Switzerland’s incoming foreign minister Ignazio Cassis has quit two pro-weapons lobby groups over negative reactions to news of his membership.
Over the weekend, it was reported that he addressed and joined the Pro Tell lobby organisation just nine days before being voted into the cabinet.
A spokesperson for the Federal Chancellery announced on Monday that Cassis had renounced his membership in the group as well as another similar organisation because of the ongoing public discussion around it.
Cassis spoke to the Pro Tell group – a lobby advocating “liberal gun laws”, in its own words – on September 11, just over a week before he was voted into the cabinet. He is due to take over the role of foreign minister on November 1.
Contacted on Saturday by the Swiss news agency, ATS, the secretary-general of Pro Tell Robin Udry confirmed Cassis’ membership was still active.
Cassis released a statement on Saturday, via the Federal Chancellery, saying that he was evaluating his membership of several associations, including Pro Tell and a Canton Ticino group called “Libertà e Valori", which also advocates the “liberal and legal bearing of arms.”
The Federal Chancellery also announced on Monday that he had quit the "Libertà e Valori" group.
Cassis’ position is not illegal, although the explicit opposition of Pro Tell to EU regulations on the control of arms – which Switzerland, as a member of the Schengen agreement, is bound to adhere to – could cause difficulties.
Along with the Swiss Shootingexternal link group, Pro Tell has declared that it will launch a referendum process if Switzerland does implement the European regulations, due to come into effect by 2019.
A failure to adhere to the laws could result in an exclusion from the Schengen travel area.
Current gun laws in Switzerland, a country with high ownership rates, reflect the country’s deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms, as well as the needs of its militia army.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/dos