the number of weapons in
circulation.Le Temps from Geneva sees no
point in sticking to the gun tradition
for the sake of those who put
tradition above everything else."It seems absurd
and outdated to refer to
the need for security in the face of terrorist
threats."It says rational
arguments, such as the prevention of murder cases,
should be more important
than emotional aspects and the natural instinct to
oppose any state
interference in citizens' rights and freedoms.swissinfo, Urs


The reform of the gun law
aims to bring regulations in line with the EU's open border policy, which
Switzerland will be joining in the near future.The legislation includes a
for purchasing firearms from private individuals, a ban on anonymous
through the internet or small ads and the tagging of new weapons
produced in
Switzerland or imported.However, there is no provision for a
central arms
register or restrictions for standard issue army


There are an
1.6 to 2 million firearms in circulation in Switzerland.
a third of
all murder cases involve private guns and army weapons.
weapons were
used in 68% of suicides, according to recent study.


Swiss parliament
without an Army group (GSoA)

Pro Tell - Swiss gun lobby (German, French,

Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide in
Switzerland (German, French)

Swiss media (German, French and

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