The Swiss will vote this Sunday to say no matter whether the nation really should tighten its gun laws and meet EU’s demands. The wealthy Alpine nation is the world’s 16th nation in terms of civilian firearms possession, but has hardly ever observed mass shootings.

Switzerland is heading to polls on Sunday to know no matter whether it really should toughen its laws on firearms possession in order to bring it in line with the new European Union legislation on the matter.

When the European Union demanded the Alpine nation abide by the bloc’s new legislation, the nation’s legislators authorized new laws. But the new restrictions have prompted a national debate in Switzerland, sparkling opposition from the gun lobby and shooting enthusiasts, who managed to collect adequate signatures to trigger a referendum.

Switzerland is not an EU member, even although it is linked to the bloc by means of a lot of bilateral agreements. It is a member of the Schengen Region, which grants open borders amongst states, and also of the Dublin accords, which regulates Europe’s asylum searching for approach.

The new gun legislation is critical to keeping warm relations with the EU and a “No” could threaten that, the Swiss government warned.

Almost three guns for each 10 inhabitants

Switzerland has a deeply-rooted gun culture. Although the gun-crazy nation has no national registry and guns are registered regionally, according to a 2017 report by the Modest Arms Survey, there are more than two.three million firearms in civilian hands for eight million residents.

With almost 3 firearms for each 10 inhabitants, Switzerland has the world’s 16th highest price of gun ownership, the Geneva-primarily based NGO estimates, but only 791,719 firearms have been registered.

Uncommon mass shootings

As opposed to the United States, which has the world’s highest gun-possession price, the Swiss have hardly ever observed the type of mass shootings that also prompted the EU to modify its weapons laws in 2017.

The price of violent deaths by firearms in Switzerland is 15.five occasions decrease than in the US, 2016 information shows. The final deadly tragedy dates back from 2001, when 14 folks had been killed in the central city of Zug.

Such figures astonish a lot of specialists. But Martin Killias, head of the Criminology Institute at the Lausanne University, argues that “what is decisive, rather of the quantity of firearms, is the quantity of folks who have access to guns. This price is largely inferior in Switzerland”, when compared to the US, he told the Swiss French-speaking newspaper Le Temps.

Swiss gun-owners “are also a lot more peaceful”, Killias says.

Militia-primarily based army

The robust gun culture in Switzerland is largely tied to the country’s national defence service, a militia-primarily based army. Most males amongst the ages of 18 and 30 have to undergo mandatory military service consisting of 3 weeks a year, and they are permitted to retain their assigned weapon when the service has completed.

“The overwhelming majority of folks who personal a firearm in Switzerland are in such categories: either they are in the army or attached to it, or are shooting enthusiasts and hunters. It is practically unthinkable that an individual would acquire a gun to defend their loved ones, for instance,” Killias says.

“The Swiss know that guns are not produced for folks to attack every other with, but rather to defend our nation,” 61-year-old gun collector from Zurich Markus Thommen told French newspaper Le Figaro.

Higher suicide price by firearms

Even though Switzerland has a low level of mass shootings, it has one particular of the highest suicide prices by firearms in Europe. Its price is 3 occasions superior to the European typical, according to the Swiss tv RTS, and reportedly half of Swiss young males who commit suicide use a firearm — a record for Europe.

Brigitte Crottaz thinks the new legislation could tackle this sad reality: “Data has verified: the a lot more guns we have, the a lot more suicides there are, mostly,” the Socialist MP told Le Figaro.

Below present Swiss legislation, in order to receive a firearm, a citizen have to be more than 18, have an ID card and have no criminal record. Guns are also divided into categories with unique restrictions.

The new laws will oblige shooting enthusiasts to prove they attend a shooting variety often in order to have a gun-possession authorization. As for these who currently personal guns, they will have 3 years to declare ownership to the regional authorities. Semi-automatic weapons with higher-capacity magazines would also be listed as “banned”.

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse | National Councilor Brigitte Crottaz talks, ahead of a May possibly 19 referendum on proposals to tighten weapon ownership laws in line with EU methods, in Lausanne, Switzerland May possibly 14, 2019. Image taken May possibly 14, 2019.

‘Completely useless’ legislation, gun-enthusiasts say

Its opponents think about the new laws “completely useless in fighting terrorism”, stated the “No” campaign, which has the backing of the country’s most significant political celebration, the populist correct-wing Swiss People’s Celebration. They also oppose a “EU dictate” which is observed as impinging on Swiss sovereignty.

“This is not a EU diktat,” Philippe Miauton, a Radical-Liberal celebration member and also a member of the Vaud trade chamber, told FRANCE 24. “Switzerland took portion in the negotiations and got almost everything it wanted. Switzerland obtained a quantity of exceptions that I think permit our [gun-culture] tradition to continue… We have to keep in the Schengen Region.”

Lisa Mazzone, vice-president of the Green Celebration, also argued that the new law would grant Swiss authorities a lot more manage, with “improvements in the tracing and the marking of firearms,” she told AFP. “In terms of safety, it is clearly a superior point to have a much better overview of what weapons are in circulation.”

According to the most recent opinion polls, 65% of the Swiss assistance the new legislation, with only 35% opposing to it.