Swiss vote to keep their guns at home | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.02.2011
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Swiss vote to keep their guns at home

Switzerland has rejected tighter gun controls and will continue to allow citizens to keep army-issued weapons at home. A referendum that sought to have weapons stored in armories instead was rejected.

Sport shooters take aim at a shooting event in Switzerland

An estimated 2 million guns are stored in Swiss homes

Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a proposal to ban army firearms from their homes, following a nationwide referendum.

The referendum was launched by a coalition of non-governmental groups, religious authorities and center-left parties, who sought to get the weapons stored in armories instead.

Voters upheld their national tradition of having an ever-ready army, and many see keeping a weapon at home as a crucial aspect of national identity.

Just two hours after polls closed, 22 out of 26 cantons returned final results, with a majority of cantons - 17 - voting firmly against the move. For the referendum to have passed, it would have needed the support both a majority of cantons and a majority of people.

Citizen army tradition

Swiss soldiers

Having an ever-ready citizen army is key to Swiss identity, some say

The majority of Swiss men liable for military service store their guns at home and often keep them after leaving the army.

The practice of keeping arms at home was once a key part of the country's defense strategy, which was in part aimed at deterring invasion with the threat that its citizens were combat-ready.

According to official data, about 2 million firearms are in circulation, with a population size of about 7 million. However, there are an estimated 240,000 unregistered weapons in Switzerland.

The government had called on the population to vote against the initiative, explaining that "current legislation assures adequate and sufficient protection of the population against the abusive use of weapons."

Advocates of the ban said the easy availability of weapons poses a danger for suicidal people, and Switzerland's suicide rate is three times higher than in the rest of Europe.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (Reuters/AFP)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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