Switzerland’s grassroots gun lobby PROTELLexternal link, which advocates for liberal firearms laws, has seen its membership increase by 44% over one year.
Between June 2017 and April 2018, the number of members rose from around 8,700 to almost 12,500. This at a time when the government has submitted gun reform laws to parliament. The aim of the legal changes is to bring Swiss legislation in line with the European Union directive aimed at tightening firearm regulations by the end of 2019.
"This increase shows that more and more citizens are worried about their rights and freedoms in this country," Jean-Luc Addor, interim president of PROTELL, told the Swiss News Agency (SDA-ATS).
The group is aiming for 20,000 members by the end of the year. The influential lobby – Switzerland’s equivalent of the American National Rifle Association (NRA) - has already announced that it will launch a referendum if parliament votes in favour of a tougher arms law.
The EU directive aims to make access more difficult to arms that can cause a large number of deaths, such as some semi-automatic weapons. Switzerland is not an EU member, but is a member of the Schengen Agreement on freedom of movement. As such, it must also reform its legislation or risk its Schengen membership.
The Swiss government has nevertheless obtained some concessions. With regard to arms for military service, they may still be kept at home after service has ended, and they may be used for sports. Twenty-shot guns will not be prohibited. Despite the concessions, the government proposal was criticised by the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, shooting associations, hunters and military officers.