MPs in the lower house of parliament (National Council) last year voted for the proposal, arguing that it would make it easier for police to deal with troublemakers.
The issue came into focus last month when balaclava-wearing activists smashed windows of banks and shops, as well as the Swedish embassy in Bern, during a techno parade through the Swiss capital.
But the senate voted 27 to three against the ban, backed by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party.
Security falls within the jurisdiction of the cantons and it is unacceptable to interfere in their bailiwick, Paul Niederberger, a Christian Democrat from Nidwalden said, according to a report from ATS.
Niederberger, member of a senate committee on security, noted that a national ban would not have changed anything at the Bern techno parade.
The canton of Bern already bans the wearing of balaclavas, he said.
The application of the law depends on the tactics used by police, Niederberger said.
Cantons that have experienced problems with troublemakers wearing balaclavas have already passed laws, while the issue is not a problem for cantons without such a ban, so national legislation would unnecessary, a majority in the senate agreed.
The issue was complicated by the fact that a national ban on the headgear would require a change to the constitution to provide the necessary legal basis, ATS reported.
The Swiss People’s Party was divided on the proposal.
Peter Föhn, senator from the canton of Schwyz, argued that a national law would act as a deterrent and was supported by police forces, ATS.