Friday, January 6, 2012

Swiss Guns under attack.

Switzerland is the best analogy to what the "gun culture" should be in that both were supposed to have universal amateur militaries (i.e., a militia system), yet the US has forgotten the true purpose of the Second Amendment which was to ensure the existance of that system. The Swiss have gone through a modernisation of their military. Almost two centuries have passed since Switzerland last fought in a war, yet the country's gun ownership rate remains the highest in Europe.

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.


  1. Are the swedes suggesting mandatory body hair collection of gun owners? Just wondering if your brilliant idea is gaining traction.

  2. Yup, a lawyer writes the commentary, a psychologist criticizes his society, and politicians discuss taking away freedom. The Swiss may do as they choose. Here in America, we will do what we choose, and we make different choices from Europeans.

  3. And they already have canton-level registration, without it being an issue where anyone went about wringing their hands and wailing about the loss of freedom.

    Of course, in Switzerland, women were not really free until 1971, when they gained the right to vote....

    And while their military system does include militia home possession of firearms, back in 2003 they reduced their military by half, and just as their is an increasing movement in the country to much more strictly limit guns, there is similarly a movement to end their military almost entirely.

    Which would of course put effective finish to the current system of ex-military personnel keeping their service weapons for a nominal fee, if there were few if any military personnel.

    So, one way or another, the Swiss are just one more example of the trend away from household and personal lethal weapons as a response to reducing, and eradicating so far as possible, the violence level in their society.

  4. "But in a country that cherishes its centuries-old firearms tradition, gun control is a touchy subject."

    "All of the experts consulted for this article say Switzerland should institute a national gun register to replace the 26 cantonal registers."

    Experts = Who, Christophe Barbey, political secretary of the Group for a Switzerland without Weapons (GSoA)?

    Just another piece by an anti-gun Brady Bunch wannabe

    No news here, move along....

    On another note and more importantly, back here in the U.S. via the U.K., school age kid learned how to use a firearm.

  5. Dog Gone,

    You keep seeing a trend away from personal weapons, but that's not happening here in America. Gun sales are on the rise, as are applications (and issuance!) of carry licenses. The Wisconsin Department of Justice is having to pull employees from other work to process applications. The New Hampshire House voted to allow concealed carry without a permit, and South Carolina and Montana are considering the same thing. The question of carry on college campuses is being debated in many states. I don't know where you see a trend here in your direction. In Europe, yes, but in America? You're allowing hope to create a fantasy country for you.

  6. Actually, there is in uses and new weapons development in the military, and in other military arms.

    In the U.S. we are contrary to the trend in the rest of the world. December was a particularly big month for new gun purchases in the U.S. Because of course nothing is as important to the celebration of the holidays as blowing away one's family and friends.

    December 2011 and the early days of 2012 seem to be proportionately violent.

    But that is still contrary to the trends worldwide, which will get here sooner or later.

    It is not unusual to see a burst of behavior right before the final extinction of it. Pretty much like the furthest swing of the pendulum before it shifts back the other direction.

  7. MA Gunner inquired about swedes and drug testing. (Or maybe he just has a continuing hair fetish...being bald on top and hairy elsewhere apparently).

    I do not know what the mandatory requirements are for Swedish firearm licensing off the top of my head (which has a lot of hair on it btw).

    I would assume that in Sweden law enforcement is consistent about the routine drug testing of their law enforcement officers comparable to those of other jurisdictions in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

    The Swedes are pretty aggressive about drug testing generally though.

    Including random drug testing of students in high school and middle schools, which was found to be very effective in curbing drug and alcohol use. It was implemented here in some locations back in the 90's.

    Apparently you, Ma Gunner, are still not terribly conversant with how routine this kind of thing is, for all kinds of groups of people.

  8. dog gone said...
    "In the U.S. we are contrary to the trend in the rest of the world."

    The U.S. is the trend setter. Over the past few years, we've made headway in a lot of states regarding concealed carry. We've had several states move from "may issue" to "shall issue" and a few states to "constitutional carry". I suspect in 5 years or so, the norm will be more people carrying a firearm than not (and hopefully jet packs, too)

    Since 2008 we've seen a sharp increase in NICS checks and carry permits and at the same time, a decline in crime. There is nothing to suggest that those trends are going to change.

    We've got a few more cases coming up before SCOTUS and there's little doubt that SCOTUS will rule that an individual has the right to protect himself away from home, which will allow us to challenge the laws in "may issue" states, as well as get Ill to change it's laws.

  9. Dog Gone,

    Once again, you're exposing your lack of intelligent thinking. Do you really believe that if I buy a gun, I have no choice but to shoot someone with it? "Nothing is as important in celebrating the holdidays as blowing away one's family and friends." So you believe that a firearm inevitably will be used to kill someone. And you say that we treat guns as fetish objects. You ascribe magical powers to them.

    With regard to the idea of a pendulum, though, I'd suggest you consider American history. Gun ownership and use has a long tradition here. What's happening is a continuation of our culture, not a swing from one extreme to another. The gun control efforts of the 90s were an aberration. You didn't address the specific examples about increasing gun ownership and carry that I named, so I'll take it that you have no answer.

  10. GC writes:. Do you really believe that if I buy a gun, I have no choice but to shoot someone with it?

    No, I believe you spend every waking moment hoping you get the opportunity to do so, jonesing for it, glorifying and glamorizing it, and promoting every false myth about it that has ever existed, while behaving unsafely with whatever firearms are currently in your possession.

  11. GC writes:Gun ownership and use has a long tradition here. What's happening is a continuation of our culture, not a swing from one extreme to another.

    Everywhere else in the world the trend is away from all these guns. The 154 countries which support the UN Disarmament Treaty proposals, particularly the small arms sales that seek to limit the guns we and other countries export is just one example.

    There are NO other countries with significant increases in guns like that we have here, rather guns per capita are declining in other countries. I couldn't find any other country that was making it easier or even just more acceptable for people to be armed, either open or concealed carry.

    Every other nation appears to be making efforts - and with mixed efforts from the U.S. State Department - to REDUCE firearms, and to document and regulate the ones that are legally transferred in any way.

    So, no, there is no way in which the gun loons are leaders in this country or that the U.S. is viewed as a nation to emulate by ANY other country in the world on the topic of guns.

    We're widely regarded as being dangerous lunatics.

    And by WE- we all mean YOU.

  12. Dog Gone,

    I sincerely hope that I never have to use a firearm to defend myself or anyone else. I have no wish to shoot anyone. You are confusing preparation with desire. If I keep a few jugs of water around in case of another ice storm, that's no indication that I want one to happen, as we've had the last two years. It's just a recognition that bad things do happen, and it's best to be prepared for them. I don't go looking for trouble, nor do I act in any way with a firearm that I wouldn't act without one.

    With regard to other countries, though, I'm going to borrow a thought from George S. Kaufman. The Hubble telescope is a remarkable instrument for observing the heavens. It can see objects that are billions of light years away. But now there are proposals for a new telescope with even better powers of resolution. If somehow, one were able to put the Hubble inside this new instrument and combine their abilities, you still wouldn't be able to see my concern for what the rest of the world does with guns or thinks about us and our guns.

  13. dog gone said...
    "We're widely regarded as being dangerous lunatics."
    and the most armed nation. We're not getting invaded anytime soon, you're welcome.

  14. The United States is a cesspool of gun violence and the easy availability of firearms is a big factor in that.

    Only biased, closed-minded gun-rights enthusiasts with axes to grind would deny this.

    The Swiss guy who said there's no strategic need for soldiers to keep guns at home anymore is right. But that's about Switzerland and has little to do with the US.

  15. I'm sorry that the Swiss are contemplating giving up their guns. I hope that the Czechs never do. As for America, I'm doing what I can to prevent that from ever happening.

  16. Given the support by all of Europe, including the Czechs, for the U.N. small arms treaty and the larger disarmament project in the UN, and given how fed up the EU is with certain countries - including, prominently the Czechs -- in allowing the supplying of both terrorists and criminals with firearms, it is far more likely that the Czechs will agree to and conform to the EU's more gun restrictive model. It is in their best interest to do so.
    Certainly the nod to Prague as the place to get illegal firearms and firearm accessories by Anders Breivik and others has not improved the opinion of the world, notably not Europe, of the Czechs for their gun policies.

    The only re3al question is how soon; I'd bet sooner than later.

    from, gun politics in the European Union:

    European Union

    The 1991 Council Directive 91/477/EEC started the process of creating a new common legal system for gun owners in the EU, and introduced the European Firearms Pass for owners carrying firearms from one member state to another. In late 2007 the European Parliament and Council adopted a legislative report to tighten gun control laws and establish an extensive firearms database.[22] Passed with overwhelming backing, the tough new gun control rules were "hoped to prevent Europe from becoming a gun-friendly culture like the United States," in the words of the International Herald Tribune.[23] Certain countries such as the United Kingdom are unaffected as they maintain more stringent gun control laws than those effectively set as a minimum by the European Union.

    In 2008 the resulting EU Directive 2008/51/EC provided the current common basis for national laws affecting hunters, target shooters and collectors, and member states were to have complied with it by 28 July 2010.[24]

    The Czech Republic desperately needs to be a part of the EU. If it comes to humoring a few gun nuts versus the probable drop in gun violence and the acceptance of the EU, the EU is going to win hands down.

    No one else but U.S. gun nuts, no other country in the world, thinks we are more free or safer or in any way better because of our gun policies. NO ONE.

    We are consistently and comprehensively derided as insane and dangerous for our gun culture.

    That is the larger trend that will eventually lead to change away from the current gun culture in this country.

  17. Dog Gone,

    1. Gun violence in the Czech Republic is low, despite a much higher number of gun owners and gun carriers. Why would they change what isn't a problem?

    2. Apparently, you missed what I said. I'll feel sorry for the Europeans if they continue on this path, but I don't really care what they think of us. The Europeans may snivel about our gun culture, and perhaps we'll tell them to solve their own security needs without our help.

  18. Dog Gone,

    Since you brought it up, I'll also say that the Arms Trade Treaty has zero chance of being ratified here. Even if Obama is crazy enough to sign it, the Senate will never let it through. This treaty would be an annoyance to me, since I collect old Commie Bloc and military surplus guns, but I suppose that it would encourage me to buy American, thus promoting jobs. Have fun watching that arms control measure go down in flames here.

  19. It is a world trend that will happen here. We are not alone, we are not in isolation.

  20. Dog Gone,

    And when do you see this happening? You must not watch the trends, if you think that Americans are going to vote in your proposals or allow elected representatives to stay in office if they vote for such. A small number of states might go along with your ideas, but most of this country will never accept them.

  21. GC wrote:
    And when do you see this happening?

    Not until there is another mass shooting or some other very public event that is a catalyst.

    Typically, all moves towards safer regulation occurs not because of prudent assessment of risk or fact.

    Whether it is some form of safety regulation -- mining safety comes to mind as another example -- it takes disasters of a certain size and prominence to act as the trigger, so to speak, for a change to what is required.

    But if you look at the long term, on whatever social issue in history you care to examine, that is how change occurs.

    The trends do not occur smoothly, they occur in fits and starts, leaps after periods of stagnation. But those larger trends appear to be as relentless and as expansive as glacial movement.

    So it is just a matter of when there will be sufficient gun violence for the next catalyst. It will be a reflection of a larger change of opinion.

    And don't forget that psychology shows us there is always a burst of the targeted activity or behavior just before it finally extinguishes, a last wild swing before the pendulum goes the other direction, the desired direction.

    American history follows the same trends as world history; this will not be any different. You are regressive in your views and expectations. You glorify that non-existent golden age that never existed, the fantasy over the fact.

  22. Dog Gone,

    Psychology shows us? Sure it does, if we're talking about things that go in cycles. But gun ownership is part of who we are. You can call that a fantasy about the past, but enough Americans believe in it, whether a fantasy or not, that we'll not see a change in your direction.