Improving gun supervision "falls to cantons"

Daillon: the scene of Switzerland's latest shooting spree Keystone

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has called on cantons to speed up efforts to coordinate their gun ownership registers, following a shooting spree earlier this month that left three people dead.

This content was published on January 12, 2013 - 15:24 and agencies

The cantons denied that they have been dragging their feet and instead blamed the authorities for failing to make legal changes that could pave the way for exchanging information on who owns guns and which applications had been rejected.

The ongoing debate on tightening Swiss gun ownership rules was given further impetus by a shooting spree in the village of Daillon, canton Valais, on January 2. Three woman were shot dead and two men were wounded by a gunman who apparently had a history of mental problems.

The Daillon murders follow a series of other shooting attacks in recent years that have sparked calls for gun ownership controls to be tightened. Many people have questioned why the Daillon perpetrator could have access to a firearm and raised questions about how easy it is to trace gun owners and their weapons.  

Speaking to the Blick newspaper on Saturday, Sommaruga said that responsibility for tracking gun ownership lies with the cantons since Swiss voters rejected a national database two years ago.

In a thinly veiled rebuke to the cantons, Sommaruga said that the government had already lived up to its promise to put online the names of people who had been refused a gun permit by the army and the police.

Legal roadblock

But the cantons had yet to live up to their promise to make their own electronic database. “This is obviously more complicated that anyone imagined,” she chided, adding that a coordinated gun register should happen quickly.

“The cantons have a duty to the population,” she told Blick.

Beat Villiger, vice-director of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors, told Swiss radio on Saturday that such a move required a change to the laws that has yet to be introduced.

According to Villiger, the government has yet to respond to recent proposals from a parliamentary committee to amend the laws.

Given the time needed to change legislation, a coordinated inter-cantonal firearms register could not be expected before the end of 2014, Villager said. Such a database could conceivably contain details of all registered weapons as well as details of those rejected for a permit, he added.

Villiger said that there are currently too many firearms “just lying around” in Switzerland.

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