Following the gun attacks in Paris and Brussels, the EU tightened gun rules in 2017. In 2018, the government of Switzerland, a nation outside the EU but within the Schengen area, changed its laws on guns to reflect european laws.
The Schengen area is a visa-free zone covering most of the EU and the non-EU nations of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
The government says its gun law changes aim to better protect Switzerland’s population from the misuse of weapons by improving gun identification, more effectively controlling the black market, and improving information exchange across the Schengen area, for example to identify those who have been refused gun ownership in another country.
In addition, the Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive, says that without these changes Switzerland’s membership of the Schengen area could end.
However, the changes do not please everyone. Switzerland has a long tradition of gun ownership and a group known as the Swiss shooting interest group (CIT) called for a referendum on the subject, which will take place on 19 May 2019.
CIT argues the legal changes will increase the risk of domestic attacks, usher in the end of recreational shooting and increase the workload of the police force. In addition, they claim the new rules won’t reduce terrorism and that they violate Switzerland’s constitution and the will of the people. It also claims that fears of Switzerland falling out of the Schengen area if it fails to make these changes are unfounded.
The government argues the changes do not compromise Switzerland’s gun traditions and merely impose new administrative formalities on gun users while providing better protection against the misuse of weapons.
A “Yes” vote supports the introduction the government’s new laws, while a “No” vote rejects the changes.
Recent polls suggest a majority will vote “Yes”. Poll results published by the newspaper Le Matin show 55% percent of those polled in April were in favour of the government’s position.