After last week’s shootings, I have decided that this topic needs to be covered once again and therefore I put aside the original post that I wrote a few days ago on single-payer health care. Typical NRA response is that the Second Amendment is not the cause of the problem and they go on to cite the Swiss experience with the gun. I thought that it would be a good idea to examine the Swiss gun laws and see their experience. I for one am truly sickened by the continual killing of innocent people, especially children.
Hilary Brueck reviewed this topic nicely and stated that Switzerland hasn’t had a mass shooting since 2001, when a man stormed the local parliament in Zug, killing 14 people and then himself.
The country has about 2 million privately owned guns in a nation of 8.3 million people. In 2016, the country had 47 attempted homicides with firearms. The country’s overall murder rate is near zero.
The National Rifle Association often points to Switzerland to argue that more rules on gun ownership aren’t necessary. In 2016, the NRA said on its blog that the European country had one of the lowest murder rates in the world while still having millions of privately owned guns and a few hunting weapons that don’t even require a permit.
But the Swiss have some specific rules and regulations for gun use.
Business Insider took a look at the country’s past with guns to see why it has lower rates of gun violence than the US.
Switzerland is obsessed with getting shooting right. Every year, it holds a shooting contest for kids aged 13 to 17.
Zurich’s Knabenschiessen is a traditional annual festival that dates back to the 1600s.
Though the word roughly translates to “boys shooting” and the competition used to be only boys, teenage girls have been allowed in since 1991.
Kids in the country flock to the competition every September to compete in target shooting using Swiss army service rifles. They’re proud to show off how well they can shoot.
Having an armed citizenry helped keep the Swiss neutral for more than 200 years.
The Swiss stance is one of “armed neutrality.”
Switzerland hasn’t taken part in any international armed conflict since 1815, but some Swiss soldiers help with peacekeeping missions around the world.
Many Swiss see gun ownership as part of a patriotic duty to protect their homeland.
Most Swiss men are required to learn how to use a gun.
Unlike the US, Switzerland has mandatory military service for men.
All men between the ages of 18 and 34 deemed “fit for service” are given a pistol or a rifle and trained.
After they’ve finished their service, the men can typically buy and keep their service weapons, but they have to get a permit for them.
In recent years, the Swiss government has voted to reduce the size of the country’s armed forces.
Switzerland is a bit like a well-designed fort.
Switzerland’s borders are basically designed to blow up on command, with at least 3,000 demolition points on bridges, roads, rails, and tunnels around the landlocked European country.
John McPhee put it this way in his book”La Place de la Concorde Suisse”:
“Near the German border of Switzerland, every railroad and highway tunnel has been prepared to pinch shut explosively. Nearby mountains have been made so porous that whole divisions can fit inside them.”
Roughly a quarter of the gun-toting Swiss use their weapons for military or police duty.
In 2000, more than 25% of Swiss gun owners said they kept their weapon for military or police duty, while less than 5% of Americans said the same.
In addition to the militia’s arms, the country has about 2 million privately owned guns — a figure that has been plummeting over the past decade.
The Swiss government has estimated that about half of the privately owned guns in the country are former service rifles. But there are signs the Swiss gun-to-human ratio is dwindling.
In 2007, the Small Arms Survey found that Switzerland had the third-highest ratio of civilian firearms per 100 residents (46), outdone by only the US (89) and Yemen (55).
But it seems that figure has dropped over the past decade. It’s now estimated that there’s about one civilian gun for every four Swiss people.
Gun sellers follow strict licensing procedures.
Swiss authorities decide on a local level whether to give people gun permits. They also keep a log of everyone who owns a gun in their region, known as a canton, though hunting rifles and some semiautomatic long arms are exempt from the permit requirement.
But cantonal police don’t take their duty dolling out gun licenses lightly. They might consult a psychiatrist or talk with authorities in other cantons where a prospective gun buyer has lived before to vet the person.
Some lawmakers in US states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are considering a similar model.
Swiss laws are designed to prevent anyone who’s violent or incompetent from owning a gun.
People who’ve been convicted of a crime or have an alcohol or drug addiction aren’t allowed to buy guns in Switzerland.
The law also states that anyone who “expresses a violent or dangerous attitude” won’t be permitted to own a gun.
Gun owners who want to carry their weapon for “defensive purposes” also have to prove they can properly load, unload, and shoot their weapon and must pass a test to get a license.
Switzerland is also one of the richest, healthiest, and, by some measures, happiest countries in the world.
Switzerland was ranked fourth in the UN’s 2017 World Happiness Report.
The Swiss were applauded for high marks on “all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance” the report’s authors wrote.
Meanwhile, according to the report, happiness has taken a dive over the past decade in the US.
“The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption,” the authors said.
But the Swiss aren’t perfect when it comes to guns.
Note this well, Switzerland still has one of the highest rates of gun violence in Europe, and most gun deaths in the country are suicides.
Around the world, stronger gun laws have been linked to fewer gun deaths. That has been the case in Switzerland too.
After hundreds of years of letting local cantons determine gun rules, Switzerland passed its first federal regulations on guns in 1999, after the country’s crime rate increased during the 1990s.
Since then, more provisions have been added to keep the country on par with EU gun laws, and gun deaths, including suicides, have continued to drop.
As of 2015, the Swiss estimated that only about 11% of citizens kept their military-issued gun at home.
Most people aren’t allowed to carry their guns around in Switzerland.
Concealed-carry permits are tough to get in Switzerland, and most people who aren’t security workers or police officers don’t have one.
“We have guns at home, but they are kept for peaceful purposes,” Martin Killias, a professor of criminology at Zurich University, told the BBC in 2013. “There is no point taking the gun out of your home in Switzerland because it is illegal to carry a gun in the street.”
That’s mostly true. Hunters and sports shooters are allowed to transport their guns only from their home to the firing range — they can’t just stop off for coffee with their rifle.
And guns cannot be loaded during transport to prevent them from accidentally firing in a place like Starbucks — something that has happened in the US at least twice.
Gun control really works — here’s the science to prove it
After the Shooting in Florida in March, Kevin Loria researched the data behind Gun Control and this discussion belongs front and center.
- He stated that after last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, many in the US are wondering what sort of gun-control measures could prevent more gun violence.
- Despite some restrictions on gun research, scientists have sought to evaluate whether specific policies effectively reduce gun deaths.
- Policies that seem to reduce rates of gun violence include stricter background checks, limiting access to dangerous weapons, and prohibiting domestic abusers from owning weapons.
There are close to as many guns in the US as there are people. There may be more, or there may be fewer, depending on which study you look at — there’s no exact count, since there isn’t a national database of gun purchases or firearm owners, and federal law does not require a prospective gun owner to get a license or permit.
That’s one of the many obstacles researchers come up against when trying to evaluate why so many people die from guns in the US.
But as the country tries to figure what — if anything — can be done in the wake of yet last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, it’s worth taking a look at the evidence we have on the effects of gun regulations.
Despite some congressional limitations on gun research, scientists have sought to evaluate the effects of gun-control legislation in the US and in other places around the world.
Here’s what the data shows.
Making it easier to carry concealed guns increases the number of gun homicides.
States that have so-called right-to-carry laws require them to issue concealed-carry permits to anyone who is allowed to own guns and meets the necessary conditions.
Many people have argued that right-to-carry laws deter crime because there would be more armed people around to stop a shooter. Though that idea was supported by a controversial 1997 analysis, recent and more thorough analyses have found the opposite effect.
One recent study found that such laws increased the rate of firearm homicides by 9% when homicide rates were compared state-by-state. That could be because confrontations were more likely to escalate to a shooting, or because there were more guns around that could be stolen, or some other factor.
A spike in gun purchases after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School led to an increase in accidental gun deaths, especially among kids.
Research has found that when people are around more guns, they’re more likely to end up dying from accidental shootings.
After a 20-year-old man killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, calls for legislation aimed at limiting access to firearms resulted in what’s now become a predictable phenomenon after shootings: people bought lots of guns.
With more guns around in the following months, the rate of accidental deaths related to firearms rose sharply, especially among children, a recent study published in the journal Science found.
According to the researchers’ calculations, 40 adults and 20 children died as a result of those gun purchases.
Barring people convicted of domestic abuse from owning guns has a huge effect on the number of gun deaths.
The so-called Lautenberg amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act disqualifies people with a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence from buying or owning weapons.
Researchers found that gun murders of female intimate partners decreased by 17% as a result of the amendment.
Laws that call for longer sentences for gun crimes also seem to help a little.
Gun-robbery rates have gone down in states that have approved longer sentences for assault or robbery with a gun.
In the 1970s and 1980s, there were 30 “add-on” sentencing laws calling for additional prison time for people convicted of robbery or assault with a gun.
A 40-year-analysis found that gun-robbery rates dropped by about 5% in the years after the sentencing laws were enacted.
States with stricter gun-control laws that spend more money on education and mental-health care have fewer school shootings.
One recent study found that a smaller number of school shootings was linked with stricter background checks for weapon and ammunition purchases as well as more money spent on education and mental-health care.
Though school shootings are not the most common form of gun violence, a recent spike in these types of events in the US has prompted concern. There was an average of one school shooting a year from 1966 to 2008, but an average of one per week from 2013 to 2015, the study found.
The researchers said that based on available data, it was difficult to say which factor was most important in reducing shootings in schools.
However, mental-health treatment is unlikely to be solely responsible, as people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator. Though about 20% of Americans have some form of mental illness, people with a serious mental-health problem account for only about 3% of violent crime.
After Congress let a 1994 ban on assault weapons expire in 2004, gun massacre deaths skyrocketed.
Arguments about the exact meaning of “assault weapon” obfuscate an important point: When people in the US were allowed to start buying military-style firearms with high-capacity magazines, the number of people dying in gun massacres, defined as shootings in which at least six people die, shot up.
The number of gun massacres and massacre deaths decreased by 37% and 43% after the 1994 ban on assault weapons went into effect, one researcher found. After it expired in 2004, they shot up by 183% and 239%.
There’s debate over the effectiveness of this legislation in reducing overall gun crime or firearm deaths, as most gun deaths in the US are suicides and most murders involve a handgun.
But most of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history have one big thing in common: They involved a military-style weapon with a high-capacity magazine.
Reducing access to guns could reduce the number of suicides in the US.
Some gun-rights advocates argue that if you limit access to guns, people will just find other ways to kill themselves or others.
But data indicates that this “substitution hypothesis” is not correct.
More than 60% of gun deaths in the US are suicides, and research has found that people are most likely to try to kill themselves shortly after they decide to do so. People who attempt to do that with a gun as opposed to another method are much more likely to kill themselves.
Data from other countries support restricting gun access, too. When the Israel Defense Forces stopped letting troops bring weapons home on the weekends, suicide rates dropped by 40%, one study found.
Historically, suicides dropped after the UK switched from coal-gas ovens — which used a gas that people inhaled to kill themselves — to another fuel. The country saw an increase in the use of other methods to attempt suicide, but it did not offset the drop in suicides by coal gas.
Weapons buyback programs have been successful in reducing mass shootings.
After at 1996 mass shooting left 35 people dead in Australia, the country said “enough.”
Leaders swiftly enacted gun-control legislation and set up a program for citizens to sell their weapons back to the government so they could be destroyed.
The initiative seems to have been successful; firearm suicides were found to have dropped by 65% and homicides by 59% over the next 10 years.
While Australia had seen 13 mass shootings — defined as five or more deaths — in the 18 years before the 1996 massacre, there have been none there since.
It’s possible that some of those declines were part of other trends. But either way, getting many guns off the streets and out of shops has been connected to big drops in gun deaths in Australia.
The US has a higher rate of gun violence than any other similarly wealthy country. Why not try to change that?
The US has far more mass shootings than just about any country in the world. Of countries with at least 10 million people, there are more mass shootings per capita in only Yemen, which has the second-highest per-capita rate of gun ownership (the US has the highest).
Even other countries with lots of guns, like Switzerland, have far fewer firearm deaths.
In Switzerland, as I pointed out, however, most people gain access to weapons because of military service that provides training; other prospective purchasers have to go through a multi-week background check. Authorities there also prohibit some citizens whom psychologists deem a potential risk from owning weapons.
The US is not inherently a more violent society. What sets the country apart is that it has a lot of guns that are still really easy to get. And the data that we have indicates that some gun-control measures — like banning some types of weapons, improving background checks, and putting more restrictions on weapon access — could help.
Analyzing that data and gathering more information could help leaders determine what sort of changes could help prevent another Parkland, Las Vegas, or Sandy Hook.
Or, as Mr. Loria previously stated, we could do nothing and wait for the same thing to happen again.
I think this has become too big a problem to ignore and blame the Second Amendment and the politicians while they argue and position themselves for the mid-term elections. We need an Executive Order from our leader, the President of the United States. How many more are going to murder before we find a solution and hold our politicians’ feet to the fire?
I say no more because some of these children in the future may be relatives or children of friends and because these murders are all wrong and avoidable. Wake up America! If nothing is done I think that all candidates for the November election should declare their status on gun laws and those supported by the NRA so that we can vote out those that are not interested in solutions to this horrific “epidemic”!
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