Students in my Contemporary World Issues class have been have been engaged in some serious and at times intense debate over guns, gun violence and the 2nd Amendment. Frequently in those debates, Switzerland has been mentioned as the best proof that more gun ownership does not lead to more gun violence. I admit that I have read this many, many times in blog posts and have heard it many times on television and radio, and in the past I more or less accepted that argument. So, as is often the case, I had to do some quick and serious research to keep up with my students. Since what I found was fascinating, to say the least, I wanted to share a few Internet sources and pass on some information about Switzerland and their gun laws. Sources are cited at the end of the post.
Bullet Points (pun intended) on Firearms in Switzerland
- Nearly every male in Switzerland goes through firearm training at the age of 20.
- Swiss males are allowed to keep their firearms after the end of their military service at age 30. The fully automatic weapons must be converted to semi automatic before they can keep them as civilians.
- Switzerland has universal gun registration on gun ownership.
- Switzerland has universal background checks on all gun purchases.
- Switzerland requires universal reporting of firearm transactions, whether commercial or private transfer of ownership.
- Switzerland’s carry laws are highly regulated and very restricted. Other than militia members transporting their firearms on their way to militia training, very few people are allowed to actually carry firearms. And they cannot be loaded.
- Despite the militia requirement in Switzerland, the rate of gun ownership (by percentage) in the United States is much higher than in Switzerland.
- Males berween 20 and 30 years of age are required to own firearms in Switzerland because they are the nation’s well regulated milita. Switzerland has no standing army. It is their civilian militia (much like the intent of the American 2nd amendment) that defends their nation against foreign aggression.
- The vast majority of militia members are not even allowed to store ammo at home. And for the 2ooo or so–that’s right only 2000–militia members who do have ammo, it is sealed and inspected regularly.
- Switzerland’s gun ownership rate is only fourth highest in the world. Surprised?
In reality, and perhaps ironically, and to the chagrin of the NRA, Switzerland is a fine model for the intent of the American Constitution’s 2nd Amendment. They have a well-regulated militia instead of a standing army. They have universal background checks and universal licensing. They require firearm training before a gun can be owned. They have near total restrictions on the purchase and use of ammunition. In fact, they regulate and restrict much more than America does. Interesting.