The hills of Switzerland will soon be alive with the sound of gunfire.

The country’s largest annual shooting competition, the Feldschiessen, held between May 24 and 26, attracts an estimated 130,000 sharpshooters of all ages from all over Switzerland. It is not uncommon to see kids as young as 12 handling weapons with the steady-handed assurance of more experienced marksmen.

But the Feldschiessen — or field shooting competition, in English — is not just a recreational pursuit. It is anchored in a deep sense of civic responsibility and national pride in this Alpine nation of 8.5 million. Mandatory military service for males, for instance, is considered the pinnacle of patriotic duty.

Guns in Switzerland are seen as more than just a safeguard of neutrality and national security. More than any other Europeans, the Swiss pride themselves on their ability to manage their gun culture in a controlled and organized manner.

But now that culture is facing an existential threat from abroad. On May 19, the Swiss will vote on whether to keep their cherished shooting traditions intact, or submit to stricter gun regulations required by the European Union.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, when 130 people were killed mostly by gunfire, the E.U. restricted certain semi-automatic firearms and magazines, and made the purchase, licensing, and registration of weapons more onerous.

While Switzerland doesn’t belong to the E.U., it is part of the bloc’s Schengen zone that can be visited without a visa or passport by citizens of 26 European nations — and so Brussels is urging the country to comply with its laws. If Switzerland votes to refuse, it might be excluded from the Schengen zone, along with the tourism revenue and police and judicial support membership brings.

That’s why the government and most political parties here are urging voters to accept E.U.’s regulations in the nationwide ballot on Sunday. If approved by the electorate, the government argues on its website, the new law “will not change Swiss gun traditions,” including the ability to keep military weapons in soldiers’ homes, a custom dating back to WWII, when every man had to be armed and ready to defend his country at a moment’s notice.

But many here say the new law would be off-target. “The bureaucratic effort involved in buying guns would be many times larger,” says arms expert Jean-Paul Schild. “And it would bring nothing in terms of …read more

Source:: Time – World


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Switzerland Loves Guns. The E.U. Wants Reforms. Voters Will Decide

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