By Morven McLean
Voters have thrown out a controversial initiative on restricting access to firearms in a nationwide ballot on Sunday.
Final results showed more than 56 per cent of votes had been cast against the initiative which sought to ban army-issue guns from the home.
A majority of cantons voted against the initiative. Support came from several, mainly urban regions including Geneva, Basel and Zurich. Opposition was strongest in rural areas in eastern and central Switzerland as well as in the southern Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.
The result is a blow for supporters – a broad coalition of NGOs, trade unions, churches, pacifists and centre-left parties.
But Alliance F, a leading women’s organisation behind the vote, said progress had been made and the campaign had sensitised society to the gun control issue.
The “no” committee and Swiss army officers society welcomed the failure of the initiative, saying the people would not allow themselves to be disarmed. It was a clear vote for the army and protection, they said.
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.
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 strong emotions in the run-up to the vote.
The votes of women, who tended to support the initiative, had been expected to play a decisive role in the outcome.
(With input from Urs Geiser)