Switzerland has the highest gun ownership rates per capita among its neighbors and other Western countries, but mass shootings are rare, local media reported Thursday.
This was highlighted in Swissinfo, the website of the Swiss national broadcaster, after the mass shooting in Las Vegas in Nevada, the United States claimed the lives of 59 people and wounded hundreds of others this week.
In Switzerland there is a strong belief in the right to bear arms and the need for a militia army, just as there is in the United States. But mass shootings are rare with two such incidents in the last 20 years.
However, the news site reports that recent votes and agreements with the European Union have launched debates over who may own which types of guns, and the risks involved.
Last month, the Swiss cabinet presented what was described as a "light" version of the EU firearms legislation for consultation.
Under it only certain types of semi-automatic weapons -- such as those with magazines capable of holding more than 20 rounds of ammunition -- and certain high-capacity shoulder-supported guns would be banned.
Their Swiss plan excludes medical or psychological tests for firearm owners and participation in central arms register that is now part of new EU laws.
Statistics show that Switzerland has among the higher gun death rates in Western Europe, but mass shootings are rare with two such incidents in the last 20 years. The country’s higher gun death rate can largely be attributed to suicide with guns, since the latest available statistics show a gun suicide rate of 2.74 per 100,000 people, only slightly below the overall gun death rate of 3.01.
Fully automatic weapons are banned except for military purposes, as are most semi-automatic firearms that were once fully automatic.
Swissinfo notes that Switzerland has for some time had some of the most lax gun laws in Europe. All Swiss have a right to possess firearms under the law but may require a license to do so. All 26 cantons keep track of the guns held within their borders as well as the ammunition. A seller of a hunting rifle, for example, must report the sale and the name of the owner to cantonal authorities.
For example, those looking to acquire a handgun need a permit valid for a maximum of nine months. However, no license is needed to possess firearms for hunting or sport.
Since Switzerland has a militia army, members of its military may keep an unloaded service weapons at home. The ammunition is, however, strictly regulated by the army.
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