EU won’t ban Swiss army rifles at home

Taking aim: the EU won't ban taking Swiss military rifles at home for now Keystone

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga says the European Union’s plans for tighter gun control – which the Swiss would be obliged to follow because of cross-border agreements – likely will not affect the Swiss tradition of keeping militia army rifles at home.

This content was published on March 11, 2016 and agencies

Sommaruga spoke after Thursday’s meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels who agreed to review the draft plans after taking into account a wide variety of objections.

She said those plans – which could have barred minors from owning firearms, restricted online weapons sales and, notably for the Swiss, banned private use of most semi-automatic rifles – will now go back to the drawing board.

The plans had been drawn up following last year's terror attacks on Paris.

There had been great controversy in Switzerland surrounding the proposal concerning semi-automatic rifles, as it would have affected all those in the Swiss militia army who opt to take their army issue guns home after official duty – just over 10% of all conscripts.

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“The EU will not ban army-issue rifles in Switzerland,” Sommaruga said in Brussels after the meeting. “A clear majority were in favour of the private use of semi-automatic rifles continuing.”

Schengen member obligations

Although not a member of the EU, Switzerland’s participation in the Schengen AgreementExternal link - which allows for passport-free travel within its 26 signatories – obliges it to carry out any reforms to EU gun law. That is due to the added ease of movement for residents of Schengen areas – and their potential to transport arms.

France, Belgium and Britain had been the biggest supporters of the draft plan. Nordic and eastern European countries, which have a strong hunting tradition, had come out against some of the measures, as did Finland, which has a tradition of Finnish volunteer militias.

Sommaruga acknowledged the need for security to be part of the equation but emphasised that Bern wants “a pragmatic solution which takes into account Swiss tradition”. The EU proposals will now be revised.

Switzerland is one of the last countries in Western Europe with mandatory military serviceExternal link. Under the Swiss constitution, every able-bodied male Swiss citizen has to serve in the Swiss militia army from the age of 18. Exceptions are allowed for those opting for civilian service.

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