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Aug-19-2012 10:06printcomments

Guns in Switzerland

Gun advocates hold up Switzerland as an example of gun freedom--they could not be more wrong.
The Omega Speedmaster worn on the moon during the Apollo missions. In terms of value, Switzerland is responsible for half of the world production of watches. The U.S., at over $700 billion, has a defense budget representing 41% of the world's total defense budgets.

(CALGARY, Alberta) - Uh-merican gun nuts prominently tout Switzerland as an example of a country that requires adult males to be armed and yet has a low firearms homicide rate. It sounds good on the surface until you dig a little deeper (which right-wingers seldom do) and discover that not only are the differences between the two nations like night and day but that Switzerland and Finland routinely compete for the highest annual rate of gun death in Western Europe.

A more significant comparative factor is that Switzerland has a population of only 8 million, about one fortieth of the U.S. In addition Switzerland is a federation of cantons and citizens regularly participate in plebiscites to decide on local and national issues—Direct democracy.

The rise of Switzerland as a federal state began on September 12, 1848, when the federal constitution was created in response to a 27-day civil war in Switzerland, the Sonderbundskrieg. The constitution, which was heavily influenced by the US Constitution and the ideas of the French Revolution, was modified several times during the following decades and wholly replaced in 1999. The constitution represents the first time that the Swiss were governed by a strong central government instead of being simply a collection of independent cantons bound by treaties. Because of historical federalist sensibilities, Swiss law does not designate a formal capital, and some federal institutions such as courts are located in other cities. (The U.S. could learn much from the constitutional experiences of the Swiss.)

In Switzerland, members of the militia and private citizens alike are tightly regulated in regards to gun ownership. Despite NRA claims like, “young adults in Zurich are subject to minimal gun control,” the truth is that Switzerland has very strict gun laws that American gun rights groups would consider “tyrannical.”

(See ” The truth about guns in Switzerland ’”)

It is highly unlikely that any American gun-nut could actually live there. They could not tolerate what Peter C. Newman calls Switzerland’s “regimented mentality”. He gives this example:

Garbage collection is a weekly production. We had been living in Switzerland for most of a year when we flew to London on a Sunday morning. That meant having to put out the garbage, which is usually collected Tuesday mornings, out early. And that, in turn, resulted in our only run-in with the Swiss police. By putting out the garbage too early we had committed a faux pas serious enough that we were warned one more such demeanour would bring a police summons.”

In Switzerland military service is compulsory and about 10% of the population is active in the army at any one time. Later, they must keep their guns and kits at home in order to be mobilized more quickly. John McPhee, the long time (1965 to present) New Yorker writer wrote “Switzerland does not have an army. Switzerland is an army.” As Daniel Mockli, a security expert at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, explains:

This is a country where you are both a citizen and a soldier. We have a militia here and the gun reflects a sense of responsibility and trust given you by the state. Here the debate on guns is about national security, whereas in the U.S. it is about protecting yourself.”

Switzerland has maintained its armed neutrality for centuries and the fundamental reason they were not invaded during WW2 was because Hitler and his allies said to themselves, the equivalent of: “Why should I attack the country where I’ve stashed my illegal millions?” Indeed.

In Switzerland, “Environmental misdeeds of any magnitude—like throwing a cigarette butt into a river—are high on their list of serious infractions, and rightly so”, writes Newman. “When you are a guest, whether in their homes or their country, you conduct yourself accordingly, with dignity and decorum.” These last two attitudes do not come easily, if at all, to Americans when in other countries.

In 1958 Eugene Burdick and William Lederer published a political novel The Ugly American. The title is actually a double entendre, referring both to the physically unattractive hero, Homer Atkins, and to the ugly behavior of the American government employees. The book was a bestseller and turned into a 1963 movie starring Marlon Brando. defines "the Ugly American" as: Pejorative term for Americans traveling or living abroad who remain ignorant of local culture and judge everything by American standards. Ugly Americans are loud, boorish and arrogant, whose behaviour reinforces the negative stereotype of Americans in many countries.

A few years ago I read a story about a Canadian couple visiting New Zealand. They were in a restaurant and were about to leave when the waitress asked them if they were Canadians. Yes, they replied, what made you think that? Because, the waitress replied, you said “please” and “thank you”.


Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Daniel Johnson as a teenager aspired to be a writer. Always a voracious reader, he reads more books in a month than many people read in a lifetime. He also reads 100+ online articles per week. He knew early that in order to be a writer, you have to be a reader.

He has always been concerned about fairness in the world and the plight of the underprivileged/underdog.

As a professional writer he sold his first paid article in 1974 and, while employed at other jobs, started selling a few pieces in assorted places.

Over the next 15 years, Daniel eked out a living as a writer doing, among other things, national writing and both radio and TV broadcasting for the CBC, Maclean’s (the national newsmagazine) and a wide variety of smaller publications. Interweaved throughout this period was soul-killing corporate and public relations writing.

It was through the 1960s and 1970s that he got his university experience. In his first year at the University of Calgary, he majored in psychology/mathematics; in his second year he switched to physics/mathematics. He then learned of an independent study program at the University of Lethbridge where he attended the next two years, studying philosophy and economics. In the end he attended university over nine years (four full time) but never qualified for a degree because he didn't have the right number of courses in any particular field.

In 1990 he published his first (and so far, only) book: Practical History: A guide to Will and Ariel Durant’s “The Story of Civilization” (Polymath Press, Calgary)

Newly appointed as the Deputy Executive Editor in August 2011, he has been writing exclusively for since March 2009 and, as of summer 2011, has published more than 160 stories.

View articles written by Daniel Johnson

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Vivek August 23, 2012 1:59 am (Pacific time)

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Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.

Thank you! 

Anonymous August 22, 2012 7:24 am (Pacific time)

Yes we Americans have accomplished great things, and will continue to do so. In regards to comparing say tolerance with the Taliban and conservatives, nothing could be more polar opposite in that regards, i.e., reconition of individual freedoms, even though there are on occasion strong disagreement among conservatives. Recently a CEO of a large major corporation acknowledged he was a supporter of traditional marriage, a position Obama took a few months ago until a political calculus from his diminishing base said doing otherwise would be of political benefit. Subsequently the wrath of the so- called tolerant left became quite apparent with that above CEO, even by numerous politicians on the tolerant left. What Rep. Paul Ryan said in the below referenced video is a reflection of how the majority of Americans feel, so those critics who disapprove, well, it has no serious impact, but it does reflect the tolerance by us conservatives that it is okay to provide your opinion. The GOP, and we conservatives, have a big tent, with many contrasting opinions, some just the opposite from others within our big tent, we allow all voices to be heard, and non-violent arguements happen. Those on the left can really be quite violent with those of opposing the Taliban, or Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc..

Anonymous August 21, 2012 6:17 pm (Pacific time)

Future Vice President Paul Ryan: 'I Am Happy To Be Clinging To My Guns And My Religion!'

America has put men on the moon, rovers exploring Mars and Voyager satellites that have left the solar system are still broadcasting back to earth from interstellar space. On the ground, however, the Republicans are religiously and culturally retreating back to the middle ages. The level of ignorance—about biology, history, economics, government, ethics— anything you can name—is absolutely staggering. Evolution is a "theory," "Gay lifestyle" is a "choice," Global warming is a "hoax." The economic collapse was caused by "reckless borrowers."

Pretty soon the Republicans and the Taliban will be intellectually indistinguishable.  

Anonymous August 20, 2012 11:36 pm (Pacific time)

Utter B. S.

I am finished with the debate. Can't waste time informing the un-informable.

Tim could find a better Editor, but not at your price.

Our little to and fro gave me a great insight into the American psyche. In believing in their vaunted "exceptionalism" they have completely lost empathy for anyone beyond their borders. They are simply unable to have any empathy and therefore any understanding of any viewpoint other than their own. What they don't understand they dismiss as Utter B. S.. 

I thank you for inadvertently leading me to that significant insight. 

August 20, 2012 5:38 pm (Pacific time)

So you can't use data AMONG states to support your claims, because your argument cannot be won without YOU making up your own rules?

It's not a matter of making up rules, but within a state or among the states you're dealing entirely with Americans who all have ideas about gun control and the SA. You can't compare those people directly with people from other cultures (and Canada is an entirely different culture which derives from our totally different histories.)

"Consider again the research conducted by Harvard University, the National Institute for Policy Analysis, The Guardian, Thompson Reuters and BBC.

You're throwing out some impressive names without pointing to any actual studies or reports. 

Also note that the War on Drugs has utterly failed to control the flow of drugs. The War on Guns won't control the flow of guns either.

Agreed about the War on Drugs. But there has never been a War on Guns so you're making assumptions and jumping to a conclsuion.So, no support for the idea of a corollary.  

This isn't a pro-Drug comment, but there is a corollary.

They found that gun bans actually led to increases in violent crime rather than decreases.

What's your source for this bald assertion?

The Guardian recently posted an excellent graphic showing the US is #1 by gun ownership 88.8guns/100ppl but #14 in gun homicides. We also only have 50-60% of homicides involving a firearm.

The vaguest of assertions. Are your comparisons involving only developed Western nations or does this include countries like Mexico and Honduras?

Read more:"

Interesting piece. I like this from the article:

Lost in the bluster and political gamesmanship is the fact that, whether Americans want to do something about the guns in their midst or not, their lax laws are hurting other countries, especially the neighbors to the north and south. Sure, Canada and Mexico are two vastly different polities, with different problems and with police forces in considerably different states of preparedness. But both countries can rightly point the finger at the U.S. for the prevalence of gun-related homicides on their side of the border.

You need to stop hating the U.S. because we don't hate you guys up there.  We have been keeping you save for centuries.

I don't hate the US, just the toxicity that your political and business leaders spread around the globe.

There are millions of Americans who are fine people, it's just that they all drink the same Kool-Aid and lose sight of the forest for the trees. 

Anonymous August 20, 2012 6:57 pm (Pacific time)


In 1997, Britain passed a law requiring civilians to surrender almost all privately owned handguns to the police. More than 162,000 handguns and 1.5 million pounds of ammunition were "compulsorily surrendered" by February 1998. Using "records of firearms held on firearms certificates," police accounted for all but fewer than eight of all legally owned handguns in England, Scotland, and Wales.


...the homicide rate in England and Wales has averaged 52% higher since the outset of the 1968 gun control law and 15% higher since the outset of the 1997 handgun ban

You don't give any sources for your facts but I think if you dig a little deeper you'll find that normal population growth during those periods will absorb much of the disparity. Beyond that there are too many other factors (immigration, economic changes) to come up with a simple cause/effect relationship. 

Anonymous August 20, 2012 6:44 pm (Pacific time)

"If you live in America, you are four times more likely to be murdered than if you live in Britain, almost six times more likely than in Germany, and 13 times more likely than in Japan. These are simple facts on which all can agree; just as it is a simple fact that two-thirds of all murders in America involve guns, whereas in Britain the figure is under 10%. Beyond that, though, there is not a flicker of consensus in America about what to do about the grisly harvest that last year gathered in 9,000 lives."


I would rather be killed in an instant than by slashing with a knife. But that is just me...

Most people have guns for hunting or target practice, however and NOT FOR PROTECTION. Imagine THAT. It is not out of FEAR?!

You're making my point for me.  Fewer guns in Britain, Germany and Japan and demonstrably fewer murders. Imagine that.

Anonymous August 20, 2012 5:31 pm (Pacific time)

So now you, as a blogger (sorry for confusing you with objective journalism) speak for the entire country of Canada? You really think that the average American is fearful? I would bet that those with guns feel less fear when walking down dark alleys.

That's right, people with guns feel less fear than when they don't have a gun. QED

As for Canada, if there were any push for more guns, it would make the news and because I have high reading comprehension, I would be aware of it. 

Anonymous August 20, 2012 4:38 pm (Pacific time)

Who indicated that the gun laws have anything to do with fear? Do YOU fear them? I guess you mean gun limits are due to some sort of fear? Confusing. As far as the interpretation, I guess you are saying that Germany, the UK et al do not think they need guns therefore have lower violence levels? You know that Hawaii has limited gun rights and has as many killings as Oregon. But you don't want to address that, do you?

Whatever happens within or among the states cannot be compared to other countries.

A month ago Walt Wawra (a cop from Kalamzoo, MI) and his wife visited Calgary  and it turned out he was scared shitless without his gun. You know about fear--so many gun advocates talk about needing guns for "protection". That's fear and like I keep saying, it is not an attitude widely expressed by  the citizens of Canada, and other developed nations of the West.

In case you missed it here is the Walt Wawa story 

Anonymous August 20, 2012 4:35 pm (Pacific time)

Always trying to turn everything around in order to obfuscate. That is good going, Dan. Great writing.

Thanks for the compliment. 

August 20, 2012 2:52 pm (Pacific time)

Canadians outlawed guns?!  I did not know that.  When was this?  Same questions about Germany and the UK...  ???    You are the investigative journalist with the mission to prove the gun laws in the U.S. are wrong.  YOU need to do YOUR homework.

As you noted earlier, reading comprehension is fundamental.

I've never said those countries outlawed guns. There is just pretty strict gun control and this is not something the citizens worry about because they don't feel the need for guns. They don't clamour to get them.

I also don't think that gun laws in the US are wrong. They are just a normal symptom of a society based on fear--fear on many levels and in many guises.  

Anonymous August 20, 2012 3:34 pm (Pacific time)

I would take the analysis and informed opinions of a PhD in a relevant field OVER that of a two-bit hack journalist. Oh... you don't even earn THAT!?


Just HOW MANY years did it take you to get that 4-year degree? Reading comprehension is fundamental...

 I'm ignoring your ad hominem attack because I'm above it.

I've had a lot of experience with Phds in the social sciences and it's mostly pseudo-science. Klerk did answer my question in his conclusion: "Economic injustice, a history of racism, and other factors have created dangerous conditions in many places in America." 

Violence is something the American people have brought on themselves, conditions that don't exist significantly in the same way in Canada, UK, Gemany, etc. Thanks for that.

Another factor that I had already figured out was the America was born in violence and just never grew beyond it. Here in Canada, for example, we never had Indian wars. In fact, many American tribes made it across the border into Canada where they were better treated by the RNWMP. (Although the British gave them treaties that were often unfulfilled or abrogated.)

Anonymous August 20, 2012 2:01 pm (Pacific time)

For the thinking people who have the ability to learn:

For every use of a gun to commit a crime, there are three-to-four cases of guns used in self-defense of a crime.

Assault and robbery rate are lower when victims are armed with a gun.

A gun is used in self-defense to protect its owner from a crime 2.5 million times per year, an average of once every 13 seconds.

Fifteen percent of the gun defenders interviewed believed someone would have died if they had not been armed.

In nearly 75% of the cases, the victim did not know his attackers. In nearly 50% of the cases, he faced at least two attackers and in nearly 25% of the cases, there were three or more attackers. A quarter of the incidents of self-defense occurred away from home.

Source: Gary Kleck, PhD, Criminologist, author, and practicing Democrat. Born in Lombard, Ill., in 1951, Kleck received his B.A. from the University of Illinois in 1973. By 1979, he had received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Illinois in Urbana. He has spent his entire career at Florida State University’s School of Criminology, beginning as an instructor and eventually becoming a professor at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice in 1991.

[Not verified by the author.]

There are plenty of gun laws on the books. Innocent people are victimized by the criminals who don't give a crap about the laws. THAT is why we need the freedom to be armed.

I've seen these numbers before and I think they are a fantasy with no foundation. If you can reference a legitimate source (not just saying so and so said it), it would be more useful.

One question: What is it about the American personality that makes them think they need guns when others in the West (Canada, Germany, UK, et al) do not and still have far lower levels of societal  violence than the US? 

RosenOtter August 20, 2012 11:51 am (Pacific time)

This was interesting, but you didn't actually mention Swiss gun laws. What ARE Swiss gun laws like?

You missed it in the fourth paragraph:

In Switzerland, members of the militia and private citizens alike are tightly regulated in regards to gun ownership. Despite NRA claims like, “young adults in Zurich are subject to minimal gun control,” the truth is that Switzerland has very strict gun laws that American gun rights groups would consider “tyrannical.” 

Anonymous August 20, 2012 10:08 am (Pacific time)

Switzerland? What's your point? This country really has no impact on our national policy, nor does any other country in regards to anything in our Bill of Rights, which we see as not something provided by "any" government. Therein lies the difference between us and those who feel all power comes from a central source. Firearm sales are continuing at record pace as gun crimes diminish. Completely the opposite of what propagandists like Brady, Sen. Feinstein, Schumer, et al, project. "American civilians buy as many AK47s as the Russian military and police... and demand is surging because gun owners fear they will be banned. The semiautomatic weapons, fitted with high-capacity magazines, are manufactured at Izhevsk Machinebuilding Plant, Russia's primary small arms factory. They are built alongside the fully-automatic military versions that are used by armies, militias and terrorists around the world. In the United States, they have become immensely popular. Among hunters, recreational shooters and survivalists, they are known for being extremely reliable and relatively inexpensive -- and they fire powerful ammunition that is cheap and plentiful." Note: I own nine, and will buy more. Everyone in my extended family is trained and cross-trained on everything from pistols/handguns, shotguns, rifles, other lawful weapons. They are also well trained in tactics/strategy in hunting different types of games, and other lawful activities to protect their lives. Also it is statistically nil for a Concealed Gun license holder to have been convicted of a gun crime while licensed. Considering there are millions of those licensed out there, the propagandists must, and do, make up some absurd gun stats. More guns, less crime is what is happening in America, and we are not concerned with world opinion on this matter. Our urban areas, controlled by political leftists and other dynamics, is where the main violence is. In time, unless new leadership comes in, they will all be like Detroit. Check out that place where liberals have been in charged for far too long. It is something out of a really bad sci-fi future world movie, except it is current reality.

Anonymous August 20, 2012 7:35 am (Pacific time)

Gun laws, or most any other codified national laws within Switzerland, Uganda, France, China, Canada, all other countries...have nothing to do with America. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights, coupled with all other [50] states in our union, which includes a couple hundred years of American jurisprudence is what defines our legal system, as imperfect as it is on occasion. If we Americans paid attention to outside (and domestic) critics of our system of government, our values, and our mores, then that would certainly be cause for concern. We are exceptional because we are, on a collective level, superior in a natural way. Why other countries have not achieved our level of magnificence is most likely of a non-temporal cause. That may be why we have such boundless energy and charity in our hearts when we assist the less fortunate. You are very welcome.

Tim King August 20, 2012 5:55 am (Pacific time)

Well that was a cool ending, or at least fitting. I've been around the UA's myself overseas and can share too many stories. So the bottom line is that the money was more the determent to Hitler than the militarized nation, but in the end do you reason that the guns were also part of what the Germans were considering? Thanks for a super enightening article!

Anonymous August 19, 2012 8:52 pm (Pacific time)

You are so far away from the bulls-eye you need some serious target practice. Cross over to the U.S. We'll help you out.

Perhaps take some lessons on writing to your intended audience as well...

What's your point? 

Anonymous August 19, 2012 8:17 pm (Pacific time)

If it were not for the respect I have for Tim, your "Ugly Canadian" attitude would keep me from this site. You are ill-informed on most matters of which you speak and you are too arrogant to learn anything new. So I will not even try.

Calling me an "Ugly Canadian" won't stick. The term Ugly American was coined more than 50 years ago and it's no accident that it fell into widespread usage around the world.

What's the matter, does the truth hurt? 

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