A GUNMAN has killed three women and wounded two men in the Swiss village of Daillon, opening fire from his flat then pursuing the attack in the street.
• Three women shot dead and two men taken to hospital
• Shooter reportedly knew the victims but was ‘not known for making threats’
The 33-year-old gunman, who has not been named, threatened police when they tried to arrest him and was shot in the chest before being arrested and taken to hospital, police in the Swiss canton of Valais said yesterday. No police officers were wounded.
“The shooter pointed his weapon at our colleagues, so they had to open fire to neutralise him, to avoid being injured themselves,” police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet told Swiss radio.
The shooting late on Wednesday is likely to stir a fresh debate about Switzerland’s firearms laws that allow its male citizens to retain guns after their mandatory military service.
The Daillon gunman was a resident who had been in psychiatric care in 2005 and was unemployed and living on welfare benefits, police said. His only previous conviction was for marijuana use.
The suspect was using a military rifle that was once standard issue in the Swiss army during the first half of the 20th century, cantonal police chief Robert Steiner said.
The village is close to the town of Sion, the capital of the canton – or region – of Valais, known for its world-class ski resorts such as Verbier.
The women who died, aged 32, 54 and 79, were all shot at least twice, in the head and chest. The youngest was married to one of the injured men and they had young children together, regional public prosecutor Catherine Seppey told a news conference. The injured men were aged 33 and 63.
“We have no words to express ourselves after an event like this,” Christophe Germanier, head of the Conthey district where the shooting occurred, told a news conference.
Police said the gunman used at least two firearms – the old Swiss army carbine and a rifle capable of firing lead shot – even though his weapons had been seized and destroyed in 2005, and he was not listed as having any guns.
He began firing from his flat, shooting at people in the street and in neighbouring buildings, but later went out into the street, police said, adding that he appeared to have fired more than 20 shots.
Swiss website 20minutes.ch quoted villagers as saying the gunman had been drinking heavily. It also said he was armed with an assault rifle, but the public prosecutor did not confirm that information.
Swiss voters, backed by the government, rejected a proposal in February 2011 to tighten the country’s liberal firearms laws. Citizens from the age of 18 outside the military can apply for a permit to buy up to three weapons in a country where sharpshooting and hunting are popular sports.
There is no national gun register but some estimates indicate that at least one in every three of Switzerland’s eight million inhabitants keeps a gun.
Many are stored in attics, a legacy of Switzerland’s policy of creating a citizen army that can be mobilised quickly to defend its neutrality. Authorities say Swiss army weapons are involved in about 300 deaths a year – many of them suicides – but shooting rampages are rare in peaceful, prosperous Switzerland.
Buying a firearm in a shop requires a permit, a clean criminal record and no psychiatric disability, but buying a firearm from another person is less restricted. Most types of ammunition can be bought, while automatic firearms generally require a special police permit.
A shooting in the regional parliament of Zug in 2001 that caused 14 deaths prompted calls to tighten national laws.
However, the majority of Swiss rejected a proposal in 2011 for additional measures such as the creation of arsenals for military weapons outside service periods.
In 2007, the government began requiring that most army ammunition is kept at secure depots.