The Local, Switzerland's English Newpaper, has an article about Swiss questioning of their gun culture.
Every year, more than 300 people die in Switzerland in gun-related incidents. In many ways, the figure is quite low, when one considers the country has about 2.5 million weapons in private hands — giving it the highest per capita rate of gun ownership in Europe, and the fourth highest in the world.
In the last two months of 2011, however, shots rang out with alarming frequency in a country where around 30 percent of all households keep guns and rifles in their cabinets.
In early November, a 23-year-old man killed his girlfriend using his army assault rifle in the village of Saint-Leonard. The vicious crime sparked fervent debate about the lax monitoring of repeat offenders.
After that, the tragic tales began to tumble in thick and fast: Victim shot dead by stranger at Geneva shopping centre; Young man killed in accidental shooting; Evicted tenant kills neighbour with hunting rifle.
But in a country that cherishes its centuries-old firearms tradition, gun control is a touchy subject.
“The Swiss have this romantic idea of their culture, in the sense that they have to have the means to protect their independence, and everyone is like a citizen soldier,” explains Philip Jaffé, a Geneva-based psychologist who often works with the police in forensic crime investigations.
Interestingly enough, despite the Swiss attitude toward guns, their attitude toward gun violence is drastically different from the US.
The recent spate of killings has prompted Swiss politicians to rekindle the gun debate, and a parliamentary security commission is currently working on potential changes to the law.
“Every death is one too many, and every weapon that is lying around, whether controlled or not, is a potential danger,” says Christophe Barbey, political secretary of the Group for a Switzerland without Weapons (GSoA).
“How many deaths do we need before we change things,” he asks.
Amusingly enough, unlike the US, the Swiss demonstrate a more rational attitude toward firearms.
Experts agree that a surplus of army-issue guns is the most pressing problem, and many feel they should be kept in barracks. Every adult male must complete 260 days of military service before the age of 34, during which period he keeps his pistol or assault rifle at home.
“There is no strategic necessity anymore for soldiers to keep their weapons at home”, says Barbey. “Those times are over,” he adds.
After they are discharged, soldiers are entitled to keep the weapon for the rest of their lives for a small fee. Some 1.5 million of the estimated 2.5 million weapons in the country belong to, or have belonged to, the army.
All of the experts consulted for this article say Switzerland should institute a national gun register to replace the 26 cantonal registers.
The head of the Swiss Agency for Crime Prevention, Martin Boess, also stresses the need for improved information exchange procedures between social services, police, the judiciary, and the army. This would enable the authorities “to see what kind of people are in possession of weapons.”
I find it interesting that the Swiss, who are closer to the meaning of the "right to keep and bear arms" can express these sentiments without being labelled anti-freedom.
It's not anti-freedom, it's being sensible.