Swiss voters agreed Sunday to tighten the country’s gun laws to reach parity with European Union anti-terrorism legislation that came into force following attacks in Paris and elsewhere.
The referendum proposition was hotly debated in Switzerland, which has maintained compulsory military service and has a long tradition of marksmanship, including what is billed as the world’s largest annual shooting competition.
The government had warned voters that Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union but follows many of its rules, could lose its membership in the Schengen Area — which allows free movement among 26 European countries — if it rejected stricter gun rules.
Polls closed at midday local time, and the final results showed almost 64% voted in favor of tighter gun controls, in line with what opinion polls had predicted. Only the citizens of the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland rejected the gun initiative.
Turnout was about 43%, on a day when the Swiss also voted on other local and federal issues, including on financing their pensions system. Opponents conceded defeat but warned that the new regulations would undermine traditional values.
Under the new law, Switzerland will strengthen labeling and registration rules for private weapons and for their main components.
Anticipating objections, the Swiss government said it had extracted some concessions from the European Union, particularly to continue to allow Swiss soldiers to keep their weapons at home, including army-issued assault rifles, following initial military training. Army reservists are then required to take these weapons to regular shooting practice until the age of 34.
Swiss citizens will also retain the ability to buy semi-automatic weapons, but only if they can show they regularly train with them.
Switzerland does not require medical or psychological tests to purchase such weapons. The law will also leave untouched weaponry and registration procedures for shooting courses and competitions held in Switzerland.
The Swiss Parliament approved the new rules in September.
But firearms and hunting lobbyists and associations, with the support of the right-wing Swiss People’s party, campaigned to force a national referendum.
One of the arguments made by opponents is that Switzerland has had relatively few mass shootings. In 2018, 22 homicides were committed with a firearm in Switzerland, down from 43 the previous year.