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Gunman kills three women in Switzerland

A gunman in a small Swiss village has shot and killed three women and wounded two men. At a 2011 referendum, Swiss voters rejected tighter gun laws in the country.

A man shot and killed three women and wounded two men late Wednesday in Daillon, Switzerland. The 33-year-old former psychiatric patient fired from his apartment and later came out into the street, firing more than 20 shots, officials said.

The gunman was a local unemployed resident living on welfare, police said. He used at least two firearms, including an old Swiss army carbine and a rifle capable of firing lead shot. The gunman's weapons were on record as having been seized and destroyed in 2005, and he was not currently listed as having any guns.

Police were threatened as they tried to arrest the shooter, and they had to subdue him by shooting him in the chest before making their arrest. The shooter, who remains unnamed, was then taken to hospital for treatment.

The women who died were aged 32, 54 and 79; they were all shot in the head and chest. The youngest was married to one of the injured men, and they had young children. The men hurt in the attack were aged 33 and 63.

Swiss website 20minutes.ch quoted villagers as saying the gunman had been drinking heavily at the time of the attack.

Daillon is close to the town of Sion, the capital of the Valais canton, a world-renowned skiing destination.

Heavily armed country

In Switzerland there is no national gun register, but it is believed that at least one in three of the country's eight million residents have a gun.

The nation has long maintained a citizen army that can be mobilized quickly to defend Switzerland's neutrality. From the age of 18, a Swiss citizen outside the military can apply for a permit to purchase up to three weapons.

Such liberal gun laws have been called into question before. A shooting in the regional parliament of Zug in 2001 that led to 14 deaths, for example, led to calls for a tightening of the gun laws. But Swiss voters in 2011 rejected a proposal for additional measures, such as the creation of local arsenals for military weapons outside service periods.

tm/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)