Switzerland has a staggeringly high rate of gun ownership – this is why there are no mass shootings

Switzerland Swiss army guard of honor soldiers troops military

Members of the Swiss Federal Army Guard of Honor in October 2012.REUTERS/Thomas Hodel

  • Switzerland has not had a mass shooting in 21 years.

  • In the US there is almost one every day, most recently in Colorado Springs, CO.

  • The Swiss have strict rules for who can get a gun and take firearms training very seriously.

Switzerland has not had a mass shooting since 2001, when a man stormed the local parliament in Zug, killing 14 people and then himself.

The country has about 2 million privately owned guns in a country of 8.3 million people. In 2016, there were 47 attempted murders with firearms in the country. The total murder rate in the country is close to zero.

The National Rifle Association often points to Switzerland to argue that more gun control rules are unnecessary. In 2016, the NRA said on its blog that the European country had one of the lowest murder rates in the world, while still possessing millions of privately owned guns and a few hunting guns that don’t even require a license.

But the Swiss have some specific rules and regulations for the use of guns.

Insider took a look at the country’s gun-wielding past to see why gun violence rates are lower than in the US, where after a mass shooting that killed 5 and injured 25 at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado, the number Gun deaths now at their highest is the highest in more than 20 years, and the leading cause of death for children and adolescents.

Switzerland is obsessed with good shooting. A shooting competition is held every year for children aged 13 to 17.

Knabenschiessen Swiss rifles

Wikimedia Creative Commons

Zurich’s Knabenschiessen is a traditional annual festival that dates back to the 1600s.

Although the word roughly translates to “boy shooting” and the competition used to be all boys, teenage girls have been admitted since 1991.

Children in the country flock to the competition every September to take part in Swiss Army rifle shooting competitions. They are proud to show off their shooting skills.

The competition values ​​accuracy above all else, and officials crown a Schutzenkonig – a king or queen of sharpshooters – based on results.

Having an armed citizenry helped keep the Swiss neutral for over 200 years.

Swiss Shepherds

Alpine shepherds in Toggenburg, Switzerland.Keystone/Getty images

The Swiss position is one of ‘armed neutrality’.

Switzerland has not participated in an international armed conflict since 1815, but some Swiss soldiers help with peacekeeping missions around the world.

Many Swiss see gun ownership as a patriotic duty to protect their homeland.

Most Swiss men need to learn how to use a gun.

Swiss President Ueli Maurer fires at Switzerland

Swiss President Ueli Maurer pauses on May 31, 2013, during a marksmanship exercise—a centuries-old tradition—with the Foreign Diplomatic Corps in Switzerland.REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Unlike the US, Switzerland has compulsory military service for men.

The government provides all males between the ages of 18 and 34 who are considered “fit for service” with a handgun or rifle and training in its use.

After they have finished their service, the men can usually buy and keep their service weapons, but they must obtain a permit for them.

In recent years, the Swiss government has voted to reduce the size of the country’s armed forces.

Switzerland is a bit like a well-designed fortress.

Swiss bunkers

Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Switzerland’s borders are basically designed to blow up on command, with at least 3,000 demolition points on bridges, roads, rails and tunnels around the landlocked European country.

John McPhee put it this way in his book “La Place de la Concorde Suisse”:

“Near Germany’s border with Switzerland, every rail and highway tunnel is prepared to explode. Nearby mountains have been made so porous that entire divisions can fit inside.”

About a quarter of armed Swiss use their weapons for military or police tasks.

Swiss Army

AP/Keyston, Lukas Lehmann

In 2000, more than 25% of Swiss gun owners said they kept their guns for military or police duty, while less than 5% of Americans said the same.

In addition to the militia’s weapons, the country has about 2 million privately owned weapons – a figure that has fallen sharply in the last decade.

Swiss Army

Members of a Swiss Army honor guard.REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The Swiss government estimates that about half of the country’s privately owned guns are former service guns. But there are signs that the gun-to-human ratio is declining in Switzerland.

In 2007, the Small Arms Survey found that Switzerland had the third highest rate of civilian firearms per 100 inhabitants (46), surpassed only by the US (89) and Yemen (55).

But it seems that this figure has declined over the past decade. The University of Sydney now estimates there is about one civilian gun for every three Swiss.

Gun dealers follow strict licensing procedures.

Swiss gun shop

Daniel Wyss, the president of the Swiss Arms Dealers Association, in a gun shop.REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The Swiss authorities decide at a local level whether to give people a gun permit. They also keep a log of everyone who owns a gun in their region — known as a canton — though shotguns and some semi-automatic long guns are exempt from the licensing requirement.

The cantonal police do not take their task of handing out firearms licenses lightly. They can consult a psychiatrist or talk to authorities in other cantons where a potential gun buyer has lived to examine the person.

Swiss laws are designed to prevent someone who is violent or incompetent from owning a gun.

Swiss nina christian rifle

Nina Christen from Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Rio in August 2016.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

People who have been convicted of a crime or are addicted to alcohol or drugs are not allowed to buy guns in Switzerland.

The law also states that anyone “expressing a violent or dangerous attitude” may not own a gun.

Gun owners who wish to carry their gun for “defensive purposes” must also prove they can properly load, unload, and fire their gun and must pass a test to be licensed.

Switzerland is also one of the richest, healthiest and, in some ways, happiest countries in the world.

Swiss Switzerland flag fan trumpet

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In their 2019 World Happiness Report, the UN ranked Switzerland sixth.

The Swiss consistently top this list. In 2017, when the UN ranked Switzerland fourth among the world’s countries, the report’s authors noted that the country generally does well on “all major factors that support happiness: care, freedom, generosity, fairness, health, income and good governance.”

Meanwhile, according to the report, happiness has taken a nosedive in the US over the past decade.

The report’s authors cite “diminishing social support and increased corruption,” as well as addiction and depression before the fall.

The Swiss are not perfect when it comes to guns.

Swiss flag Switzerland

Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Switzerland continues to have one of the highest rates of gun violence in Europe, and suicides are responsible for most gun deaths in the country.

Stricter gun laws around the world have been linked to fewer gun deaths. This has also been the case in Switzerland.

Police officer of Geneva, Switzerland

A police officer at Geneva airport.REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

After hundreds of years of allowing local cantons to dictate gun regulations, Switzerland passed its first federal gun regulations in 1999, after the country’s crime rates rose in the 1990s.

Since then, the government has added more provisions to keep the country in line with EU gun laws, and gun deaths, including suicides, have continued to fall.

As of 2015, the Swiss estimate that only about 11% of citizens kept their military-issued gun at home.

Most people in Switzerland are not allowed to carry their weapons.

Swiss fighters

Hunters at a market in central Switzerland offer their fox furs.REUTERS

Concealed carry permits are hard to get in Switzerland, and most people who aren’t security guards or police officers don’t have one.

“We have guns in the house, but they are kept for peaceful purposes,” Martin Killias, a professor of criminology at the University of Zurich, told the BBC in 2013. illegal to carry a gun on the street.”

That is largely true. Hunters and sport shooters are only allowed to carry their guns from their home to the shooting range – they can’t just stop for coffee with their gun.

Guns also cannot be loaded in transit to prevent accidental firing in a place like Starbucks – something that has happened at least twice in the US.

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