As long as a man has another cartridge or hand weapon to use, he does not yield

By Vin Suprynowicz
web posted August 1998

Those who would blithely abandon the greatest safeguard of liberty -- the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear military-style arms -- aren't real strong on consistency.

Aiming to gradually erode the quality of arms we have "permission" to bear -- back to the level of the muzzle-loading flintlock, if not the slingshot -- they have been disingenuously mewing for 60 years that they have no objection to arms "for which there is a legitimate sporting use."

Of course, the Constitution says nothing about hunting or skeet shooting. Rather, it says we must be allowed to keep our arms -- no "infringement" whatsoever, no tax, no registration, no "application for permit" -- because the citizens constitute the militia, the most powerful armed force in any free state.

The gun-grabbers sneer that this is an out-of-date notion, that a bunch of farmers with deer rifles could hardly stand up to the 82nd Airborne ... let along a Chinese invasion.

But the logical conclusion of that argument is surely that we should encourage law-abiding citizens to keep machine guns and rocket-launchers in the closet ... not ban AK-47s, with or without pistol grips and bayonet lugs.

The victim disarmament extremists (those who would disarm law-abiding rape victims, but not their assailants, who ignore all such laws) ridicule this as the sheerest homicidal macho fantasy -- no modern nation has ever thrown out a tyrant by the simple expedient of the common folk rising up with their personal rifles, nor does any civilized nation today allow its citizens to keep machine guns at home.

Wrong and wrong. Try placing a long-distance call to the American military governor of Vietnam, or the Soviet military governor of Afghanistan, to ask them how easy it was to suppress a nation of armed peasants.

And as to the advisability of "allowing" citizen militias to keep modern military arms with them at home -- yes, Sarah, the kind "designed for no purpose but to kill large numbers of people" -- we turn to Virginia attorney and Second Amendment expert Stephen P. Halbrook, author of the new book "Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II," out this past spring from Sarpedon Press.

Writing in the January 1998 edition of the excellent magazine Chronicles, Mr. Halbrook points out that "Since the origins of the Swiss Confederation in 1291, it has been the duty of every male Swiss citizen to be armed and to serve in the militia. Today, that arm is an 'assault rifle,' which is issued to every Swiss male and which must be kept in the home. During Germany's Third Reich (1933-1945), that arm was a bolt-action repeating rifle, which was highly effective in the hands of Switzerland's many sharpshooters.

"Americans of the wartime generation were familiar with the fact that brave and armed little Switzerland stood up to Hitler and made him blink. As a map of Europe in 1942 shows, the Nazis had swallowed up most of everything on the continent but this tiny speck that Hitler called 'a pimple on the face of Europe.' The Fuhrer boasted that he would be 'the butcher of the Swiss,' but the Wehrmacht was dissuaded by a fully armed populace in the Alpine terrain. ...

"The Swiss federal shooting festival, which remains the largest rifle competition in the world, was held in Luzern in June 1939. Hitler's takeover of Austria and Czechoslovakia was complete, both countries had been surrendered by tiny political elites who guaranteed that there would be no resistance. Swiss President Philipp Etter spoke at the festival, stressing that something far more serious than sport was the purpose of their activity. His comments demonstrated the connection between national defense and the armed citizen:

" 'There is probably no other country that, like Switzerland, gives the soldier his weapon to keep in the home. The Swiss always has his rifle at hand. It belongs to the furnishings of his home. ... That corresponds to ancient Swiss tradition. As the citizen with his sword steps into the ring in the cantons which have the Landsgemeinde (government by public meeting), so the Swiss soldier lives in constant companionship with his rifle. He knows what that means. With this rifle, he is liable every hour, if the country calls, to defend his hearth, his home, his family, his birthplace. The weapon is to him a pledge and sign of honor and freedom. The Swiss does not part with his rifle.'

Mr. Halbrook continues: "On September 1, 1939, Hitler launched World War II by attacking Poland. Within a day or two, Switzerland had about half a million militiamen mobilized out of a population of just over four million. General Henri Cuisan, commander in chief of the Swiss militia, responded with Operations Order No. 2:

" 'At the border and between the border and army position, the border troops and advance guard persistently delay the advance of the enemy. The garrisons at the border and between the border and the works and positions making up the defensive front continue resistance up to the last cartridge, even if they find themselves completely alone.'

"This astonishing order was the opposite of the policies of the other European countries, which either surrendered to Hitler without a fight or surrendered after a brief resistance. For example, in April 1940, Denmark's king surrendered the country after a meeting with the Nazis and instructed his forces not to resist. Norway resisted, although 'unlike Switzerland' it had no armed populace and was ill- prepared for combat.

"In response to the invasions of small neutral countries, Switzerland issued its 'directions concerning the conduct of the soldiers not under arms in event of attack.' Intended as a warning to Germany, it was pasted on walls all over the country. It prescribed the reaction against surprise attack and against the fifth column as follows:

" 'All soldiers and those with them are to attack with ruthlessness parachutists, airborne infantry and saboteurs. Where no officers and noncommissioned officers are present, each soldier acts under exertion of all powers of his own initiative.'

"This command for the individual to act on his own initiative was an ancient Swiss tradition which reflected the political and military leadership's staunch confidence in the ordinary man. This command was possible, of course, only in a society where every man had his rifle at home.

" 'Under no condition,' the order continued, 'would any surrender be forthcoming, and any pretense of a surrender must be ignored: If by radio, leaflets or other media any information is transmitted doubting the will of the Federal Council or of the Army High Command to resist an attacker. this information must be regarded as the lies of enemy propaganda. Our country will resist aggression with all means in its power and to the death.' ...

"France collapsed in June, 1940 after only a few weeks of fighting. Paris was taken without a shot being fired. The Nazis promptly proclaimed the death penalty for possession of firearms in France and other occupied countries.

"In contrast, Cuisan recalled the high duty of the soldier to resist:

" 'Everywhere, where the order is to hold, it is the duty of conscience of each fighter, even if he depends on himself alone, to fight at his assigned position. The riflemen, if overtaken or surrounded, fight in their position until no more ammunition exists. Then cold steel is next. ... The machine gunners, the cannoneers of heavy weapons, the artillerymen, if in the bunker or on the field, do not abandon or destroy their weapons, or allow the enemy to seize them. Then the crews fight further like riflemen. As long as a man has another cartridge or hand weapons to use, he does not yield. ..."

Even old men and children were issued armbands, identifying them as Ortswehren (local defense) so they could not be shot as partisans under international law, when the time came for them to shoot any invader they saw.

Hitler never invaded Switzerland. Would you have?

Nor has any dictator -- military or otherwise -- ever attempted to rule the Swiss cantons by "executive order" ... like the one Bill Clinton haughtily signed to outlaw the import of AK-47 variants which his own ATF had found to be in full compliance with current law.

"There was no holocaust on Swiss soil," Mr. Halbrook concludes. "Swiss Jews served in the militia side by side with their fellow citizens, and kept rifles in their homes just like everyone else. It is hard to believe that there could have been a holocaust had the Jews of Germany, Poland, and France had the same privilege."

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.

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