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19 May: Another day, another referendum

Posted by Thersites on  UTC 2019-05-06 09:12

On 19 May this year the Swiss people will have another chance to express their meaningless opinion in another pointless referendum, this time concerning the ownership of firearms, more precisely the introduction of a new law to restrict that ownership.

Up until now, with the exceptions of times such as that moment in Graubünden in 1799 when their new masters the French wanted to disarm the Swiss populace, the citizens' ownership of weapons has been a right that can only be refused in certain very exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, the venerable institution of a milita army obliges serving citizens to keep weapons and to keep themselves skilled in their use. During their military service many Swiss get a taste for firing weapons as a pastime. It is estimated that in Switzerland, with a population of around 8.5 million, there are about 2.5 million firearms in private ownership.

Within the country the ownership of firearms is a political non-issue. Despite the quantity of firearms in private possession, the number of cases in which they have been used has been in continual decline over the last twenty years: in 2016 there were 239 cases involving firearms, 212 of which (almost 90 percent) were suicides. For any sane politician, therefore, there are no grounds for stirring up the mud at the bottom of that particular pond.

Switzerland, however, is a signatory to the European Schengen Agreement. In the Schengen countries the ownership of firearms is a privilege not a right, one that has been progressively restricted over the years.

Switzerland, although outside the EU, joined Schengen voluntarily in order to allow it to participate in the immense transnational police state that Schengen implements. Schengen is the price that has to be paid for having a continent without borders.

The Swiss now face a choice: fall into line on firearms or be thrown out of Schengen and lose all the benefits of rapid cross-border policing intelligence, including the ability to identify asylum seekers who have already been given asylum in other countries.

The new firearms law will change Swiss law to make it acceptable to the Schengen community. The opponents of the new law see it as the thin end of the wedge: once the right has been replaced by the privilege, further restrictive measures – such as psychological testing for owners of weapons – are bound to follow. The thought of the state of mind of the Swiss citizen being tested in this way – well, who knows where that will end.

For the avoidance of doubt, this website is agnostic on the issue of the private possession of firearms: blasting the odd burglar to one of the circles of Hell – although Dante gives no specific location in this case – would probably be quite satisfying. But your author has no illusions: before the burglar finally got sent to the appropriate circle there would probably be a lot of expensive collateral damage, including dog, cat, budgie and window glass. A huge amount of Polyfilla would also be needed for the walls. Out of 100+ rounds fired, though, one would certainly hit its mark. But the rational and by far the cheapest option would be to let the intruder take what he wanted.

Apart from destroying your home in the course of repelling a burglar there is no other point in gun ownership, unless you like to fire guns at targets for fun. The idea that the ownership of some popgun confers freedom on private citizens is completely illusory: when the armed might of the Powers-That-Be come for you, your popgun will just be a joke.

Just as it was for the inhabitants of Graubünden all those years ago, the Swiss now face a referendum on a political decision not of their making, of which there can only be one acceptable outcome: accepting the new law in subservience to the greater power.

Having signed up to the Schengen Agreement in 2005, the Swiss cannot just vote to ignore at their convenience the monster they have joined. As one commentator recently put it, using a common German saying: the new firearms law was the 'toad that had to be swallowed' in order to keep Schengen. The trouble with this argument, as history has shown, is that another toad needing to be swallowed always turns up a short time thereafter.

For today's internationally compliant Swiss government, leaving the Schengen Agreement is unthinkable. If the referendum rejects the new firearms law, the government will be in the same position as it was with the acceptance of the 2010 referendum to expel foreign criminals from the country, a result that violated Switzerland's subjugation to European courts. That unfortunate result was kicked into the long grass, where it remains to this day, unimplemented.

Once more Switzerland finds itself asking the electorate for a solution to a problem for which there is only one feasible answer. The choice is clear: Schengen and a nation of partly disarmed serfs, or no Schengen and a nation of under-armed serfs. Choose.