Swiss voters approve tighter gun control, avoid EU clash

What you need to know about Switzerland’s crucial gun control referendum

The projections indicate that 67% of voters in Sunday's referendum supported tougher restrictions on semi-automatic and automatic weapons.

While the government cautioned that the new legislation was crucial to the non-EU country maintaining its treaties with the bloc, the proposal sparked a fierce pushback from the gun lobby and shooting enthusiasts, who gathered enough signatures to trigger a vote under Switzerland's famous direct democratic system.

Fearing their country's tradition of shooting for sport might was under threat, rifle aficionados had opposed the change, saying it wouldn't make the country any safer, since criminals don't typically buy guns legally. Incidentally, Switzerland has a high ownership rate of guns.

Swiss voters approved, in a referendum on Sunday, by a two-thirds majority to tighten gun controls, including stricter controls for semi-automatic weapons, bringing the non-EU member state's rules in line with European Union rules introduced after the 2015 Paris attacks.

After militants killed scores in Paris and elsewhere in 2015, the European Union in 2017 toughened laws against purchasing semi-automatic rifles such as the ones used in those attacks, and made it easier to track weapons in national databases.

Swiss officials negotiated concessions, but some gun activists argued that the rules still encroached on citizens' rights.

Switzerland voted Sunday on a measure that would impact its gun laws, including serial-numbering of certain gun parts and additional training requirements for ownership.

Polling stations in most places are set to open at 10am (2pm Cambodian time) and to close at noon, but most people in the Alpine nation vote in advance and final results are usually tallied by late afternoon.

A lot. In the run-up to the referendum, the Swiss government has highlighted the fact that, under the terms of the EU-Swiss Schengen agreement, Switzerland could, in theory, be bundled out of the Schengen family if it fails to adopt the new gun rules.

It means civilians using and owning large-magazine semi-automatic guns will need special permission and additional checks.

In 2017, after a wave of deadly terrorist attacks across Europe, the European Council and Parliament approved changes to EU weapons laws.

Failure to adopt the rules could have forced Switzerland to leave the passport-free Schengen zone and the Dublin joint system for handling asylum requests.

The government says this could cost the Swiss economy billions of francs a year while the Swiss Federal Office of Police warns that Switzerland would be deprived of key security and crime information accessible via the Schengen Information System.

Exit polls and preliminary results released shortly after polls closed at noon (1000 GMT) indicated that voters overwhelmingly supported reforming Swiss gun laws.

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