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Gun control and Switzerland

Anti-gun control advocates in the United States often point to Switzerland as an example of a country that has high gun ownership and low violent crime rates to support the argument that tighter gun laws are not required. However there are structural and cultural reasons why such a comparison is not valid:

All Swiss males (who are of sound mind and body) are required to undergo a period of military training and period of service where they are instructed in the proper use of firearms. The same cannot be said of the USA.

After this military service, reservists or home guards are issued with a weapon by the government, and a supply (about 50 rounds) of ammunition, to be used in the event of war so that soldiers can defend themselves on their way to base. This ammunition is sealed and inspected regularly to ensure that no unlawful use takes place. People who use the ammunition for other than its intended purpose are incarcerated. The same cannot be said of the USA.

While the sale of ammunition at firing ranges is subsidised by the Swiss government, it is a government requirement that ammunition sold at ranges must be used there. The same cannot be said of the USA. Ammunition can also be purchased at a dealer, but is more tightly monitored.

Switzerland does not has the same rate of drug-related crime or urban deprivation as the USA, factors which exacerbate the impact of easy gun availability in such a society.

(Sadly however, the rate of gun suicide in Switzerland is quite high, with military weapons often used for this purpose.)

In other words, the context of gun laws in Swiss society is very different to that of the United States. Firearms in Switzerland are strictly connected to a sense of collective responsibility (ironically, like the intent behind the US's second amendment - a well regulated militia) rather than to a sense of individual free-for-all and power.

Therefore, the argument that "all the Swiss have guns and their violent crime rate is low, therefore the US doesn't have to have tight gun controls" is spurious.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 19, 2006 4:38 AM.

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