“There’s this peace and inner calm that you need when shooting,” Michele Meyenberger says as the sound of gun fire echoes through the clubhouse.
A magazine of ammunition for her Sturmgewehr 90, a modified semi-automatic rifle issued by the Swiss army, sits on the table as Meyenberger eyes the clock, knowing that it’s almost her turn on the shooting range.
The 30-year-old is one of dozens of local rifle owners who have traveled to the Swiss village of Märwil for a shooting festival — where participants take aim at what seems like an impossibly small target located 300 meters (984 feet) down the field.
Like Meyenberger, many are using semi-automatic rifles, some of which they’ve been allowed to keep from their military service, weapons that may soon be more strictly regulated if a referendum passes this week.
A gun as a ‘piece of sports equipment’
On May 19, Switzerland will vote on whether or not to reform its gun laws to adapt to changes in the European Union’s weapons directive.
Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it must adapt its laws or, if the referendum fails, bow out of the Schengen Area — Europe’s open-border system — and the Dublin Accord for handling asylum applications.
Under the new law, certain types of semi-automatic weapons will be banned.
Switzerland did secure exemptions for sports shooters and those who have kept their military service rifles. They would have to get special licenses and prove that they are part of a gun club or practice regularly.