Turnout was about 43 per cent, on a day when the Swiss also voted on other local and federal issues, including on financing their pensions system.
Opponents conceded defeat but warned the new regulations would undermine traditional values.
«By approving stricter gun control, Switzerland has given in to pressure by the EU,» Lukas Reimann of the People’s party told the local public broadcaster.
But Daniel Jositsch, a Social Democratic senator, was quoted by news outlets as saying that the decision meant improved security for Switzerland and helped relations with Brussels.
Under the new law, Switzerland will strengthen labelling and registration rules for private weapons and for their main components. Anticipating objections, the Swiss government said it had extracted some concessions from the European Union, particularly to continue to allow Swiss soldiers to keep their weapons at home, including army-issued assault rifles, following initial military training. Army reservists are then required to take these weapons to regular shooting practice until the age of 34.
Swiss citizens will also retain the ability to buy semi-automatic weapons, but only if they can show they regularly train with them. Switzerland does not require medical or psychological tests to purchase such weapons.
The law will also leave untouched weaponry and registration procedures for shooting courses and competitions held in Switzerland. In addition to local festivals, Switzerland hosts the annual «Feldschiessen,» or field shoot, which organisers say is the largest marksmanship competition in the world, drawing about 127,000 participants last year.
After terrorists attacked the Bataclan concert hall and other spots in Paris in November 2015, killing some 130 people, and following deadly attacks on the subway and at the airport in Brussels a few months later, the European Union introduced new gun legislation in 2017 to make it harder to purchase the kind of semi-automatic rifles that were used in those attacks, as well as make it easier for the police to track ownership of such weapons.
Switzerland, which is home to 8.4 million people, has a ratio of about 27 firearms per 100 residents, based upon the most recent study from the Small Arms Survey run by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
According to the same study, more than a dozen countries have proportionally higher firearm ownership than Switzerland, led by the United States, where there are about 120 firearms for every 100 residents. The European country that ranks highest in the chart is Finland, with about 34 firearms per 100 residents.
The Swiss Parliament approved the new rules in September. But firearms and hunting lobbyists and associations, with the support of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, campaigned to force a national referendum.
One of the arguments made by opponents is that Switzerland has had relatively few mass shootings, compared with the United States and other countries where weapons can also easily be acquired. In 2018, 22 homicides were committed with a firearm in Switzerland, down from 43 the previous year, according to government statistics.
Switzerland’s worst mass shooting occurred in 2001, only two weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, when a 57-year-old man burst into a regional parliament in Zug and killed 14 people before shooting himself.
The killer, who held a grudge against local authorities and had been entangled in a lawsuit following a dispute with a bus driver, was armed with several different weapons, including his Swiss army assault rifle. After the shooting, Swiss authorities tightened security around both federal and local parliamentary buildings, but the killings did not result in tougher gun legislation.
The New York Times