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Women's magazine hands in gun ban petition

The poster used by Annabelle magazine for its "No weapons at home" campaign

(Annabelle)

A women's magazine has collected 17,400 signatures in a bid to rid Swiss households of hundreds of thousands of weapons.

The petition comes amid discussions in parliament over whether to scrap the country's militia army tradition requiring guns and ammunition to be kept at home.







Staff at Annabelle handed over the signatures to a parliamentary committee in Bern on Tuesday.

The petition, "No weapons at home", is calling for a ban on shotguns at home, for army rifles to be kept in military storage instead of at home and for people not to be able to hold on to army guns after their period of service expires. It is also campaigning for a national weapons register to be created as soon as possible.

Annabelle told swissinfo that it had received a large response to the petition, most of which was supportive.

Guns are firmly entrenched in Swiss culture. All able-bodied Swiss men aged 20-30 are conscripted for about three months and issued with a rifle, to be used only in the event of an alert.

After initial training, the conscripts are required to do three or four weeks of army service every year until they have served a total of 260 days or reached the age of 34.

Throughout this time they keep their rifles and 50 rounds of sealed ammunition at home.

Family murders

The magazine says it launched the petition in response to the increasing number of family murders in Switzerland, most involving women and children being shot by husbands.

In the first half of 2006 there were at least six incidents where a man shot his wife or partner before turning the gun on himself. In a highly publicised case the husband of former women's ski champion Corinne Rey-Bellet killed her and her brother with his army pistol before shooting himself.

Earlier this month the government said family tragedies and suicides are not valid reasons to stop soldiers from keeping their army weapons at home.

Swiss Defence Minister Samuel Schmid argued that Switzerland's militia army needed to be able to mobilise rapidly, "for example to protect airports and railway stations quickly".

On Monday the Senate said it needed time to look into a motion proposed by Anita Fetz, a senator from the centre-left Social Democratic Party, calling for army ammunition to be kept in military storage as opposed to at home. No date was set for any decisions on the motion.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

There are about two million firearms in circulation in Switzerland.


The number of suicides is close to 1,500 a year. Suicide accounts for more deaths than car accidents, drugs and Aids

together.

Among those demanding tighter laws are Amnesty International, the Swiss Peace Council, the Victims of Violence Forum, the Stop Suicide Association, Ipsilon (the Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide in Switzerland) and the Swiss Society of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.

end of infobox

In brief

Debate on the use of firearms was fuelled in April when the husband of a former women's ski champion, Corinne Rey Bellet, killed his wife and her brother with his army pistol.

The Senate on Monday postponed a decision whether members of the militia army are allowed to keep ammunition for army weapons at home.

In June the Senate also came out in favour of slightly stricter rules for purchasing and keeping firearms in June but a significant tightening of the law was not on the table.

Amnesty International believes that the availability of guns should be restricted, arguing that the fact they are kept in the home is a permanent risk and could be a contributing factor for gun suicides and murders.

end of infobox

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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