Switzerland: Europe's gun centre where kids don't kill kids

By Gerard Jackson
web posted July 1999

The Littleton killings have once again brought into the spotlight America's alleged love affair with guns and its violent nature. Horror story after horror story is wheeled out to demonstrate this 'fact'. Statistic after statistic is faithfully recited to convince people that the horrors would go away if only guns were banned. According to this mantra, guns are the real evil, as if they were some kind of voodoo curse. Because of this malignant force, according to Australian journalist Cameron Forbes, American "teenagers plot to remedy slights by blowing away fellow students with Tec-9s". Ergo, remove the evil and the killings will cease.

But is it really so? Are guns the real culprit? What the likes of Forbes never tell their readers is that America's crime rate, and in particular its murder rate, were much lower when access to guns was much easier. But let us go abroad to test the thesis that the root of the evil is easy access to guns. If this were so then Switzerland should be a war zone. In this country every male between aged 20 to 42 is required by law to to keep firearms, including pistols, at home; every reserve keeps his assault rifle at home and every soldier take his rifle home. Moreover, once a soldier retires he is entitled to keep his weapon, whether it be a rifle or a pistol. Not only that, but ordinary citizens are even allowed to buy military assault rifles. In short, Mr Forbes, virtually every Swiss home is armed and not with peashooters thus giving the Swiss citizenry more firepower than its American counterpart.

It was the Swiss' passion for guns only matched by their determination to keep their liberty that helped keep the Nazi war machine at bay. When the Swiss government thought a Nazi invasion was imminent it ordered every able bodied man to stand by his post and defend it to the last round. Their determination to defend their liberties plus their shooting skills and the sheer quantity of weapons at their disposal combined with the nature of the terrain persuaded the Nazis that an invasion of Switzerland was not worth the cost.

While other countries have tennis courts, golf courses, football pitches aplenty the Swiss have shooting ranges. And Swiss shooters carry their guns in the open as freely as golfers carry their clubs. Shooting festivals and contests are a frequent and popular and children are encouraged to participate. Once again, what strikes visitors about these events is the casual way weapons are carried through the streets and on public transport. In restaurants and coffee shops tourists sometimes find themselves competing with guns for places to hang their coats. Naturally there is an ample supply of gun shops to service the country's love affair with shooting.

Yet where is the crime wave? The school shootings? The nightly murders? A colleague kindly supplied me with the following facts: In 1997 Switzerland recorded only 87 premeditated murders and 102 murder attempts. The interesting thing is that only 91 of these offences involved a gun, though out of a total of 2,498 robberies and attempted robberies 546 involved the use of guns. Of particular interest is that nearly 50 per cent of these offences were committed by foreigners. Compare Switzerland's murder rate of 1.2 per 100 000 with Britain's rate of 1.4 per 100 000. Their respective robbery rates are 36 per 100 000 and 116 per 100 000 and bear in mind foreigners committed nearly half of Switzerland's robberies. The contrast between the two countries is particularly striking when we consider that Britain's gun laws are draconian compared with Switzerland's.

None of this is intended to promote gun ownership but only to demonstrate as facile, if not fatuous, the view held by the likes of Forbes that guns are the real problem in America. People who are determined to kill will do so, unfortunately. And if they are resolved to use guns as the means to commit murder then they will do that too. I cannot help but think that what are now called subcultures in America are largely the nihilistic product of more than 30 years of successful cultural warfare by liberalism against America's basic standards of decency. The kind of standards that so many Australian journalists (and American ones too) find so odious.

Gerard Jackson is the editor and publisher of one of the few good things on the Internet, The New Australian.

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