On May 19th, the majority of Swiss voters voted in favour of adopting the European firearms directive into national law. How could this happen, and is there a risk for gun rights outside of the Country?
As early as in late evening of Sunday, May 19th, the gun owners’ community worldwide was shocked to know that all Cantons of Switzerland – with the exception of Ticino – voted in a landslide to implement the 2017/853 European directive concerning the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons.
One of the pillars of Swiss society and of the freedom itself of the Confederation became secondary, at least at the eyes of over 60% of Swiss voters, if compared to the reasons of the approval campaign that stated the need for Switzerland to implement the European firearms directive in national law due to the commitment of the Country to the Schengen Agreement.
As a matter of fact, Switzerland is not a Member State of the European Union, but is a member of the Schengen free-trade and free-circulation area, and as such – along with other non-EU Schengen Countries such as Norway – it is bound by the the provisions of the Schengen Treaty to implement EU directives in national law.
«I think this result is really in the interest of Switzerland, of Swiss security and Swiss migratory policy. And once again Switzerland has given proof to be a reliable partner: once we sign a contract, we respect it.»
Pro-Tell – the main Swiss gun rights advocacy group and the main supporter for the “No” to the referendum – was of course disappointed by the results, but nonetheless declared that the outcome of the people's vote will be respected.
What will happen now?
Essentially, Switzerland will have to apply the Federal Decree passed last year that implements the key provisions of the European Firearms Directive in Swiss national law. While – as Pro-Tell reminds us – both the supporters of the “Yes” and the Federal Police stated that almost nothing will change for Swiss gun owners, everything will actually depend from how the restrictions now applying to Category A6, A7 and A8 firearms and the relevant exceptions will be implemented by each Canton.
The European firearms directive has specific exceptions to the new restrictions on certain categories of firearms put in place for sport shooters, collectors, and for the citizens of certain Countries – such as Switzerland – that have a militia- or reserve-based national defense system.
It’s worth noting, however, that in the coming weeks or months, the European Court of Justice will rule on the Czech Republic’s lawsuit against the European firearms directive, and the many possible outcomes include that very same exception being struck down out of proportionality.
The supporters of a new Swiss gun law based on the European firearms directive failed to mention this in their campaign, which could lead to the outcome of the May 19th vote being nullified by a court for lack of proper information to the voters – as already happened for the outcome of the Swiss 2016 vote on taxes to couples.
The campaign for the “Yes”
Once again it’s Pro-Tell pointing out how – outside of some generic reassurances of how the Swiss tradition of gun ownership and shooting would be “safeguarded” – the campaign for the approval of the European firearms directive’s implementation in Switzerland was focused on the risk that Switzerland could be suspended or expelled from the Schengen treaty on free circulation and Dublin agreement on migrations should the referendum be rejected. And their topics turned out to be particularly popular in French-speaking cantons and in the biggest cities such as Bern, Zurich or Geneva – all with strong socialist political tendencies.
Furthermore, as explained by the Swiss website Les Observateurs, the campaign in favour of the new European-level gun laws was not only supported by several anti-gun NGOs, but most notably funded by a network of Swiss private and public companies and chambers of commerce though the Swiss corporate union Economiesuisse.
As of today, an article can still be read on Economiesuisse’s website in French, Italian and German, recommending voters to accept the change in gun laws to avoid Switzerland being expelled from the Schengen area. But, according to Pro-Tell, Switzerland never risked to be ousted from the free-trade and free-circulation area, even if the change in gun laws was rejected.
A global risk?
As we already pointed out in our recent article on the possible sweeping gun ban coming to Canada, all laws restricting legal access to firearms – wherever they’re implemented – always constitute a risk of a domino effect. Now, the anti-gunners will be able to say that « Even gun-loving Switzerland accepted to implement common-sense restrictions.»
The next step would of course be a massive ban and confiscation – not unlike what is being done right now in New Zealand. The risk is very real for the Member States of the European Union, given how Article 17 of the 2017/853 European firearms directive introduces an automatic revision program on a five-years basis – no doubt, with a view to a progressive, unstoppable and total disarmament of law-abiding citizens:
“By 14 September 2020, and every 5 years thereafter, the Commission shall submit to the European Parliament and to the Council a report on the application of this Directive, including a fitness check of its provisions, accompanied, if appropriate, by legislative proposals concerning, in particular, the categories of firearms in Annex I and issues related to the implementation of the system for the European firearms pass, to marking and the impacts of new technologies such as 3D printing, the use of QR code and the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID).”
As gun owners in Countries such as the United Kingdom or Australia know all too well, the way down the slippery slope is quick, and without return.
With the European Parliament elections ahead – to be held on May 23rd thru 26th in all EU Countries – gun owners and gun rights supporters Europe-wide are left with one choice and one only: one-issue vote. While this may not be exactly in the European political DNAs, voting compactly and solely for pro-gun parties and disregarding all other political points is pretty much the only way our community in Europe has left to let politicians know that it’s time to face the real challenges and issues of the European society and put bogus and ideology-driven points such as gun control back into oblivion where they belong.