Switzerland has a stunningly high rate of gun ownership — here’s why it doesn’t have mass shootings

Members of the Swiss federal military’s honor guard in October 2012.REUTERS/Thomas Hodel

  • Switzerland hasn’t had a mass taking pictures in 21 years.

  • In the US, there’s almost one every day, most just lately in Colorado Springs, CO. 

  • The Swiss have strict guidelines for who can get a gun, and take firearm coaching very critically. 

Switzerland hasn’t had a mass taking pictures since 2001, when a man stormed the native parliament in Zug, killing 14 individuals after which himself.

The nation has about 2 million privately owned weapons in a nation of 8.3 million individuals. In 2016, the nation had 47 tried homicides with firearms. The nation’s total homicide rate is close to zero.

The National Rifle Association often points to Switzerland to argue that extra guidelines on gun ownership aren’t crucial. In 2016, the NRA said on its blog that the European nation had one of the bottom homicide charges on the earth whereas nonetheless having tens of millions of privately owned weapons and a few looking weapons that do not even require a allow.

But the Swiss have some particular guidelines and rules for gun use.

Insider took a have a look at the nation’s previous with weapons to see why it has decrease charges of gun violence than the US, the place after a mass taking pictures that killed 5 and injured 25 at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado, gun-death charges are now at their highest in additional than 20 years, and the leading cause of death for children and adolescents.

Switzerland is obsessive about getting taking pictures proper. Every yr, it holds a taking pictures contest for teenagers aged 13 to 17.

Knabenschiessen swiss guns

Wikimedia Creative Commons

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

Though the phrase roughly interprets to “boys shooting” and the competitors was solely boys, teenage women have been allowed in since 1991.

Kids within the nation flock to the competitors each September to compete in goal taking pictures utilizing Swiss army-service rifles. They’re proud to point out off how nicely they’ll shoot.

The competitors values accuracy above all else, and officers crown a Schutzenkonig — a king or queen of marksmen — based mostly on outcomes.

Having an armed citizenry helped preserve the Swiss impartial for greater than 200 years.

swiss herders

Alpine herdsmen in Toggenburg, Switzerland.Keystone/Getty Images

The Swiss stance is one of “armed neutrality.”

Switzerland hasn’t taken half in any worldwide armed battle since 1815, however some Swiss troopers assist with peacekeeping missions all over the world.

Many Swiss see gun ownership as half of a patriotic duty to guard their homeland.

Most Swiss males are required to learn to use a gun.

Swiss President Ueli Maurer shooting guns switzerland

Swiss President Ueli Maurer pauses throughout a shooting-skills train — a several-hundred-year-old custom — with the Foreign Diplomatic Corps in Switzerland on May 31, 2013.REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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

The authorities provides all males between the ages of 18 and 34 deemed “fit for service” a pistol or a rifle and coaching on the way to use them.

After they’ve completed their service, the lads can usually buy and keep their service weapons, however they have to get a allow for them.

In current years, the Swiss authorities has voted to reduce the size of the nation’s armed forces.

Switzerland is a bit like a well-designed fort.

swiss bunkers

Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Switzerland’s borders are principally designed to blow up on command, with no less than 3,000 demolition factors on bridges, roads, rails, and tunnels across the landlocked European nation.

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

“Near the German border of Switzerland, every railroad and highway tunnel has been prepared to pinch shut explosively. Nearby mountains have been made so porous that whole divisions can fit inside them.”

Roughly a quarter of the gun-toting Swiss use their weapons for navy or police obligation.


AP/Keyston, Lukas Lehmann

In 2000, greater than 25% of Swiss gun house owners stated they saved their weapon for navy or police obligation, whereas less than 5% of Americans stated the identical.

In addition to the militia’s arms, the nation has about 2 million privately owned weapons — a determine that has been plummeting over the previous decade.

swiss army

Members of an honor guard of the Swiss military.REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The Swiss authorities has estimated that about half of the privately owned weapons within the nation are former service rifles. But there are indicators the Swiss gun-to-human ratio is dwindling.

In 2007, the Small Arms Survey discovered that Switzerland had the third-highest ratio of civilian firearms per 100 residents (46), outdone by solely the US (89) and Yemen (55).

But it appears that determine has dropped over the previous decade. The University of Sydney now estimates that there is about one civilian gun for each three Swiss individuals.

Gun sellers observe strict licensing procedures.

swiss gun shop

Daniel Wyss, the president of the Swiss weapons-dealers affiliation, in a gun store.REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Swiss authorities determine on a native degree whether or not to provide individuals gun permits. They additionally preserve a log of everybody who owns a gun of their area — referred to as a canton — although looking rifles and a few semiautomatic lengthy arms are exempt from the allow requirement.

Cantonal police do not take their obligation doling out gun licenses evenly. They would possibly consult a psychiatrist or speak with authorities in different cantons the place a potential gun purchaser has lived to vet the person.


Swiss legal guidelines are designed to forestall anybody who’s violent or incompetent from proudly owning a gun.

swiss nina christen rifle

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

People who’ve been convicted of a crime or have an alcohol or drug dependancy aren’t allowed to buy guns in Switzerland.

The law also states that anybody who “expresses a violent or dangerous attitude” will not be permitted to personal a gun.

Gun house owners who wish to carry their weapon for “defensive purposes” additionally have to prove they’ll correctly load, unload, and shoot their weapon and should move a take a look at to get a license.

Switzerland can be one of the richest, healthiest, and, by some measures, happiest nations on the earth.

Swiss Switzerland flag fan trumpet

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

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

The Swiss have been persistently close to the highest of this record. In 2017, when the UN ranked Switzerland fourth total among the many world’s nations, the report authors famous that the nation tends to do nicely on “all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income, and good governance.”

Meanwhile, in line with the report, happiness has taken a dive over the previous decade within the US.

The report authors cite “declining social support and increased corruption,” in addition to dependancy and melancholy for the autumn.

The Swiss aren’t excellent when it involves weapons.

Swiss flag Switzerland

Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Switzerland nonetheless has one of the highest rates of gun violence in Europe, and suicides account for many gun deaths within the nation.

Around the world, stronger gun legal guidelines have been linked to fewer gun deaths. That has been the case in Switzerland, too.

Geneva Swiss Switzerland Police Officer

A police officer at Geneva’s airport.REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

After lots of of years of letting native cantons decide gun guidelines, Switzerland handed its first federal regulations on weapons in 1999, after the nation’s crime rate elevated in the course of the Nineties.

Since then, the government has added more provisions to maintain the nation on par with EU gun legal guidelines, and gun deaths — including suicides — have continued to drop.

As of 2015, the Swiss estimated that solely about 11% of residents saved their military-issued gun at dwelling.

Most individuals aren’t allowed to hold their weapons round in Switzerland.

swiss hunters

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

Concealed-carry permits are powerful to get in Switzerland, and most of the people who aren’t safety staff or law enforcement officials do not have one.

“We have guns at home, but they are kept for peaceful purposes,” Martin Killias, a professor of criminology at Zurich University, told the BBC in 2013. “There is no point taking the gun out of your home in Switzerland because it is illegal to carry a gun in the street.”

That’s largely true. Hunters and sports activities shooters are allowed to transport their weapons solely from their dwelling to the firing vary — they cannot simply cease for espresso with their rifle.

Guns additionally can’t be loaded throughout transport to forestall them from by accident firing in a place like Starbucks — one thing that has happened within the US at least twice.

Read the unique article on Business Insider

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