Switzerland Owns Tons Of Guns - So Why Doesn't It Have Mass Shootings?

For many people in the US gun lobby, Switzerland is the place to follow when it comes to showing how to balance private gun ownership with public safety.

The western European country with a population of 8.3 million has around 2 million privately-owned guns knocking around - yet in 2016 it saw just 47 attempted homicides with firearms.

The country also hasn't seen a mass shooting since the Zug massacre in 2001, which claimed 15 lives (including the perpetrator's).

So what is Switzerland doing right? Well, according to Business Insider, it's all due to the country's history and its strict regulations around gun use.

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Switzerland has a famous history of remaining neutral - the country hasn't been involved in any international conflict since 1815 - but you may not be aware that its stance is very much one of 'armed neutrality'.

Gun ownership in the country is seen as a patriotic act of national defence, while military service is mandatory for young men. All healthy men between the ages of 18 and 34 are given military training and given a pistol or rifle which they can buy and keep once they've finished their service - if they also get a permit.

And many of them do - in 2000, over a quarter of Swiss gun owners said they kept their weapon for army or police duty, compared to less than 5% of Americans. Around half of the privately-owned guns circulating the country are former service rifles.

Business Insider's report states that gun sellers are strictly licensed at local level, with a log kept of everyone who owns a gun in a region. People applying for gun licences may be subject to a psychiatric report or may be vetted if they've just moved to the area - a model some US states are now looking at.

Lausanne, Switzerland. Credit: PA
Lausanne, Switzerland. Credit: PA

Crucially, anyone in Switzerland who has been convicted of a crime, is struggling with addiction, or has a 'violent or dangerous attitude' is banned from buying a gun. All gun owners must be able to pass a test on loading and shooting their weapon before they are given a licence.

Those who do own a gun are mostly banned from carrying it around - concealed-carry permits are not a thing, unless you're a security worker or a police officer. Hunters and sports shooters can only carry their guns between home and the range.

In recent years, the country passed its first federal laws to support local gun control laws, which has led the gun death rate in the country to fall even further.

Switzerland's approach still isn't perfect - it still has one of Europe's highest gun death rates, with the vast majority of those suicides.

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Chris Ogden

Chris Ogden is a journalist at LADbible. He graduated from the University of East Anglia with degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing before completing his NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism. Chris has previously written for the independent culture magazine The Skinny, among other publications.

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