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Metzler calls for tighter gun controls

A central register would distinguish between legitimate and suspect arms, Metzler said Keystone

The Swiss justice minister, Ruth Metzler, has called for stricter gun controls in order to boost public security.

This content was published on September 21, 2003 - 19:21

In a newspaper interview, Metzler said all firearms should be centrally registered.

There are between one and three million guns in Switzerland, according to the justice minister, who described the situation as “worrying”.

A "Small Arms Survey" by the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva found that there are 1.2 million guns in private hands in Switzerland.

Metzler said a central register would be a step towards increasing public security.

She said it would better distinguish people who own guns for hunting or special collections from those who misuse them.

Her comments came a week before the second anniversary of Switzerland’s worst-ever shooting spree.

On September 27, 2001 a lone gunman entered the cantonal parliament in Zug, near Zurich, and shot 14 people dead.

Gun reform

That incident prompted calls for Switzerland’s gun laws to be tightened. Currently, some 500,000 Swiss men are required to keep rifles at home as part of their responsibilities under the militia army system.

The militia system requires men above the age of 20 to be ready for a call to service. Soldiers also have the right to keep their rifles after they have been demobilised.

The Zug killer used a standard Swiss army-issue assault rifle – a 5,6 mm SIG “Sturmgewehr 90” – to kill his victims, before turning the weapon on himself.

Metzler told the German-language “SonntagsZeitung” that a consultation process on tightening Switzerland's gun laws after the Zug massacre did not comprehensively examine ways of reforming the gun laws.

She said the process, which wrapped up at the end of 2002, did not investigate whether arms should be registered.

“That’s the reason why I have proposed creating a register which would have all the names of weapons in Switzerland,” explained Metzler.

Gun register

She said the consultation process had been dominated by the views of the cantons and weapons-related organisations.

Metzler said sectors which are indirectly concerned – like women’s and youth groups - should now be included in discussions.

The Swiss People’s Party, the Radical Party and the Swiss business federation, economiesuisse, have also asked the government to revise its arms reform project.

The measures under consultation included tighter controls on members of the public wishing to buy guns - both from licensed gun shops and private individuals - as well as a ban on imitation and soft air guns.

The gun lobby, Pro Tell, is firmly against any changes to the law, arguing that putting them into practice would mean too much bureaucracy.

It also says the state would have too much power to decide whether an individual should have the right to carry a gun.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Justice Minister Metzler wants all arms to be recorded in a central register.

Such a measure would increase public security, according to Metzler.

The minister is “worried” about the number of privately-held guns which she estimates to be between one and three million.

Metzler said a review of Switzerland’s gun laws which wrapped up at the end of 2002, was not comprehensive enough.

Calls for reform were made in the wake of the 2001 Zug massacre in which 15 people died.

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