Switzerland has voted to impose a slate of new gun laws that align the country more closely with the European Union, state media reported on Sunday.
The measures would, among other things, require special waivers to own semi-automatic weapons with detachable “high-capacity magazines,” and impose a serial number tracking system for key parts of some guns. Gun owners would have to register any such weapons not already registered within three years, and keep a registry of their gun collections.
However, as Mike from “Bloke on the Range,” a popular Youtuber based in Switzerland, told GunsAmerica via email, the implementation of these new regulations hasn’t been finalized and in their current form are “unworkable.”
Semi-auto long guns equipped with 11+ round magazines and pistols with 21+ round magazines have changed categories and will require owners to prove shooting club membership or regular private range shooting. A sport shooter has to show either that a) they’re a member of a shooting club, or b) shoot regularly. “Regularly” is undefined at the moment, but Mike says it looks like they’re going to work on the basis of five times in five years.
But portions of the implementing rules dictate that these newly restricted firearms include those “fitted with, stored with, or transported with” high-capacity mags. The second item needs more definition, according to Mike, and the third is totally impractical.
“So Miss Muster, with her 20-round Stgw 90 and Miss Unbekannt, with her 10-round Stgw 90 share a car to the range,” Mike hypothesized. “Both have now committed an offence (according to the draft) since they’ve transported Miss Unbekannt’s 10-round Stgw 90 with a 20-round magazine, thereby magically turning it into a 20 round rifle and hence a prohibited weapon.”
The new regulations also impose a variant of a short-barreled rifle rule. Any semi-auto rifles which can, by means of a folding, telescoping or removable (without tools) stock, be shortened to below 60 cm without loss of function can only be acquired by collectors.
All firearms owned by Swiss citizens before the new rules take effect will be grandfathered.
Jean-Luc Addor, a Swiss People’s Party lawmaker from the southwestern Valais region, said adopting the EU directive would be “unjust, freedom-killing, useless, dangerous, and above all, anti-Swiss.”
“With no effect on the fight against terrorism, it will only hit honest, law-abiding citizens who possess legal weapons (so, us!),” he wrote on his website. “It’s the epitome of injustice.”
Mike agrees. The new regs “won’t have the slightest impact on fighting terrorism” since the vast majority of terrorists don’t acquire their firearms legally.
Switzerland has a long history of firearms ownership, due in large part to their tradition of allowing members of the military to keep their service rifles. Near-universal conscription means nearly every male serves in the military and learns how to use a rifle, and 48 percent of all households own a firearm.
And yet, over 60 percent of Swiss voters opted for the new gun regulations in the most recent binding referendum that put the laws in place. As in the United States, support for gun control is concentrated largely in urban areas, while those who opposed the measures live in rural areas, according to USA Today.
Swiss voters also supported the new gun control laws so as not to jeopardize their membership in the Schengen zone, a visa-free area open even to non-EU members.
“To me, the new obligations linked to the possession of guns are not that restrictive, while the risk of not being able to benefit from Schengen’s advantages are very real,” a bank employee who gave his name only as Philippe told The Guardian.
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Switzerland is not a part of the European Union, but Brussels issued a gun-control directive following the 2015 terror attacks in Paris. The new EU-imposed rules would have virtually banned all semi-automatic rifles and imposed strict licensing and registration requirements.
The Swiss pushed back on those policies, and supporters of the new laws insist that they represent a compromise between the EU’s original mandate and non-action. The Swiss parliament and executive branch say the new laws won’t block any law-abiding citizens from obtaining legal guns, but would simply do more to track them.
But the European Union won’t be satisfied with these new measures. As Mike pointed out, “the EU have explicitly stated in Art. 17 of the EU directive that the provisions will be periodically reviewed, starting 2021.”
The news laws are set to take effect July 1.