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Hands off our guns, Swiss enthusiasts tell EU ahead of vote

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 15, 2019 - Duration: 02:01s

Hands off our guns, Swiss enthusiasts tell EU ahead of vote

Switzerland's long-standing gun culture could be about to change after binding referendum on Sunday, a vote which is also tied to its position in Europe's Schengen system.

Megan Revell reports.

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Hands off our guns, Swiss enthusiasts tell EU ahead of vote

Switzerland has a long-standing gun culture stemming from a tradition which allows veterans to keep their rifles after military service.

That could all change after a binding referendum on Sunday (May 15), when the country is expected to vote in favor of EU reforms on gun control.

But obviously, many enthusiasts like these aren't keen.

(SOUNDBITE) (French) 50-YEAR-OLD HAIRDRESSER AND MEMBER OF TREYVAUX SHOOTING CLUB, CHRISTINE DOUSSE, SAYING: "When I am lying in the stall, facing the target, alone with my rifle, I don't know how to describe it, but it just helps me forget a bad day.

It helps me completely let go of the stress and negative things (...) Europe is trying to frighten people into accepting this law, which I find absolutely ridiculous." The tighter rules would make it harder to buy semi-automatic rifles and easier to track weapons in databases.

Switzerland isn't technically part of the EU but often follows its lead.

It also risks losing some of its perks if it doesn't adopt the measure - such as borderless travel.

The Swiss government is in favor of the regulation but these members of one of the country's 2,600 shooting clubs see it as a sign of the growing long-arm of Brussels.

(SOUNDBITE) (French) 51-YEAR OLD ACCOUNTANT AND MEMBER OF TREYVAUX SHOOTING CLUB, OLIVIER CURTY, SAYING: "Switzerland is not part of the European Union but the pressure exercised by it on Switzerland is getting stronger.

And for me, this vote is just a step, and the next step will be the full prohibition of weapons.

This is what I can see coming, and even we shooters soon won't be able to keep our weapons at home." Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in Europe.

In 2017, Swiss citizens owned around 2.3 million guns.

That's 27.6 firearms per 100 people.

Despite the popularity, polls suggest two out of three voters back the reform, which the EU introduced in 2017 after militant attacks in Paris and elsewhere.

For shooting enthusiasts however, the measure would erode an important part of Swiss identity.

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