The Swiss are bucking gun laws by turning to firearms
GENEVA — Business at Daniel Wyss’ gun shop has been brisk lately in the village of Burgdorf near Switzerland’s capital of Bern.
He said the increased demand for firearms is triggered by a growing fear among the Swiss public that terrorists could attack their tranquil land at any time.
As nations around Europe tighten their gun laws after a series of terror attacks in several countries since 2015, the Swiss are bucking this trend by turning to firearms for protection.
Official statistics show that gun sales in some parts of Switzerland soared nearly 50% after last year’s attacks in Paris and the March bombings in Brussels. And gun sales continue to grow since the killings in France and Germany in the past two weeks.
In Wyss’ shop, “the demand for pistols, revolvers and pump-action guns rose by 30% to 50% after this month’s attacks in Nice and Munich,” he told USA TODAY.
Even though Switzerland has not been involved in an armed battle since a conflict between Catholics and Protestants in 1847, guns are ubiquitous in this Alpine nation.
In fact, neutral Switzerland has long been one of the world’s most heavily armed countries, trailing behind only the United States and Yemen in the number of guns per 100 people, according to the Small Arms Survey.
About 3.4 million military and private firearms are estimated by the United Nations to be in circulation in this country of only 8.3 million people. Even though guns are prevalent, the violent crime rate is relatively low: about 7.7 firearm homicides a year per 1 million people, according to Human Development Index. In the United States, that number is nearly 30, one of the highest in the world.
Although guns continue to stir heated debate in the United States and much of Europe, the issue in Switzerland is far less contentious. That’s because the Swiss have a deeply ingrained gun culture, rooted in a sense of civic responsibility, patriotic duty and national identity.
Military service is compulsory for all men, and 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.
Historians believe Germany didn’t invade Switzerland during World War II because it knew every Swiss man was armed and trained to shoot.
Several years ago Switzerland introduced tighter rules to make firearms less accessible to potentially dangerous people. For instance, all military — but not private — ammunition must now be stored in central arsenals, though weapons can still be kept in soldiers’ homes.
For privately owned firearms, a background check and permit are compulsory, but rifles and semiautomatic long arms used for hunting are exempt from this requirement. And no license is needed for transactions between private individuals.
Although it is fairly easy to purchase firearms here, authorities warn against using them to fight terrorists.
“We can’t forbid anyone to legally purchase a gun, but this is no solution for terror,” Beat Villiger, the vice president of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors, told the SonntagsBlick newspaper Sunday.
SOURCE: This acticle is from USA TODAY.