Polls predicted that the Swiss would surrender to EU demands for strict controls on semi-automatic firearms for fear of losing membership in the Schengen agreement bloc, which allows people from 26 European nations to enter any of the countries without passport control. The EU has demanded that the Swiss comply with Brusselsâ€™ new firearm restrictions if they want to remain in the borderless zone.
What the EU wants:
Under a Revised Firearms directive, a ban on weapons capable of rapidly firing multiple rounds
Automatic and semi-automatic weapons would either be banned or heavily restricted
Each owner of such a weapon, and the weapon itself, are known to police across Europe
All essential weapon components should be clearly labelled and registered electronically
Switzerland has an estimated 2.3 million guns, with a population of 8.5 million.
That figure could be much higher, as only guns acquired since 2008 (when Switzerland first joined Schengen) have to be registered.
The EU wants to ensure that automatic and semi-automatic weapons are either banned or heavily restricted, and that each owner of such a weapon, and the weapon itself, is known to police across Europe.
For non-EU member Switzerland, the idea of Brussels interfering in hallowed Swiss gun traditions is awkward.
The Swiss government wants voters to back the EU directive, but it has also lobbied Brussels hard for exemptions which might make it more palatable. Those semi-automatic army assault rifles, for example, will still be allowed at home if Swiss militia soldiers want them.
The government argues that gun lovers won’t notice the new regulations, while at the same time Switzerland will have preserved its membership of Schengen.
Business leaders say Switzerland’s Schengen open borders have been good for the economy. Police point to data-sharing on crime in the Schengen information system.
Immigration officials warn that if Switzerland votes No and drops out of Schengen, it will lead to a spike in asylum requests from people turned away by neighbouring countries.
That is because it would no longer be covered by the rules under which asylum seekers can only apply to one EU member state for protection.
Switzerland’s political establishment is united in support of the EU’s restrictions, and latest opinion polls show voters may go along with them.
The deciding factor in this vote is likely to be Swiss women, for decades the most vocal campaigners in favour of gun control.
And, despite the absence of any Swiss mass shooting problem, and despite Switzerland having a lower crime rate than any of its European neighbors, and despite their own traditions, the Swiss voted by a 63.7% margin to surrender.
Voters have endorsed a controversial reform of Swiss gun law to bring it in line with European Union rules.
Final results show the reform winning 63.7% of the ballot on Sunday. The result was much closer in rural regions and voters in canton Ticino rejected the legal amendment.
Ownership of semi-automatic weapons will require regular training on the use of firearms and a serial numbering of major parts of some guns to help track them. …A broad alliance of gun clubs, militia army officers, hunters and collectors, supported by the political right, tried to overturn a decision by parliament last year that limits notably the use of semi-automatic firearms.
The government and most major political parties warned that a rejection of the legal amendment would deny Swiss authorities access to a Europe-wide criminal database and lead to the exclusion of the country from a joint EU security system under the single border Schengen agreement.
Opponents collected the necessary signatures to challenge the decision by parliament, saying the reform was â€œdictated by the EUâ€ and would lead to â€œdisarmingâ€ Switzerland through â€œuseless, dangerous, un-Swissâ€ measures.
They said that tougher controls on semi-automatic guns and improved traceability of firearms go too far in a country with near-universal conscription, a high rate of gun ownership, but a low crime rate.
Supporters of the amendment argued that the government secured sufficient opt-out clauses in negotiations with the EU, and that Brussels has taken into account Switzerlandâ€™s tradition of self-defence and national identity that includes a well-armed citizenry.
â€œThe legal reform respects Switzerlandâ€™s time-proven gun tradition,â€ Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter assured in the run-up to Sunday’s vote.
A majority in parliament, backed by the cantons and the business community, said failure to adopt tougher controls could have serious consequences for police as they risk being cut off from a crucial European database on criminals and suspects.
Supporters were also concerned that exclusion from Europeâ€™s single-border area could complicate cross-border traffic and hamper tourism.