The Weapons Act governs the use of weapons in Switzerland. It defines what a weapon is and who is allowed to own one. It also outlines what permits are required and how weapons must be stored and transported. The law contains special provisions for collectors, gamekeepers and target shooters.
In Switzerland weapons include all types of firearm, daggers and other kinds of knives, certain self-defence sprays and electrical shock devices. Compressed air and CO2 guns, imitation firearms, blank cartridge and airsoft guns are also classified as weapons as they often cannot outwardly be distinguished from real weapons and are frequently used to commit offences.
Any person who purchases, inherits, hires, borrows or is gifted a weapon is considered under the law to own a weapon.
Owning a weapon as a private individual
If you are a Swiss citizen, you are generally permitted to own a weapon if:
you are at least 18 years old
you are not subject to a general deputyship or are represented through a care appointee
there is no reason to believe you may use the weapon to harm yourself or others
you have no criminal record indicating you have a violent disposition or pose a danger to public safety or for repeated felonies or misdemeanours.
Owning a weapon as a foreign national
If you do not have a settlement permit, you require a weapon acquisition permit for all types of weapons.
Nationals from certain countries are generally not allowed to own weapons or weapon components.
Swiss law distinguishes between three categories of weapons: weapons that must be declared, weapons for which a permit is required and banned weapons. Depending on the type of weapon you wish to acquire, you will need a sales contract, a weapons acquisition permit or an exemption permit (forms not available in English).
Weapons that must be declared, including manual repetition rifles for hunting, rabbit slayers, airsoft guns, blank cartridge guns, paintball guns, etc.
· Written contract containing details of the weapon, the person acquiring it and the person selling, lending or gifting the weapon.
· If you purchase a weapon, you must send the sales contract to your cantonal weapons office within 30 days.
· If you are a foreign national without a settlement permit, you require a weapons acquisition permit for all types of weapon and their essential components (e.g. the barrel or casing).
Weapons for which a permit is required, such as pistols, revolvers and semi-automatic rifles with a small magazine
· To obtain a weapon acquisition permit, send your application with an extract from the criminal records and a copy of your passport or identity card to the cantonal weapons office. In the canton of Zurich, the communes are responsible for issuing weapon acquisition permits.
Online application for a weapon acquisition permit
Banned weapons, such as semi-automatic firearms with a large magazine, machine guns, electric shock devices, daggers, automatic blades, butterfly knives and knuckledusters
Some of these weapons may be acquired by sportspeople or collectors with an exemption permit from a cantonal weapons office.
If you wish to bring a weapon into Switzerland, you require an import permit from the Federal Office of Police (fedpol). Depending on the weapon, you also require a weapon acquisition permit or an exemption permit. On entering Switzerland, you must present the weapon and the import permit to a customs office. The European Firearms Pass is not accepted as an import permit.
Bringing weapons into Switzerland for a hunting trip or sporting competition
If you wish to bring a weapon into Switzerland from a Schengen member state for a hunting or sporting event, you do not require an import permit. However, your weapon must be registered in your European Firearms Pass and you must have an invitation to the relevant event. If you have any questions on bringing weapons into Switzerland, you can contact the Central Weapons Office at fedpol.
What to look out for if you order a weapon from a foreign online shop
Note that a weapon may be legal in a certain country but not in Switzerland. Before you order a weapon from a foreign online shop, check whether you need a permit. Also, bear in mind that a webshop ending in .ch is not necessarily in Switzerland. If you are unsure, you can contact the cantonal weapons office where you live or the Central Weapons Office.
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If you wish to carry weapons in a public place, you require a permit to carry a weapon.
‘You do not require a permit to transport weapons – for example as hunter on your way to a hunting ground or as a target shooter on your way to a shooting range. During transport, there must be no ammunition in the weapon or its magazine.
To protect yourself and others, it is important that you store your weapons and ammunition safely, preferably in a locked gun cabinet. If you lose a weapon, you are legally obliged to report its loss to the police immediately.
Weapons and the law: what you need to know (Swiss Crime Prevention) (not in English)
Violence using weapons (Swiss Crime Prevention) (not in English)
Acquiring a weapon as a private individual (Federal Office of Police fedpol)
FAQs on weapons law (Federal Office of Police fedpol) (not in English)
Forms for a firearm (Federal Office of Police fedpol) (not in English)