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I recently inherited a firearm that I want to keep. How do I have to proceed? Or the other way around: I want to give the gun away. What are my options? This question is particularly topical at the moment because the revised Arms Act came into force on August 15th. What the answers are is important, especially in Switzerland, where over 3 million firearms are likely to be in circulation. Below is an overview of the new situation.

On May 19, 2019, 63.7% of the Swiss population voted for the partial revision of the Weapons Act. The changes are minor, but depending on the type of weapon, certain formalities have to be completed.

Most of the weapons owned by private individuals in Switzerland are not affected by the change in the law.Nothing has changed for orderly weapons(i.e. weapons from the military), for which the provisions of the army will continue to apply in the future.

What specifically changes with the new weapons law

With the revision of the law, Swiss legislation was adapted to European standards. Semi-automatic firearms now fall into a different category for which a special permit is required. This includes the following weapons:

  • Semi-automatic handguns with large magazine (more than 10 cartridges)
  • Semi-automatic handguns with a large magazine (more than 20 cartridges)
  • Semi-automatic handguns with folding or telescopic shafts, the total length of which can be reduced to less than 60 cm without any loss of functionality.

Anyone who owns such a weapon does not have to do anything if it has already been registered with the competent authorities in the canton of residence. The list of cantonal arms offices is available on the fedpol website.

If the weapon is not listed, possession of the weapon must be reported within 3 years. This notification is free of charge.

If in doubt, it is easiest to ask directly at the cantonal weapons office whether the weapon has already been registered or not.

Gun acquisition licenses remain valid for 6 months after August 15th. During this period they are not subject to the new law.

For sport shooters, acquiring a weapon that is subject to the new legal requirements will not be significantly more complicated. It is sufficient to be a member of a shooting club or to provide evidence of regular use of the weapon for sport shooting (at least 5 shots in 5 years).

This proof must be provided 5 and 10 years after the purchase of such a weapon and is provided at the cantonal weapons office with a form, the service booklet or the military performance certificate.

Sports shooting for beginners and young shooters is not made more difficult by the law. Nothing will change in this regard: people who want to start shooting can find out more from shooting ranges in your area. As before, young shooters are subject to military law.

The main aim of the revision of the law is to improve the traceability of weapons and their components. Collectors and museums are perhaps the hardest hit.

These persons and institutions can continue to purchase weapons affected by the change in the law. However, they must prove that they are storing and displaying the weapons safely. They also have to keep a list of the various weapons. Collectors or museums that have unreported weapons that are affected by the revision of the law must inform the cantonal weapons office.

If you do not have any weapons yourself, you may not have fully understood everything that was addressed in the above text. Therefore, in the following we will not only present the innovations of the future law, but also the existing ones. We also show you how to proceed specifically if you inherit weapons.

The gun law explained very simply

For the civilian population in Switzerland, the legal framework for gun ownership is defined by two pieces of legislation: the one that has just been revisedFederal Act on Weapons, Gun Accessories and Ammunition(Flat share)and theOrdinance on weapons, weapon accessories and ammunition(WV).Within this framework, the responsible cantonal weapons offices issue further regulations on weapons.

But what actually counts as a weapon from the point of view of the law and into which categories are they divided? Below is an overview:

  • Firearms (pistols and revolvers, shotguns, semi-automatic weapons)
  • Compressed air and CO2 weapons
  • Imitation guns, blank firing guns and soft-air guns
  • Knives of more than 12 cm and a blade length of more than 5 cm (butterfly knives, throwing knives, knives with an automatic trigger mechanism)
  • Daggers with symmetrical blades less than 30 cm
  • Devices designed to injure people (baton, throwing star, brass knuckles, slingshot, etc.)
  • Electric shock devices and sprays (for example spray products with irritants, except pepper sprays)

Special provisions apply to antique weapons (firearms manufactured before 1870, cutting and stabbing weapons manufactured before 1900, etc.), except for carrying and transporting the weapons.

Who is allowed to own a weapon in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, anyone can purchase a weapon that meets the following criteria:

  • Of legal age
  • No comprehensive assistance and no representation by a person authorized to do so
  • Ensuring safe use of the weapon for yourself and others
  • No entries in the criminal record for violent or publicly dangerous acts or for repeated crimes / offenses

Minors who practice shooting may borrow a weapon if the last three criteria are met. Your legal representative must give their consent in writing.

Foreign nationals residing in Switzerland who want to acquire a weapon must have a weapon acquisition license and an official weapon possession permit from their country of origin. This provision does not apply to persons with a C permit.

Acquisition of weapons by foreign nationals in Switzerland

Citizens of certain countries cannot acquire weapons in principle. This applies to people from the following countries: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Turkey.

The Confederation explains this by stating that these are conflict areas and that disputes in connection with these conflicts have taken place or could take place in Switzerland. In addition, firearms from Switzerland were illegally brought into these countries.

Anyone who imports or exports weapons permanently or temporarily (transit) must fill out forms and certificates. These formalities vary in complexity, depending on the country (Schengen or not), the type of weapon and the reason for transport (moving, shooting competition or hunting).

The different types of weapons

The procedure for acquiring a firearm differs depending on the type of weapon. There are three types:

  1. Reportable weapons

Rabbit killers, alarm guns, single-shot hunting rifles

  1. Weapons requiring a license

Pistols, revolvers, bolt action rifles, semi-automatic rifles and carbines with small magazine capacities

  1. Prohibited weapons for which an exemption is required

Automatic handguns, heavy machine guns, semi-automatic weapons with large magazine capacities (more than 10 shots for rifles and carbines, more than 20 shots for pistols) and semi-automatic handguns with folding or telescopic shafts, auxiliary devices for firearms (laser or night vision sights, grenade launchers).

What is the concrete procedure for the various weapons?

If you want to purchase a reportable weapon (in a shop or from a private individual) a contract must be signed. This contains information about the seller (i.e. the person who sells the weapon), the person who bought it and the weapon itself.

A contract template is available on the website of the Federal Office of Police (fedpolto find.

Since the cantons are responsible for law enforcement, a copy of the contract must be submitted to the responsible arms office within 30 days of purchase. If necessary, an extract from the acquirer's criminal record must be attached to the document.

Weapons that require a license can be acquired with a weapons acquisition license. This is obtained from the cantonal offices using an application form and must be issued before purchasing a weapon.

An exemption is required for prohibited weapons. The application form must be sent to the cantonal weapons office. You must also justify in writing why you want to purchase a prohibited weapon. These exemptions are granted to marksmen, collectors and museums.

As with weapons that require a license, the license must be obtained before purchasing the prohibited weapon.

The list of the various cantonal arms offices can be found on the fedpol website.

Other important points of the weapons law

Even after purchasing a weapon, certain restrictions and regulations apply:

  • Anyone who carries a weapon in publicly accessible places requires a permit to carry a weapon. The person must prove that they need the weapon for self-protection or to protect another person. In addition, she must take a theoretical and practical test.
    • No license to carry a weapon is required for the transport of the weapon to shooting events, on the way to or from a military barracks, an armory, a shooting range, an arms shop, an arms event or when moving to a new place of residence. Gun and ammunition must be separate.
  • It is forbidden to shoot in public spaces outside of shooting ranges or shooting events.
  • Certain ammunition (hard core, explosive or incendiary projectiles) are prohibited.
  • Weapons must be stored carefully and protected from access by third parties.

With that in mind, let us now turn to the question of what to do with weapons that are inherited.

Heirs to a weapon in Switzerland

From a legal point of view, inheriting a weapon is considered acquiring a weapon. Therefore the procedure is also the same. The provisions that have already been declared therefore also apply to the inheritance of weapons.

If you want to keep the inherited weapon

If there are several heirs, the cantonal authority will ask the person who wishes to keep the weapon a confirmation signed by the co-heirs that they waive their right to claim. If the estate contains several weapons, a list must be drawn up.

Once these questions have been settled, the person who inherits the weapon must clarify which category the weapon belongs to before proceeding further. Of course, it is not possible to conclude a contract with the deceased person in the case of notifiable weapons. It is therefore sufficient if the inherited weapon is reported to the cantonal weapons office. Specifically, this means:

Notifiable = notification to the cantonal weapons office

License required = application for a weapons acquisition license

Prohibited weapon = cantonal exemption

In addition, the same requirements apply as for the other two weapon categories. For example, a person under full assistance cannot inherit weapons. Foreign nationals (without a C permit) must present an official confirmation from their home country, and persons from, for example, Sri Lanka cannot inherit weapons.

As already mentioned, gun owners are legally obliged to store guns carefully. These must not be accessible to third parties, but only to the person in possession of the weapons. This clue is especially important when we assume that heirs may never have had a weapon before. If the heirs have children, they must be made aware that there is a new weapon in their vicinity.

This can reduce the risk of accidents.

In the case of weapons from an estate, the heirs have 6 months to take the necessary steps with the cantonal authorities.

When you inherit weapons and don't want to keep them

If the heirs do not want to keep the inherited weapons, they can sell or give them away within 6 months. Of course, they need to ensure that the person to whom they are transferring the weapon (i.e. to whom they are selling or transferring ownership) is authorized to purchase a weapon.

If a weapon is only sold or donated after this 6-month period, the heirs must first complete the legally prescribed formalities for themselves before selling the weapon.

It is also possible to hand in any weapon to the canton police. This destroys the weapon or gives interesting pieces to museums.

If a weapon is only discovered on the deceased after the period of 6 months and the heirs did not know about it, it must be reported to the cantonal authorities. According to the broadcastOn en parle From a legal point of view, heirs of the RTS radio station in western Switzerland have little to fear, as the cantonal authorities are especially happy when there are no unreported weapons in circulation.

[CHECKLIST]: Planning a weapon estate

To avoid such surprises, people in possession of weapons can take certain measures:

  • Let the people around you know that you have weapons.
  • Keep an up-to-date directory and keep it with other important documents (wills, living wills, etc.).
  • Think about who you want to bequeath the gun to.
    • Let this person know.
    • Make sure that this legacy is not a burden on the person.
    • Explain to her the necessary safety precautions (use, storage).
    • Explain to this person the formalities that the law requires them to complete.
  • If your descendants do not want to take over the weapons, consider who they want to bequeath them to.
    • Sale or donation to a private person / museum / collector
    • Bring the guns to the police

Further information: Arms and Switzerland

Arms and Switzerland, it's a love story. Depending on the estimate, 2.5 to 3.4 million weapons are currently in circulation in our country. In terms of the number of weapons per capita, Switzerland is at least 18th or - with the higher figure - even 3rd . In this system, all young men have to serve, which is why the Swiss army is traditionally large compared to the size of the country.

In addition, all of these “citizen soldiers” are armed, and they also have to complete target practice outside of the military. That is why they take their guns home after their military service and keep them there.

That is the main reason why so many weapons are in circulation in Switzerland.

«Switzerland doesn't have an army, it is an army. »

This proverb remains anchored in the collective consciousness, and yet the relationship between the “Confederates” and military service has changed over time. Since the end of the Cold War, a "strong" army has become less important in the eyes of the population.

A few years later, in 2003, the people approved the Reform Army XXI, which cut the army by more than half. At the same time, more and more soldiers are deciding to leave their weapons in the armory instead of taking them home. In 2017, for example, this was the case for 90% of those doing military service. But apart from the military, weapons also play a role in Switzerland.

Historical connection to weapons

Various traditions are deeply rooted in connection with weapons, such as hunting or sport shooting, which became popular in the 19th century. Today sport shooting is practiced as a hobby by over 130,000 members in shooting clubs. In addition to the Swiss Federal Shooting Festival, there are other events such as the “boys' shooting” in Zurich or the Grand tir des abbayes in the canton of Vaud.

This custom of shooting events became popular shortly after the militia army was established, but it now also exists independently of the military context.

The criminologist Martin Killias also aptly summarized the profile of the armed people in Switzerland in the French-speaking newspaper Le Temps:“The vast majority of armed people in Switzerland are doing military service, are otherwise connected to the army or are marksmen or hunters. »

Arms in Switzerland and arms in the USA

When it comes to arms, Switzerland is often compared to the USA, the most heavily armed country in the world.

There are many guns in circulation in both countries, but proportionally there are far more gun fatalities in the USA than in Switzerland. The rampage in Zug has shaped Switzerland, but in recent years it has been the only mass shooting in Switzerland.

Every year in Switzerland there are slightly more than 200 deaths from weapons, around 90% of which are suicides.

During the same period tens of thousands of people died from firearms in mass shootings or other accidents in the United States. In 2015 alone, the National Health Statistics Office (CDC) recorded 36,252 gun deaths.In the same year, “only” 231 people died from firearms in Switzerland.

These extreme numbers prompted the satirical program Daily Show to shoot a report about weapons in Switzerland.

Anywhere else in the world

But in the list of countries with the most firearms per capita, it is not only Switzerland and the USA that stand out with high numbers.

The ranking varies depending on the estimates, but Yemen regularly makes it onto the podium. The civil war, which has raged since 2014, explains the high rate of 54.8 firearms per 100 people.

The Scandinavian countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland) are also represented. The generous laws and hunting tradition explain why there are between 45 and 30 weapons per 100 civilians.

In Serbia this figure is 37 weapons per 100 people. Millions of weapons have been in circulation since the wars of the 1990s, and the country is considered the hub of the international arms trade to Western Europe.

Cyprus is also one of the most heavily armed countries with 36.4 firearms per 100 people. The exact reasons for this are difficult to determine, but hunting and the fact that reservists and army veterans can keep their weapons at home probably play a role.

A recipe for avoiding gun deaths

A closer look at the individual countries in the ranking shows that the number of gun deaths is relatively low, except in the USA - or in countries with current conflicts and tensions (e.g. Iraq and Yemen).

According to the GunPolicy website, which deals with international weapons policy, all of these countries with lower values ​​have restrictive weapons laws. In contrast to the USA, it is not easy to acquire a weapon in these countries. Not even for your own protection.

While socio-economic factors also play a role when it comes to gun fatalities, gun regulation legislation is a key element in gun control.

This is probably one of the reasons why two camps face each other in every vote on weapons in Switzerland.

PROTELL, the representation of the Swiss arms lobby

On the one hand there is PROTELL, an association that «protects the interests of all citizens who have and carry weapons in a non-partisan way.» PROTELL is very liberal and systematically defends itself against restrictions on gun ownership.

PROTELL - and the people who campaign for weapons in Switzerland - are not necessarily politicized or part of a party. But because they only want minimal government intervention in matters of weapons and represent rather conservative values ​​(use of the symbol William Tell, war and security rhetoric), they are to be classified more on the right on the political scale. In the elections, the candidates supported by PROTELL often come from right-wing parties (SVP and FDP), and the president of the organization, Jean-Luc Addor, is a member of the SVP.

For arms supporters in Switzerland, these are an expression of sovereignty and national traditions.

Incidentally, this ideal was also propagated in the campaign for the vote on May 19, 2019. The guns proponents who opposed the bill, for example, spoke of an EU dictate. Your website was called “EU-Diktat-no”.

The GSoA or the anti-weapons lobby

On the other side is the GSoA (Group for a Switzerland without an Army), which represents the opponents of arms in Switzerland. The GSoA was founded with the aim of launching a popular initiative to abolish the army, but it also defines itself as an “anti-weapons lobby”.

The GSoA is a pacifist group that defies the logic of internal security and wants to gradually disarm Switzerland and its people.

The GSoA supported the latest revision of the Weapons Act. For the group, the text, even if it was not very restrictive, went in the right direction: "In fact, people who have weapons can keep them, and at the same time the general public benefits from more security from armed violence."

The GSoA belongs to the left-wing political spectrum. The group calls for the struggle for political progress and cites the abolition of slavery and the introduction of women's suffrage as examples.

What future do weapons have in Switzerland?

At the current time, when the world is striving for an ecological turnaround and society is likely to change fundamentally, future political trends are difficult to predict. Because even progressive movements can trigger the resurgence of conservative values ​​as a reaction.

In Switzerland, where the SVP remains the strongest political party and the population is still attached to its traditions, weapons are unlikely to be banned anytime soon. But the turnaround could come from the army.

Does the dismantling of the army herald the end of arms?

In recent years, since access to community service was made easier, the army has lost support. Fewer and fewer young Swiss want to do military service. In response to this, the Federal Council decided to make community service less attractive. A strategy that perplexes certain observers. In addition, a referendum could be launched against the government's measures.

The dream of the GSoA - an unarmed Switzerland - seems utopian (all initiatives in this sense clearly failed), on the other hand it is quite possible that the army will find too few willing to serve due to a lack of attractiveness.

It is therefore conceivable in the medium or long term that the army will be further reduced and professionalized. Without militiamen, fewer weapons are likely to be in circulation, since weapons ownership in Switzerland is, as already mentioned, strongly tied to the military. Because:"The vast majority of armed people in Switzerland are doing military service or are otherwise connected to the army (...)"

If this assumption is correct, this will not be evident for a few decades at the earliest.