Swiss Reservists May Have to Give Up Guns
Referendum would change tradition of keeping weapons at home
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2011 4:34 PM CST
People walk by a poster urging people to vote against the initiative in Geneva, Switzerland.   (AP Photo/Frank Jordans)

(Newser) – Switzerland's gun laws are closer to America's than those of most other European countries, but a referendum this weekend may curb the centuries-old tradition of armed households. Most Swiss males under 50 are military reservists and usually take their military-issue rifles home with them, but the initiative being voted on would require them to store the weapons in public arsenals instead, Der Spiegel reports.

A persistently high suicide rate and several mass murders have weakened support for gun ownership, and polls suggest the measure will narrowly pass, despite stiff opposition from the military and traditionalists who invoke folk hero marksman William Tell. One poll found that women were 24% more likely to favor the gun control measure, the widest gender-based difference the polling institute has ever recorded. "Many women believe that it is unnecessary to keep a firearm at home nowadays whereas men typically fear for cherished Swiss traditions," the pollster says.