Switzerland has been a nation known for its liberal firearms legislation. The usage and ownership of firearms ranging from sports rifles, to military grade assault rifles, has long been an established part of Swiss culture and law. Switzerland does in fact have 45.7 firearms per 100 residents placing the Swiss 3rd in the world in terms of firearms per 100 people. Only outranked by Yemen (2nd) and the United States of America (1st). Liberal firearms ownership and usage has been the norm for so long that few referendums are presented or laws passed that attempt to regulate their sale, ownership or usage. Those referendums that are presented and laws passed are almost always rejected by Swiss voters. Having said all this, firearms are still regulated within Switzerland, just not to the extent that they are within the European Union. This is causing a problem that the Swiss government is having to reckon with.
The problem isn’t that the Swiss system of firearm regulation isn’t functioning or efficient, but instead that it doesn’t match the European Union’s firearms regulation policies. In 2005 the Federal Council of Switzerland officially declared that Swiss membership of the Schengen zone would not impose extreme regulations on Swiss firearms and their owners. However after the terror attacks of 2015 in Paris the European Commission adopted a package of measures to make it more difficult to acquire and possess firearms within European Union member states. However, seeing as Switzerland is a member of the Schengen zone, there is concern of firearms being purchased in Switzerland and then being transported into neighboring European Union member states. This concern was raised by the European Commission during their recent negotiations with Switzerland over protectionist Swiss economic policies. Which resulted in the Swiss Parliament adopting the European Union’s firearms regulations and policy with a few exceptions, such as service rifles staying in a militia member’s possession after mandatory conscription is over, this being a Swiss tradition.
However, after the Swiss Parliament modified firearm regulation on the 28th of September 2018, a rather unhappy group of gun owners from across the Swiss political spectrum launched a popular referendum to reverse this Parliamentary decision.
On the 17 of January 2019, this coalition of gun rights activists calling themselves La Communauté d’Intérêts du Tir Suisse (The Swiss Community of Interested Shooters) or CIT was supposed to deliver 50,000 signatures to the Federal Chancellery of Switzerland. Instead, the CIT delivered 125,000 signatures, officially triggering a referendum on whether or not Switzerland should retain its former Firearm legislation or make use of the newly adopted European Union legislation.
The CIT claims that the new European Union legislation brings little merit with it, as it doesn’t improve public safety and will only lead to the end of shooting as a popular sport in Switzerland, while also leading to a loss of liberty and safety for the Swiss citizen in the long term.
The Swiss government claims that accepting the European Union's legislation doesn’t harm Switzerland's shooting culture, while also allowing Switzerland to more effectively cooperate with the European Union within the Schengen zone. Which it also believes is crucial to maintaining the profits of being within the Schengen zone.
The vote for the referendum is expected to take place some time during May of 2019.