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Killings prompt Swiss to tighten gun laws

Meritxell Mir · 23 Nov 2011, 10:53

Published: 23 Nov 2011 11:51 GMT+01:00
Updated: 23 Nov 2011 10:53 GMT+01:00

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Several killings in the last few weeks have led Switzerland's Security Policy Committee to take steps to remove weapons from the hands of people with a history of violence. 

The parliamentary committee said confiscating firearms was a matter of urgency for individuals known to have made threats or perpetrated acts of violence.

To help avoid further tragedies, a unanimous committee called on the National Assembly to pass a motion requiring the Federal Council to combat unwanted arms possession in cooperation with the cantons.

In its proposal, the committee calls for the police and prosecuting authorities to confiscate all civilian and military weapons held by violent individuals. Moreover, the committee says that military and judicial authorities should collaborate more effectively both at the cantonal and federal levels.

"The different authorities involved won’t move things forward by mutually abdicating their responsibilities or trying to justify themselves regarding the misuse [of weapons],” the commission said.

Military weapons have been used in the fatal shootings of two people in western Switzerland since the beginning of the month, news service ATS reports. On November 4th, a man shot his 21-year-old girlfriend with his assault rifle in Saint Léonard, in the south of the country. The alleged murderer, a 23-year-old man, had several previous convictions for threatening behaviour and property damage.

A week later, a 37-year-old man died from injuries sustained in a shooting incident at a Geneva shopping centre.

On Sunday, November 13th, a young woman in Boudry killed a 23-year-old man with a military gun which she had believed to be a toy gun.

There are around 2.5 million firearms in private hands in Switzerland, giving the country the highest per-capita rate of gun ownership in Europe. It is estimated that about 30 percent of Swiss households keep revolvers, shotguns and even assault rifles in their cabinets.

A heated debate has raged for years in Switzerland about firearm control and the appropriateness of militiamen keeping weapons at home during military service.

A referendum in February 2011 resulted in a rejection of proposals to change the current laws.

Meritxell Mir (news@thelocal.ch)

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