RW NRA Gunloon
2019-10-20 13:50:48 UTC
deaths than the U.S.
[Maybe it's because the Swiss have so few gun hugging American gunloons
In February 2011, Swiss citizens voted in a referendum that called for a
national gun registry and for firearms owned by members of the military to
be stored in public arsenals.
It is a question of trust between the state and the citizen. The citizen
is not just a citizen, he is also a soldier, Hermann Suter, who at the
time was vice president of the Swiss gun-rights group Pro Tell, told the
BBC then. The gun at home is the best way to avoid dictatorshipsonly
dictators take arms away from the citizens.
Apparently many of his fellow Swiss agreed. The referendum was easily
defeated. Gun ownership in the country has deep historic roots and it is
tied to mandatory military service for Swiss men between the ages of 18 and
34. Traditionally, soldiers were allowed to keep their weapons at home in
order to defend against conquering armies. These fears came close to being
realized during the Franco-Prussian War on 1871; as well as World War I,
when the Swiss border was threatened; and World War II, when the country
feared a Nazi invasion.
But guns are popular beyond the military, as well. Children as young as 12
are taught how to shoot as well as the rules of gun safety, and are
encouraged to participate in highly popular target-shooting competitions.
The countrys cultural attachment to firearms resembles Americas in some
ways, though it has no constitutional right to bear armsit has the third-
highest rate of private gun ownership in the world, behind the United
States and Yemen. Yet Switzerland has a low rate of gun crime, and hasnt
seen a mass shooting since 2001, when a gunman opened fire in the
legislative body in the Canton of Zug, killing 14 people, as well as
So its possible to have widespread gun ownership without so frequently
seeing the kinds of incidents that the U.S. saw on Wednesday, when a gunman
killed 17 people at a high school in Florida. But how?
For one thing, Switzerlands rate of gun ownership is still substantially
lower than Americasin Switzerland the rate is roughly one gun per four
people, whereas in the U.S. its more than one per person, according to
GunPolicy.org. The Swiss Defense Ministry estimates that there are 2
million privately owned weapons in the country of 8.3 million people. There
are estimated to be 300 million guns in the U.S., but 130 million of them
are owned by about 3 percent of the adult population.
Another way the two countries differ is in their rates of gun-related
deaths. Swiss gun-related death rates are the highest in Europe. The figure
for the U.S. is three times higher than that for Switzerland. Much of that
is attributable in both countries to suicide. Mass shootings in Switzerland
are relatively rare, though, with two in the past 20 years. By one
estimate, there have been 30 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2018 alone,
including Wednesdays in Floridathough the number of fatalities in these
mass shootings is only a small proportion of the overall gun-related
homicides in the U.S.
The Washington Post offers some reasons why mass shootings are more common
in the U.S. than in Switzerland:
Swiss authorities have a list of about 2,000 individuals they suspect of
being willing to commit shootings. All of them are frequently approached by
authorities, along with psychologists, and are forced to hand over their
weapons immediately or are barred from purchasing new ones.
Some sociologists say that Switzerland's military service comes close to an
extended background check, too, and that the country's education system
teaches children early on to search for compromises instead of risking open
conflicts. Hence, while almost every home in Switzerland may have a weapon,
access is still indirectly regulated and the use of weapons usually follows
strict societal norms.
Then theres the question of what Swiss guns are meant to defend against.
The Swiss trust their government more than citizens of other rich countries
trust theirs. So the tradition of gun ownership arose more from the
historic need to protect Switzerland from invaders than from the
hypothetical need to overthrow a tyrannical government. And as Time pointed
out in 2012, the culture of responsibility and safety is anchored in
society and passed from generation to generation.
The fundamental difference between Switzerland and the U.S. when it comes
to buying guns is not the ease of purchaseits easy in both countriesbut
the regulations that are associated with gun ownership in Switzerland. Most
firearms, with the exception of fully automatic weapons, are legal. But
background checks are mandated, which is not always the case in the U.S.
Heavy machine guns and military weapons such as grenade launchers are
banned in Switzerland; under some circumstances they can be purchased in
the U.S. Public-carrying permits are issued rarely. Guns can be
transported, but must remain unloaded at all times when theyre not in use.
Hunting weapons must be registered with the local Canton. Pistols, rifles,
and semiautomatic weapons require a license. The paperwork is relatively
easy to obtainand Cantons can make exceptions for individuals. (Citizens
of Albania, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Serbia, and Turkey who live in the country as permanent residents are
forbidden from buying guns because of their nations history of civil war.)
Switzerlands relatively liberal rules may soon face a challenge from
outside the countrys borders, however. The country is a member of the
Schengen area, the group of 26 European countries that allows for the free
movement of people. Some other members of the Schengen area are also
members of the European Union (Switzerland is not). Last year the EU
tightened the restrictions on gun ownership and Switzerland, as a member of
the Schengen, must bring its laws in line with the new regulations by
August of this year. Swiss gun-rights advocates are already planning a
legal challenge because, among other things, it revisits the idea of a gun
When conflicts arise, Switzerland must put its sovereignty first,
Christoph Blocher, the vice president of the SVP, the countrys biggest
party, told Reuters. In an emergency, Switzerland should be ready to exit