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The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works

 
Dutch Retriever

User ID: 3705
Netherlands
12/20/2012 12:41 AM

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The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
Even as the gun control debate rises again in the United States in the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the gun-loving Swiss are not about to lay down their arms. Guns are ubiquitous in this neutral nation, with sharpshooting considered a fun and wholesome recreational activity for people of all ages.

Even though Switzerland has not been involved in an armed conflict since a standoff between Catholics and the Protestants in 1847, the Swiss are very serious not only about their right to own weapons, but to carry them around in public as well. Because of this general acceptance and even pride in gun ownership, nobody bats an eye at the sight of a civilian riding a bus, bike or a motorcycle to the shooting range, with a rifle slung across the shoulder.

“We will never change our attitude about the responsible use of weapons by law-abiding citizens,” says Hermann Suter, vice president of Pro-Tell, the country’s gun lobby, named after the legendary apple shooter, William Tell, who used a crossbow to target enemies long before firearms were invented.

Switzerland trails behind only the U.S, Yemen and Serbia in the number of guns per capita; between 2.3 and 4.5 million military and private firearms are estimated to be in circulation in a country of only 8 million people. Yet, despite the prevalence of guns, the violent crime rate is low: government figures show about 0.5 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. By comparison, the U.S rate in the same year was about five firearm killings for 100,000 people, according to the 2011 United Nations report.

Unlike some other heavily armed nations, Switzerland’s gun ownership is deeply rooted in a sense of patriotic duty and national identity. Weapons are kept at home because of the long-held belief that enemies could invade tiny Switzerland quickly, so every soldier had to be able to fight his way to his regiment’s assembly point. (Switzerland was at risk of being invaded by Germany during World War II, but was spared, historians say, because every Swiss man was armed and trained to shoot.)


But the “gun in every closet” tradition was challenged in 2001, after a disgruntled citizen opened fire with his army rifle inside a regional parliament, killing 14 and injuring 14 others – the only mass shooting in Switzerland’s recent history. The subsequent opposition to widespread gun ownership spearheaded a push for stricter arms legislation. The government and pro-gun groups argued, however, that the country’s existing laws regulating the sale, ownership and licensing of private guns, which includes a ban on carrying concealed weapons, are stringent enough. The law allows citizens or legal residents over the age of 18, who have obtained a permit from the government and who have no criminal record or history of mental illness, to buy up to three weapons from an authorized dealer, with the exception of automatic firearms and selective fire weapons, which are banned. Semi automatics, which have caused havoc in the U.S., can be legally purchased.

The authorities made one concession though: since 2008, all military — but not private — ammunition must be stored in central arsenals rather than in soldiers’ homes. The debate culminated in a nationwide referendum last year, when 56% of voters rejected the proposal initiated by anti-gun organizations to ban army rifles from homes altogether.

Although guns are responsible for between 200 and 300 suicides each year in Switzerland, Pro-Tell’s Suter says these statistics have to be put in a wider perspective. He points out that the bullets used in suicides is only a tiny fraction of the 75 million rounds of ammunition that are fired each year in Switzerland during military and civilian target practice
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 the culture of responsibility and safety that is anchored in society and passed from generation to generation. Kids as young as 12 belong to gun groups in their local communities, where they learn sharpshooting. The Swiss Shooting Sports Association runs about 3,000 clubs and has 150,000 members, including a youth section. Many members keep their guns and ammunition at home, while others choose to leave them at the club. And yet, despite such easy access to pistols and rifles, “no members have ever used their guns for criminal purposes,” says Max Flueckiger, the association’s spokesperson.

“Social conditions are fundamental in deterring crime,” says Peter Squires, professor of Criminology and Public Policy of the University of Brighton in Great Britain, who has studied gun violence in different countries and concluded that a “culture of support” rather than focus on individualism, can deter mass killings.

“If people have a responsible, disciplined, and organized introduction into an activity like shooting, there will be less risk of gun violence,” he tells TIME.

That sense of social and civic responsibility is one of the reasons the Swiss have never allowed their guns to come under fire.

more : [link to world.time.com]
A small change at one place in a complex system, can have large effects elswhere..
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 14443159
United States
12/20/2012 12:48 AM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
That sense of social and civic responsibility is one of the reasons the Swiss have never allowed their guns to come under fire.

more : [link to world.time.com]
 Quoting: Dutch Retriever


much lower knee-grow percentage?
pray_Italy

User ID: 17025052
Italy
12/20/2012 01:05 AM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
Yeah, Swiss (at least up to the 1990s) grew up with

a) proper education
b) healthy families teaching REAL values, such as RESPECT towards other people
c) eat properly (most of the time) and adore CHOCOLATE
d) valid health system
e) regulated immigration program
f) most of the youth chills out either smoking weed, going to rave parties, concerts, DOING (instead of watching) sports
g) regularly going outside


That's what popped in my mind first......
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 27418740
United States
12/20/2012 01:22 AM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
That sense of social and civic responsibility is one of the reasons the Swiss have never allowed their guns to come under fire.

more : [link to world.time.com]
 Quoting: Dutch Retriever


much lower knee-grow percentage?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 14443159


Bingo!

Mexicans too.
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 30376378
Australia
12/20/2012 01:33 AM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
Yes, the Swiss tend to use their guns on themselves, and not on others, even though doing so is illegal.

[link to en.wikipedia.org]
cartographica

User ID: 25342985
United States
12/20/2012 11:31 AM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
Kids as young as 12 belong to gun groups in their local communities, where they learn sharpshooting.

“Social conditions are fundamental in deterring crime,”

a “culture of support” rather than focus on individualism, can deter mass killings.

“If people have a responsible, disciplined, and organized introduction into an activity like shooting, there will be less risk of gun violence,”

That sense of social and civic responsibility is one of the reasons the Swiss have never allowed their guns to come under fire.

 Quoting: Dutch Retriever


The Swiss are clearly doing it right. If we here in the US want to keep our weapons, I think it behooves us to make some changes, not only in the way we treat guns, but also how we think of them. Not by taking them away, but by training every teen (not just males) in the proper handling of and respect for weapons, the way the Swiss do. Maybe marksmanship classes w/ 22's once a week for every high-schooler? With children of gun rights dissenters having the option of taking an archery or martial arts class, perhaps?

The "culture of support" seems like it would also be a crticial component. Along with proper handling, teaching kids about the responsibility associated with owning a gun would balance the focus so that it was not just on who would make the best sniper. Focus instead on that "support for the community" aspect - you're either going to use that gun to hunt for food to feed your family and friends, or you're going to have that gun to protect your home, and in a worst case scenario, your community. Not that you're going to abuse the privilege of having it by acting like a thug, using it to intimidate, terrorize, and rob your neighbors. We've got to find a way as a culture to heavily stigmatize that type of thug behaviour, rather than glorify it.

The US "culture of the gun" needs to be divorced from the faulty perception that having & using one "makes you a real man". Training both teenage boys and girls in marksmanship, weapons handling and self defense techniques could make a difference there. Proper training could instill the concept that the sign of a responsible adult the community respects is knowing and acting on the principle that using a gun to harm others is only a course of last resort. That unless you're under direct attack, the gun is never the first thing you reach for to solve a dispute or a problem.

Our twisted media, advertising & entertainment industry would have to get on board and make serious changes to the way they glorify violence and murder in their products. I swear, that might actually be harder to achieve than getting mandatory marksmanship and responsible weapons handling classes into the high schools!
"Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things" - Waldo Tobler, the first law of geography, 1970
just_me
User ID: 31416933
Italy
01/03/2013 11:32 AM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
Three killed, two wounded in Swiss shooting

Thread: Three killed, two wounded in Swiss shooting
pinkshirtguy

User ID: 1537884
United States
01/03/2013 11:42 AM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
They also don't have gangsta rap and juggalos.

This makes me wonder if there is validity to music, tv and video games giving kids ideas. And I hate that as I am very, very against censorship in music, tv and video games.

Or maybe the real difference lies in better family structure.
poyl
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 30626317
United States
01/03/2013 12:06 PM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
They also don't have gangsta rap and juggalos.

This makes me wonder if there is validity to music, tv and video games giving kids ideas. And I hate that as I am very, very against censorship in music, tv and video games.

Or maybe the real difference lies in better family structure.
 Quoting: pinkshirtguy:MV8yMDg3ODUyXzM1NDA0MTExX0E3RTY5REY1,


They have a very homogenous culture, despite having three official languages. Not too many desperately poor people, racially and ethnically diverse people, nor a culture of "badness." Think America in the 50s, highly educated with common goals and an overall sense of respect.
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 31412235
Germany
01/03/2013 12:09 PM
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Re: The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works
They also don't have gangsta rap and juggalos.

This makes me wonder if there is validity to music, tv and video games giving kids ideas. And I hate that as I am very, very against censorship in music, tv and video games.

Or maybe the real difference lies in better family structure.
 Quoting: pinkshirtguy:MV8yMDg3ODUyXzM1NDA0MTExX0E3RTY5REY1,


They have a very homogenous culture, despite having three official languages. Not too many desperately poor people, racially and ethnically diverse people, nor a culture of "badness." Think America in the 50s, highly educated with common goals and an overall sense of respect.
 Quoting: Little Bee


True.

2/3 is german, 1/4 is french and the rest italian.

The three nationalities live in the same country, but in their own distinct regions.

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