Switzerland’s Gun Culture

May 21 2014

The U.S. seems to forever be the subject of gun-related controversy. Whether it’s the second shooting at Ft. Hood or the tragedy surrounding Newtown, Connecticut, Americans are generally pro- or anti-gun rights.

Switzerland is a neutral country, not bearing arms or taking part in battle since 1847. However, Swiss citizens are adamant about their rights to own and carry guns in public areas. Swiss citizens have exceptional pride in gun ownership, with passersby not thinking twice about civilians practicing open carry, whether it’s a pistol or rifle.

By comparison to Americans, less Swiss citizens own guns, but their overall violent crime rates are extremely low. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the U.S. reports 4.7 firearm deaths per 100,000, while Switzerland reports 0.6 per 100,000. Swiss citizens believe that having the right to bear arms is an integral part of who they are, giving them a sense of national identity and patriotic duty. In fact, historians even claim that Switzerland was at a substantial risk of attack by Germany in World War 2, but the arming of every Swiss home made Hitler spare this tiny region.

Switzerland has only experienced one mass shooting. In 2001, a disgruntled citizen used an army rifle to kill 14 and injure 14 in a regional parliament building. Switzerland has regulated their gun laws to a degree, allowing citizens over 18 years to apply for and obtain a government permit to own up to three weapons. Automatic firearms and other select models are banned in this neutral nation. All military ammunition must be stored in a central arsenal, but this does not apply to private ammunition supplies.

In Switzerland, guns are related to 200 to 300 suicides annually, but this number is minimal when one considers that more than 75 million rounds of ammunition are fired during target practice each year.

The Swiss culture embraces responsible gun ownership and children as young as 12 years are permitted to join local community gun groups and participate in sharpshooting practices. In fact, more than 150,000 Swiss citizens, who include young adults, belong to one of more than 3,000 gun clubs.

Switzerland believes their gun policy works because it promotes gun safety, which is a vital component to lower homicide and accidental gun deaths. They don’t believe that eliminating guns is the answer, but simply incorporating responsible gun ownership within society helps naturally curb and reduce deadly shootings and disasters.

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