Exchange of gun owner data to be tightened

There are an estimated two million firearms in Swiss household. The picture shows a police raid on a house near Interlaken in 2014 as part of an criminal investigation Keystone

The House of Representatives has refused to tighten rules on gun ownership, but it has agreed to improve the exchange of information about weapons between police, the army and the justice authorities.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch and agencies

A majority of rightwing, centre-right and centrist members in the parliamentary chamber on Tuesday threw out a government proposal to introduce a mandatory gun registration for all firearms, including those acquired before December 2008.

They argued that the planned amendment would cause an unnecessary bureaucratic burden and criminalise citizens who forget to register old weapons.

Toni Bortoluzzi of the Swiss People’s Party warned of the “indecent suspicion of the state towards citizens”.

However, supporters said tighter regulation would help improve security for police called in cases of domestic violence.

Chantal Galladé of the Social Democratic Party said it was a paradox that “every dog, every cow, every visit to a library and every car is registered in Switzerland”, while the authorities had no record on most firearm owners.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga added that the proposal had been made by the cantonal police directors and commanders.

There are an estimated two million firearms in circulation in Switzerland. Under the militia system soldiers keep their army-issue weapons at home.

Independent registers

A plan to improve the exchange of information about gun ownership, in principle between the cantonal and federal authorities, was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives.

The Senate, the other parliamentary chamber, will discuss the issues at a later stage.

Currently the country’s 26 cantons operate their independent registers. Other records are kept by the Federal Police Office and by the armed forces.

In 2011, voters rejected a proposal to restrict access to guns by banning the purchase of automatic weapons and introducing a licensing system for the use of firearms.

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