Cabinet presents ‘light’ version of EU firearm restrictions

A SIG Sauer P226 is displayed at the press conference on Friday. Keystone

The Swiss cabinet has launched a consultation process on a more lenient application of an EU directive aimed at cracking down on firearms, which would still allow Swiss military service weapons to be kept at home.

This content was published on September 29, 2017 - 19:09 and agencies, and agencies/cl

The EU directive, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2019, comes in response to terror threats and is aimed at limiting weapons that are capable of harming a large number of people at once. As a member of the Schengen zone, Switzerland is obliged to follow suit.

However, according to a cabinet and Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) press release on Friday, the Swiss have proposed a “pragmatic” solution that won’t affect the role of arms in Swiss culture and traditions.

Only certain types of semi-automatic weapons – such as those with magazines capable of holding more than 20 rounds of ammunition – and certain high-capacity shoulder-supported guns would be prohibited. No medical or psychological tests for gun owners, nor a central arms register, are part of the plan.

Military service weapons will still be allowed to be kept at home after service has ended, in keeping with Swiss tradition. Those who enjoy shooting for sport will find themselves little affected: they must only show proof of membership in a shooting society or other evidence that they regularly use their weapon for sport, and register their weapons with cantonal authorities. Gun collectors may carry on as usual, but will be required to catalogue and report their collections to authorities. Hunters are not at all affected by the regulations, which do not target the types of guns used for game.

Legal wiggle room

At a Fedpol press conference on Friday, Director Nicoletta della Valle defended criticism that the scheme was too vague by saying that the law is “not an exact science". She pointed out that the EU directive allows for some manoeuvrability in terms of application, which Switzerland has chosen to make use of.

The main goal for the project, della Valle emphasised, is to ensure there are no unused weapons in circulation in Switzerland. The cabinet solution also plans for measures aimed at improving identification and traceability, and reinforcing the exchange of information. Interested stakeholders will be able to comment on the project until January 5, 2018.

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