Switzerland: With top rate of domestic gun murder, women campaign to ban loaded guns in the home Print E-mail
 London -- Sunday October 22, 2006

Skier's murder prompts Swiss women's campaign for ban on guns in the home

By Ruth Elkins

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Willy Pfund is proud of his guns. "I have my assault rifle, my carbine rifle and a few sporting rifles," he says, as though talking about his favourite dogs.

The 67-year-old heads Switzerland 's powerful ProTELL gun lobby and says his firearms are all locked away in a steel cupboard at home, just as Swiss law requires. But they might not be there for much longer if women fighting to overturn an ancient Swiss tradition have their way.

There are about two million firearms in the homes of this peaceful nation. The reason is that all men in the Swiss army reserve are required to keep their semi-automatic guns at home.

Now, Switzerland's biggest women's magazine is leading a campaign to tighten what they see as the country's archaic gun laws. They want lawmakers to create a national gun register and ban loaded weapons being kept in the home.

A petition to the Swiss parliament contained the signatures of 17,400 Swiss women who support the reform campaign.

"There are more and more homicides in the home and more and more of the victims are women," says Lisa Feldmann, editor-in-chief of Annabelle. As well as having one of the highest gun-suicide rates in Europe, Switzerland has more women shot dead than almost anywhere in the Western world, many of them after arguments with men.

The wake-up call for Swiss women came with the killing of alpine skier Corinne Rey-Bellet earlier this year. She was shot dead by her army reservist husband 10 days after leaving him. Gerold Stadler, who also killed Rey-Bellet's brother before committing suicide, used his service pistol.

But Switzerland remains a deeply traditional country and the campaign has outraged many Swiss men.

"This really is the worst form of feminism," says ProTELL's Willy Pfund. "If a woman feels threatened by her husband or boyfriend keeping a gun at home, then she should be asking herself whether her relationship is in order, not blaming it on her partner having a gun."