February 13, 2011 / 1:58 PM / 8 years ago

Swiss reject ban on keeping army weapons at home

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss voters, upholding their national tradition of an ever-ready citizen army, on Sunday rejected a proposal to ban army firearms from their homes, following an emotional debate on the subject.

Provisional results of Sunday’s vote showed that 57 percent voted against tightening the rules on army firearms in a country where many see keeping a weapon at home as a crucial element of national identity.

The vast majority of Swiss men liable for military service store their guns at home and often keep them after leaving the army. Occasional shootings, such as a massacre in 2001 in a cantonal parliament, have prompted calls for tighter controls.

“There was a clear division between cities where voters were more in favour of the initiative and the countryside where people were mobilised against it,” Claude Longchamp, head of research institute gfs.bern, said on Swiss television.

Supporters of the initiative, which also aimed to restrict purchases of new guns and set up a central register of all gun owners, used posters featuring a teddy bear with a bleeding bullet wound in its torso.

Backed by the socialist and ecologist parties, the initiative aimed to ban the estimated 2 million guns kept at home. More than half of them were issued by the army, the justice and police ministry said on its website.

Opponents, among them the right-wing SVP, the country’s biggest party, said a ban would not improve safety. Their posters showed a crumpled red paper lantern bearing a white Swiss cross and the slogan “Destroying Swiss values?”

Swiss citizens vote several times a year on initiatives put forward by groups of people and in referendums questioning laws passed by parliament.

Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; editing by Tim Pearce

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