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But opposition to the initiative has picked up steam in recent weeks, led by the Waffeninitiative-NEIN (“Gun initiative-NO”) organization.

The group’s co-president — lawmaker Ida Glanzmann-Hunkeler of the Christian Democratic People’s Party — said Switzerland already has tightened gun laws in the past decade with measures such as giving former soldiers the option of storing their guns in public arsenals.

The referendum, she says, would be impossible to implement because of the sheer number of guns that have been inherited or given as gifts — many of which are not registered.

“I don’t love guns. To me, guns are part of the military,” said Mrs. Glanzmann-Hunkeler. “I don’t want to own my own gun. I just want a good system for dealing with our weapons.”

Mrs. Glanzmann-Hunkeler and other opponents of the referendum have garnered broad support within the political class, as well as from various sport-shooting associations and military groups.

While the referendum’s founders have vowed to address gun-related suicides — one criminologist estimated that about 300 people take their lives using guns every year in Switzerland — and domestic violence through the referendum, the Gun initiative-NO group says more regulation will do little to solve the problem.

“It’s easy to say the weapons are the problem,” said Mr. Huppi, the shooting-range owner. “But it’s not the weapons that are the problem. It’s the people who use them.”

Jurg Ebnother, a 22-year-old militia serviceman, stores his government-issued automatic rifle in a gun cabinet at home. He said the military ensures that anyone who is considered dangerous or psychologically unstable is barred from doing so. He adds that the initiative blurs the line of trust.

“It just puts every soldier under suspicion,” he said.

Regardless, for many, the romanticized image of armed citizens defending nation and pride is uniquely Swiss.

“Weapons definitely don’t have the same significance here that they do in the U.S.,” said Daniel Leupi, the Zurich City Council representative responsible for police matters who says he favors the initiative. “But the fact that the state has that much trust in its citizens, that every citizen is in some way a soldier, too, that has symbolic value here.”

Still, others like Mr. Lang are skeptical: “Like most traditions, it’s an invention.”