Swiss model versus EU bureaucracy

EU Weapons Directive is in contradiction to the freedom of citizens

by Dr iur Marianne Wüthrich

In the spring session 2017 and later in the autumn session, the National Council and than the Council of States dealt with the EU weapons directive, which was tightened under the motto “Fight against terrorism”. (cf. “Swiss traditions must not be overgrown by EU law”, Current Concerns No. 24 from 3 October 2017). The consultation process lasted from 29 September 2017 to 5 January 2018, while the cantons and political parties, associations and other interested citizens were able to comment on the intended implementation of the EU Weapons Directive into Swiss law (so-called further development of the Schengen acquis).1
    The study of the planned amendments to the gun control law reveals even to people not familiar with the topic, that the Swiss understanding of law and freedom and the relationship of trust between citizens and the state does not digest foreign law easily, which incidentally does not fit to the culture of many other European countries and therefore has met with resistance. Subsequently, the EU Commission stepped back a little, but far from enough. Accordingly, the responses on the consultation of the Swiss associations particularly affected are strongly opposed to this new legislation.
    Switzerland is now given time until 31 May 2019 to adapt its gun control law to the EU weapons legislation. We still have the parliamentary and direct-democratic     process of issuing legislation. Let us remember this at every other “autonomous adoption of the law”: with an institutional framework agreement, the entire Swiss legislative process, together with the optional referendum and thus the debate among citizens everywhere in the country would cease to exist. Rather the “further development of EU law” would apply directly to Switzerland and that would be the end of direct democratic Switzerland.

Restrictions of traditional marksmen associations, hunting and the general freedom of citizens is not really wanted by most politicians, apart from those who would prefer to join the EU. Nevertheless, some politicians and the media are once again queuing up in front of the Brussels headquarters like rabbits caught in the headlights.

Restrictions of freedom against the will of the people and a lot of bureaucracy for the cantonal administrations

The EU directive would entail an enormous complication of the laws and administrative procedures applied in Switzerland … Long lists of “weapons, weapon components and accessories”, the purchase, sale, import and possession of which would be banned in Switzerland in the future (Gun Control Law Art.5)2    . After all, the activities of shooting clubs and “shooting for hunting” are basically permitted. The following are long lists of possible exemptions for marksmen, weapon collectors, museums (Art. 28b-e), which the cantons “may approve” (Art. 5 (6)). Estimable reasons for granting an exemption also apply, among other things, to the “requirements of national defence”(Art. 28c, para 2 d.) – A very friendly gesture from the EU leaders! In particular, what is meant is that the Swiss soldiers can continue to take their personal weapon home and, under certain conditions, keep it even after they leave the army, as is customary in our militia army. This was clearly confirmed by the sovereign on 13 February 2011: 56.3 per cent of voters and 20 out of 26 cantons said no to the “Protection against armed violence” initiative.

Is exclusion from Schengen, really a catastrophe?

According to National Council member Ida Glanzmann, CVP (Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 5 January 2018), the Schengen Information System is crucial for our security agencies in the fight against terrorism, and exclusion would be a catastrophe. In reality, Switzerland has always had agreements with its neighbours on police cooperation. Before being integrated into the Schengen Agreement, we were also allowed to monitor our national borders (which various EU member states have been doing since the migration wave of 2014 despite Schengen...). It is doubtful whether the EU leaders would exclude Switzerland from the agreement, as our country is contributing to the protection of external borders. And if they did, let us not forget how short-lived the excitement in Swiss universities was when the EU excluded us from the Erasmus+ student exchange programme against international law. After the first shock, it became apparent that expulsion did not harm either the students nor the Federal Treasury – on the contrary.3 Today it is the Federal Council that postpones Switzerland’s renewed association with Erasmus+. Would Schengen perhaps be similar?
Whether the tightening of the EU Weapons Directive, which is under discussion, will have any effect at all on the fight against terrorism, is clearly put into question in the answers of important associations to the consultation. Moreover, governments that want to protect their populations against terrorist attacks could also seriously consider whether they should stop participating in illegal wars against peoples who haven’t done any harm to them.    •

1     Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP). Consultation on the preliminary draft of the Federal Decree on the approval and implementation of the exchange of diplomatic notes between Switzerland and the EC concerning the adoption of Directive (EU) 2017/853 amending Directive 91/477/EEC (further development of the Schengen acquis).
2     Draft of the Federal Council amending the Federal Act on Weapons, Accessories and Ammunition (Gun Control Law) from 20 June 1997.
3     see “Check your contractors first!” Current Concerns No. 1 from 14/1/2015 (https://www.zeit-fragen.ch/en/ausgaben/2015/nr-1-6-januar-2015/nimm-deine-vertragspartner-zuerst-unter-die-lupe.html )

“Fight against terror” with stricter weapon law

(Excerpts from consultation responses of important associations)

Swiss Shooting Association SSV, 13.12.2017:


“Both the EU Weapons Directive and the Federal Council’s bill miss the original target. The EU Weapons Directive was drafted after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris and elsewhere with the intention of preventing such attacks in the future. The bill cannot achieve this goal.
There is a fake solution on the table, which mainly punishes the legal gun owner, but for example, does not contain any measures against the dangerous trade in illegal weapons. [...] We already have a precise and well-installed weapons law against the misuse of firearms. A further tightening is simply disproportionate and takes place exclusively at the behest of the EU.”

Swiss Officer’s Association SOG, 21.12.2017:


“The Federal Council’s proposal on how to implement the EU Weapons Directive into Swiss law hits the legal owner of guns, not the dangerous trade in illegal weapons. The SOG advocates a liberal weapon law. In their opinion, it is therefore appropriate for the Federal Council to accept the EU Weapons Directive but at the same time stress that the existing Swiss laws are sufficient.”

Swiss Noncommissioned Officer’s Association SUOV, 29.12.2017:


“The goal of combating terrorism is far missed here, but more and unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles are being created for the legitimate gun owner. [...] Righteous citizens and former militia soldiers (who usually became owners of weapons without reserve and unconditionally) should now be fundamentally mistrusted, arbitrarily and unfounded. Only when the citizen has proven the opposite, he or she receives a temporary license with conditions. The paradigm shift would hit Switzerland hard because completely unfounded, the government is changing from a culture of confidence to a culture of mistrust, which Switzerland has never done in its history.”

Pro Tell Society for a Liberal Weapon Law, 21.12.2017:


“Without contributing to the im-provement of public safety, the provisions of the Directive (EU 2017/853 Development of the Schengen acquis) treat hundreds of thousands of honest and law-abiding citizens and legal rights holders as potential criminals; Pro Tell is fundamentally opposed to the proposed revision of the Weapons Act and therefore asks the Federal Council to notify the EU of the rejection of Directive (EU) 2017/853 by the Swiss Confederation. There is no doubt that the existing Swiss law has long provided provisions that ensure public safety without at the same time violating centuries-old rights and unnecessarily restricting traditional freedoms [...]”.

(Translation Current Concerns)

Christian Democratic Party (CVP) and Social Democratic Party (SP) for rapid implementation of the framework agreement

mw. Forward with the institutional framework agreement! SP president Christian Levrat and CVP Foreign Affairs committee president Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter announce the timetable desired by their party leaders: The referendum on a package of Bilateral III with framework agreement should take place before the Federal elections (in October 2019). This means debates and final votes in the National Council and Council of States by the end of 2018, followed by 100 days referendum period, then the referendum (the referendum is certain to be taken) in May 2019. FDP (Free Democratic Party) president Petra Gössi, how-ever, does not want to be put under time pressure from the EU and warns against package solutions (after the extensive corporate taxes III bills and the revision of pension act at the ballot box have failed), and the SVP (Swiss People’s Party) will fight according to party president Albert Rösti in any case against the agreement – no matter when, but certainly with particular momentum before the elections! (“Neue Zürcher Zeitung” from 6.1.2018)
If there is already talk of a timetable, it would actually be appropriate in the direct democratic Switzerland, that the population is gradually told the plain truth as it should happen concretely, such as the automatic adoption of EU law and the dispute settlement or the announcement by the ECJ, “which way it goes”.
Using current examples, such as the implementation of the EU Weapons Directive, we can get a more and more accurate picture, despite the unpublished draft framework agreement: In reality, it is about being, or not being part of the Swiss model.