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Parliament gets tough in weapons debate

Gun killings and suicides have provided ammunition for the anti-gun lobby in Switzerland

(Ex-press)

The Swiss Senate has approved a revised law on weapons which forbids the carrying of dangerous objects and the anonymous purchase of arms over the internet.

The chamber, which represents Switzerland's cantons, followed the example of the House of Representatives. A ban on keeping military weapons at home was rejected.

Anonymous sales of guns over the internet or by advertisement are to be banned, but there are exceptions for hunters and members of Switzerland's numerous shooting clubs, who can continue to shop for weapons with a written contract.

The new law foresees that security forces can seize dangerous objects such as baseball bats, metal pipes and bicycle chains if it is obvious that they would be used as weapons, for example during a demonstration.

The revision of the arms law means guns have to be clearly marked by the manufacturer and there are tougher rules on sales between individuals or sales of guns that have been inherited.

There is also a ban on the possession of automatic weapons or grenades.

Ammunition at home

In a related development, the Senate has in principle approved a ban on the keeping of army ammunition at home, with the exception of a few thousand of the 120,000 soldiers in Switzerland's militia army who are at present supplied with ammunition they keep at home.

But the Senate did not go as far as a total ban on army ammunition at home, as had been demanded by Social Democrat Anita Fetz.

The exception, approved by the Senate, includes ammunition for troops deployed in an emergency situation.

Fetz withdrew her proposition, saying she was satisfied with what had been achieved as a result. But she stressed that there had been too many deaths and family dramas in Switzerland because of military weapons.

The issue now passes to the House of Representatives for debate.

Initiative

Left-wing political parties and pacifist organisations have already announced that they will launch a people's initiative to ban the estimated one-and-a-half million military weapons from Swiss households.

The initiative calls for army weapons to remain in the barracks, a national gun register, a ban on private individuals buying or owning particularly dangerous guns such as automatic weapons or pump-action shotguns, and tighter controls on those who say they need to carry a firearm.

Supporters of the initiative argue that around 300 deaths are caused by Swiss army weapons every year.

Soldiers keep their military equipment, including weapons and ammunition at home when they are not on active service.

Those with assault rifles keep 50 rounds of ammunition, which are contained in a sealed box.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Estimations of the number of firearms in circulation in Switzerland range upwards from 1.2 million.
Army-issue weapons are said to be involved in the deaths of more than 300 people in Switzerland every year.
According to Ipsilon Suicide Prevention, 34% of suicides among men are due to firearms, compared with only 3.7% of female suicides.
In April a survey found that 65.6% of citizens would vote to ban army weapons from the home, 69% were in favour of a national gun register and 37% said a ban on storing army weapons would prevent family tragedies.

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