A commentary about the Swiss that I stole from Face Book
I'm not claiming this is 100% accurate but I thought it interesting enough to repost here.
The back story on this posting is... This short commentary was linked to a meme showing two happy, smiling Swiss girls bicycling along in the countryside, with assault rifles on their backs.
This meme is frequently used by the US gun lobby as a justification to arm our entire citizenry. Their reasoning is that sensible gun regulation equates to taking guns away from the people, as they argue that Switzerland stays safe by deliberately putting guns in the hands of their citizens. Both claims are false. The push for common sense gun regulation in the US has nothing to do with "taking away" weapons. The second, perhaps more important truth, is that Switzerland is a leader in practicing the stringent yet fair gun control that many of us have been advocating for, and that the NRA has been fighting tooth and nail against. Switzerland is a model for showing that sensible gun regulation works exceedingly well to prevent crime and establish an emotionally healthy, balanced, law-abiding society.
Let me set the scene: Switzerland does not have a standing army, opting instead for a civilian militia. That militia IS their army, so those carrying weapons in public are not private citizens acting freely as individuals, they are structured members of a military, charged with protecting their nation. Switzerland's military model isn't about allowing their citizens the "right" to have weapons, it's about creating an army through different means. Guns in Switzerland are seen as tools for national -- not personal -- defense. That's an important distinction for those trying to draw comparisons for gun use in the two countries to come to terms with. Members of their militia are drafted, they have no say over the matter. Nearly all men between the ages of 20 and 30 are included, and women are allowed to volunteer.
Guns are a huge hobby in Switzerland, but approximately half of all personal firearms are stored at gun clubs, away from the home, where they prove less of a threat to the family. Despite the claims we hear from the US gun lobby, gun ownership in Switzerland is nowhere near as common as it is in the US. The Swiss household gun-ownership rate is 27% excluding militia weapons. Contrast this with household gun-ownership rates of 9% for Germans, 16% for Italians, 23% for French, and 37% for the US. If we included military weapons in the US total (as the creator of this meme did for Switzerland), the ownership rate in the US would be much higher.
Once members of the Swiss military have fulfilled their 10 years of service, they have the option of retaining their military weapon, however the automatic features of the gun are stripped away. All guns in the hand of civilians are user-loading, greatly reducing the threat to society. Citizens are allowed to own a maximum of 3 weapons at any given time.
There is a huge emphasis on gun safety and training in Switzerland. Anyone wishing to own or use a gun must submit to a complex background check that includes mental and physical health screening, as well as considerable hands on experience and extensive training which stresses safe use of guns, understanding the law itself, and understanding the social implications of inappropriate gun use. After proving "need", those wishing to own and use a gun must obtain a permit which they are required to carry on their person, which must be updated every 6 months after need has again been proven. You aren't given blanket permission to own and use a gun forever for whatever purpose you want. Anyone with a criminal history, even for relatively minor crimes, are forbidden from owning guns. In the US, all you need to purchase and use a gun is a photo ID. As a direct result of this lack of oversight, guns in the hands of criminals are rife in the US.
Gun sellers in Switzerland are required to perform complex background checks, and to provide a "reasonable certainty" that the guns they sell will not be used for criminal activity. Sellers that fail to follow those procedures become directly accountable for crimes committed with any guns they sell. The participants in these transactions are required to prepare a written contract detailing the identities of both vendor and purchaser, the weapon's type, manufacturer, and serial number. If that gun is then resold by the owner, the same paperwork needs to be completed again, and entered into a national database. BB guns, paintball guns, and imitations of real guns are also governed by the law, as is gunpowder. The sale of automatic weapons and certain accessories such as "silencers" and high capacity gun clips are forbidden without a special permit which requires an additional, more thorough screening.
In the US, you can buy any of these items anonymously at a gun show and through the internet. The lack of gun monitoring forced on our nation by "hands-off" gun advocates is so complete that someone could build a standing army without setting off any failsafe alarms, as many of those involved in mass shootings and other US-based crimes have done.
Until very recently, all military ammunition in Switzerland was government issued, and checks were performed each year to verify that no unauthorized use of ammunition had taken place. While the government no longer provides ammunition through a central clearinghouse, it still monitors it very closely, with each weapon and each bullet accounted for at all times, tracked to individual owners, who are held accountable for their weapons. Those who want to target practice (including citizens), must do so at a government approved target ranges where all ammunition can be carefully accounted for.
In the US, the NRA has successful blocked registration and tracking requirements, so that we literally have no idea how many guns are out there, what kind they are, what add-on features they have, and who has possession of them. Switzerland has stringent laws for illegal possession of weapons, which serves as a powerful deterrent to crime and keeps the weapons out of the hands of criminals, while America has a "no regulation" policy that puts guns directly in the hands of criminals, and affords them the same access to guns as anyone else in society. Every single weapon in the hands of criminals in the US came from a legal gun sale.
In Switzerland, citizens and members of the military are not allowed to use their weapons to settle personal arguments. The penalties for improper use of firearms are more severe than America's penalties for many forms of homicide.
Gun transport in Switzerland is considerably more regulated than in the US: The ammunition must be separated from the gun, so in the event of a theft, the criminal is not obtaining a working weapon. There needs to be a clear justification for transport; You aren't allowed to keep a gun in your trunk for personal protection. It must be on your person, where you can more accurately be held accountable for its use.
Because of Switzerland's thorough yet common sense gun regulation, there is very little gun violence, and you rarely see a mass shooting there of the type we see in the US nearly monthly. Their civilian guns simply lack the firepower required for military use, and are instead geared to something more logical for personal protection.
One of the reasons the crime rate in Switzerland is low despite the prevalence of weapons, and also why the Swiss mentality can't be transposed to the current American reality, is a culture of responsibility and safety that is anchored in society and passed from generation to generation. Anyone choosing to pick up a gun in Switzerland is held fully accountable for what happens next.
Where Switzerland has a structured civilian army whose purpose it is to protect the populace in the event of a credible threat, America has a formal military alongside disparate renegade vigilante cowboys insistent on taking the law into their own hands.
Switzerland's focus on personal responsibility proves two things:
1) Sensible common sense gun regulation works exceedingly well not only to reduce gun violence and crime, but also to restructure corrupt and dangerous societal views on guns, that are directly responsible for the majority of gun violence in the US.
2) If the US hopes to get our violent gun crime under control, we need to start holding gun owners fully accountable for their choice to own and use guns. Punishment for inappropriate use of weapons needs to be far more severe, and the cowboy mentality of taking the law into our own hands needs to be eradicated. The solution to rampant gun violence long advocated by the gun crowd in the US takes exactly the opposite tack: no rules, no accountability. Trust the gun owner to do the right thing, and then deny accountability for any and all violence that results from that failed policy.
Of course other social issues also come into play: Switzerland has an excellent record for social equality, universal access to health care which emphasizes (instead of excluding) mental health resources, and a well-functioning government. All of those things help, and none of them can be separated from the whole. Switzerland's balanced controlled perspective on gun use defines their healthy society, just as America's narrowly self-serving perspective defines our violent and dysfunctional society and government.
BTW... I don't know if I violate any copyright held by FB if I repost this. It is from a page designated as a "community" page so I can only assume it is for all public consumption.