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Swiss voters reject anti-gun initiative

Hobby shooters will not have to lock their guns away in arsenals Keystone

Voters have thrown out a controversial initiative on restricting access to firearms in a nationwide ballot on Sunday.

Final results showed just over 56 per cent of votes had been cast against the initiative which sought to ban army-issue guns from the home.

A majority of cantons voted against the initiative. Support came from several, mainly urban regions including Geneva, Basel and Zurich. Opposition was strongest in rural areas in eastern and central Switzerland as well as in the southern Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

The result is a blow for supporters – a broad coalition of NGOs, trade unions, churches, pacifists and centre-left parties.

But Alliance F, a leading women’s organisation behind the vote, said progress had been made and the campaign had sensitised society to the gun control issue.

The “no” committee and Swiss army officers society welcomed the failure of the initiative, saying the people would not allow themselves to be disarmed. It was a clear vote for the army and protection, they said.

Gun violence

Launched four years ago, the initiative sought to introduce stricter rules for gun possession, notably a nationwide database and a more comprehensive licensing system.

It hoped to reduce the number of suicides and incidents of domestic violence.

Parliament and the gun lobby opposed the proposal, arguing tighter laws would undermine trusted Swiss values and cherished traditions, in particular the militia army.

The government said current laws were sufficient to protect against misuse.

Emotional campaign

Early opinion polls in January showed the anti-gun initiative enjoying widespread support, but the 13 per cent margin dwindled to just two per cent in the space of  three weeks.

The nationwide ballot – the first this year – was preceded by a relatively short but intense campaign by both sides.

Attention-grabbing posters, heated public debates, spats over controversial statistics and a flood of readers’ letters in newspapers were evidence of strong emotions in the run-up to the vote.

The votes of women, who tended to support the initiative, had been expected to play a decisive role in the outcome.



People’s initiative

This content was published on The people’s initiative allows every citizen to propose a modification of the constitution. To be valid it must be signed by at least 100,000 people within a period of 18 months. Parliament can directly accept the initiative. It can also refuse it or put forward a counter-proposal. In all cases a nationwide vote takes place.

Read more: People’s initiative

In cantonal votes on Sunday, Geneva turned down a proposed amnesty for tax evaders. The centre-right had hoped to fill its coffers with recovered tax money.

Zurich approved a SFr20 million credit towards extending the National Museum.

In Nidwalden the people came out against an underground storage site for nuclear waste.

Lucerne voted down an initiative to double the number of cyclists within ten years. 65% rejected the proposal by the centre-left and environmental organisations.

(With input from Urs Geiser)

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR