Swiss voters reject anti-gun initiative

It appears that guns will continue to be stored at home Keystone

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

This content was published on February 13, 2011 - 13:46
Morven McLean,

Near-final results showed around 57 per cent of votes were cast against the initiative, which aimed to ban army-issue guns from the home.

Head of the gfs.bern polling organisation, Claude Longchamp, told Swiss television the initiatve had won neither the support of the people nor the cantons. It needed both to succeed.

More than half the 26 cantons voted against the proposal. Urban regions, including Geneva and Basel City, bucked the trend by approving it.

There was a clear geographic division, with western Switzerland voting in favour, and southern Italian-speaking Ticino and most German-speaking areas voting against.

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

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.

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.

Emotive campaign

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 feverish emotions in the run-up to the vote.

Supporters of the initiative had limited their campaign to the main cities hoping to win votes among the urban population.

Opponents for their part were most active with numerous committees and groups in rural regions where residents are generally more conservative in outlook.

Other ballots

Local votes and elections were taking place in more than half of Switzerland’s cantons.

The issues range from nuclear energy, tax amnesty, education and the promotion of bicycles to the funding of the National Museum and a theatre.

Voters choose a new government in Appenzell Outer-Rhodes and Bern holds a by-election for a senate seat.

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