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Menznau shooting spree renews gun law debate

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Menznau shooting spree renews gun law debate
Police van leaves the Kronospan plant at Menznau. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini
22:17 CET+01:00
Wednesday's shooting spree at a Menznau wood-processing plant in the canton of Lucerne has reignited debate about gun control measures in Switzerland and whether they are adequate enough.

A 42-year-old machine operator at the Kronospan plant, a 17-year employee, used a handgun to kill two co-workers and injure seven others, six of them seriously, during a morning coffee break.

The shooter also died, although police at a press conference refused to say how until an autopsy is completed, and a motive for the case remains a mystery.

(On Thursday, 20 Minutes newspaper reported online that it had been informed that a fellow employee killed the gunman by hitting him over the head with a chair.)

The employee, a Swiss citizen identified as Viktor B, was described by company officials as a calm, quiet man.

The Neue Luzerner Zeitung quoted a colleague as saying the man’s behaviour changed over the past year and he appeared to have psychiatric problems.

“He was weird but we never thought it would come to this,” he said.

The shooting spree comes less than than two months after a 33-year-old man used firearms to kill three women and injure two men in the village of Daillon in the canton of Valais on January 2nd.

“We were shown what incredible suffering weapons can cause,” said Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, who expressed her sympathy for the victims and affected families of the Menznau shootings.

Sommaruga indicated it would depend on what police find as they pursue their investigation into Wednesday’s incident before drawing any conclusions from the tragedy.

But “we are aware that the weapons law must be continually improved,” she said.

“In recent years much has been done but we’re not there yet.”
 
Sommaruga said Switzerland’s firearms law needs to be improved, particularly with regard to the traceability of guns.

She noted that the cantons are committed to establishing a platform for the exchange of information about residents in possession of firearms.

The lower house of parliament’s committee on security policy is also studying ways to strengthen gun controls.

Switzerland has the third highest number of of guns per inhabitant in the world after the United States and Yemen.

The high rate is due to the fact that the country has a militia army and men required to perform military service are issued with firearms that they keep at home.

The Swiss Army has come under fire for losing track of thousands of guns issued to recruits.

Still, high profile shootings are relatively rare in the mountain country, although concerns have been raised about the lack of a national firearms register.

Meanwhile, in Menznau, a community of around 3,000 people, residents are mourning the loss and serious injury of fellow citizens.

Kronospan, the largest manufacturer of particleboard and hardboard in Switzerland, said it was closing its plant for two days.

With around 400 employees, the company, owned by an Austrian family, is the biggest employer in the town.

Kronospan had earlier announced it would be cutting production due to a lower volume of timber harvest but it had announced no layoffs.

The shooting was “unbelievable and incomprehensible,” Menznau’s mayor, Adrian J. Duss, told the SDA news agency.
 
The municipality made available a hall for the care of employees and their families and a counselling hotline has been put in place.

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