The government said the regulatory change was made because of an increased willingness among certain groups to use violence against customers in recent years.
The situations and times in which guns can be used are clearly defined, the Aargauer Zeitung reports.
Police may use a shotgun only in special cases, according to the Swiss police law on the guarantee of public safety (Gewährleistung der öffentlichen Sicherheit).
“The police can use a shotgun or other weapon when other available methods are not enough.”
Cantonal police spokesman Roland Pfister referred to directives which “clearly regulate“ the use of guns. He said that weapons are to be used primarily in emergency situations – for defence purposes.
“If a serious crime has been committed and the criminal is fleeing, the police officer can then use their gun“, he said.
Swiss train police are educated in the same way as specialized security police, Pfister continued, and their mission in all areas of Switzerland is now mandated by the government.
He emphasized that individual officers would need to take split-second decisions on when to use a gun, a responsibility that requires a high level of psychological and physical stability. Because the train police follow the same training as “normal“ police, this should not pose a problem, he said.
An important point in the use of guns is that “third parties should not be put in danger.“ Pfister confirmed that this could become an issue, for example in a full carriage during rush hour.
“In a train carriage, but also in a tight space, there is an increased risk with the use of a weapon that third parties will be jeopardized“, Pfister confirmed.
In previous discussions about the proposed legislative change, SBB and Lötschberbahnen (BLS) spoke out against guns. Now a U-turn has taken place, at least at SBB.
Arming will have a preventative effect, SBB spokesman Reto Kormann told the Tages Anzeiger newspaper.
“We cannot deny the detrimental rise of violence in our modern society“, Kormann told the Aargauer Zeitung. “Indeed, as the number of attacks on train police and staff increased, at the same time the inclination to violence rose markedly.“
Cantonal police and members of the border patrol already carry guns on trains, Kormann added.
“When they appear together, their noticeably different equipment is an issue. Also, when train police must arrest someone, they look for a police officer.“
There have been mixed reactions among train to the idea of carrying a weapon, “but most officers took the news positively“, he said.