December 7th, 2013
05:05 PM ET

Switzerland: Gun lover's paradise?

Watch Global Lessons on Guns, a Fareed Zakaria GPS primetime special, this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on CNN

Switzerland is, by many measures, a gun lover's paradise. According to one estimate, the Swiss rank third in the world with 46 guns per 100 people – trailing only Yemen and, of course, the United States.

Why is Switzerland armed to the teeth? Well, thanks to a tradition that dates back to the dawn of the nation. It’s citizen-militia that forms its army. All able-bodied men, from farmers to financiers, serve at least 260 days in the militia. They’re all trained to shoot and most of them keep their guns at home. Militiamen can hone their skills at their local shooting clubs – gun appreciation societies that boast hundreds of thousands of members, offering classes, competition and camaraderie.

Pistol-packing Ursula Lutz in the video has been shooting for most of her life. On this day at her club, she hits the bulls eye 18 out of twenty times. Not bad for a 70 year-old.

Even the youngsters are expert marksmen. Dave Hah-Bairt is all of 10 years-old and started training two years ago. His advice for the inexperienced? Don’t fidget while shooting.

Watch Global Lessons on Guns for more on this issue.

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Topics: Europe • Gun Control

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. ✠RZ✠

    Time and again, the issue of gun violence has been expressed in the concerns and opinions of many so called outspoken individuals. The likes of Piers Morgan to President Obama and many others will argue their points vehemently, but who amongst them with a semblance of wisdom or authority has spoken up on the much the larger, more serious, and incredibly devastating issue of global conflict and military violence?

    December 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      On one hand we are all rightfully horrified by the notion of our children or anyone else being able to obtain guns and use them to commit random acts of senseless violence and murder. But on the other hand we accept if not willingly promote the development and proliferation of massive amounts of unimaginable weaponry here at home and around the world designed to kill hundreds, thousands, and even millions.

      December 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        Swiss lawmakers have not been successful to ban guns. They only decry and raise their concern after a shooting rampage somewhere in the country. Protagonists say it isn't guns that pose the problems, but people.

        December 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      Should anyone dare compare the historic totals of unnecessary death,and destruction between the events we clearly despise, ie. school shootings, to that which we clearly condone, ie. bombing countries, the only conclusion is that we, as a human race, must be the most hypocritical and shameless form of life in the universe. How can we realistically claim to be so caring in one instance, but not so much as give it a second thought in another?

      December 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
      • b. hill

        the list is much longer ......."i.e. the deaths in america of 55 million babies in the name of convenience .

        December 10, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • ✠RZ✠

      As parents and adults our leadership recognizes the act of violence and murder against innocent men, women, children, and our enemies alike. How enraging would you be if one were to suggest the innocent victims of senseless school shootings were merely "collateral damage" of a society or culture gone wrong? Can we realistically expect our children or others to always behave normally and peacefully under any condition when we ourselves amass enormous armies and stockpile devastating weaponry to kill, maim, injure, and destroy others?

      December 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • minnie mouse

        I'd rather my military have these weapons than my adversary's military have them. And that is basically the choice rational adults must make. There is no "do-over" if a nation's military is in second place. Its an expensive investment one hopes to never have to use, but it is there if one does have to use it. This requires extensive and controversial foreplanning. I consider my military to be "protection in reserve" in case we have another Pearl Harbor attack or September 11 attack.

        December 13, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      We cannot make sense nor find a good solution where there is none. But if there is even a remote possibility for any semblance of a sane and peaceful world it must come from the top down. But rather than strive for a peaceful world we clearly expect, if not actually promote, war and conflict at the highest levels. Is this the right example we really want to set for ourselves?

      December 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      In our day and age, the concept of any nation needing or supporting their own powerful military is almost an act of aggression in itself, not to mention the further imposition of a very heavy tax burden upon it's own people. In a global age. the more logical approach would of course be to have a pooled United Global Military and Security Force run by a World a Defence and Security Counsel to provide protection to all nations on an equal level. And perhaps this is what the United Nations is supposed to embody. But such a force cannot be successful when readily challenged by the existing military of any one or even a few other countries. And therein lies the problem similar to our government being controlled by special outside interest groups. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

      December 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      To be effective, an organization like the United Nations cannot be flawed by biased political motivation. It cannot be dominated. It's military might must be supreme. And achieving such a goal with proven effectiveness must also provide at some point in time for the transition of control of the bulk of nuclear armaments.

      December 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      I don't mind keeping a gun or two at home for immediate self protection. But anything beyond that would almost imply an expectation of much more serious violence or war. Violence and war must be looked upon as a cancer, which should always be immediately treated or cut out where necessary before it spreads or escalates. Implementing a practice of global military politics along the same lines as strong medicine would not likely be a cure all, but it would certainly be better than treating a cancer with little more than of the same cancer.

      December 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  2. ✠RZ✠

    Sorry for such a long winded spew above, but fixing our world of problems must begin with potential solutions. If we can't agree on one, then let's not spend forever fighting over it, let's move on to another we can agree upon.

    December 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • banasy©

      Wow. You have given me a lot to ponder...

      December 7, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
      • ✠RZ✠

        banasy, Just don't go out of your way whatever you do. Remember, there is ample leadership both public and private throughout the world that are entrusted and paid well enough to look after the business of pondering and weighing such issues on our behalf. But having said that, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

        December 7, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
      • banasy©

        Well, your food for thought isn't a banquet for our world leaders, is it? Since they eschew the table you've set.
        I'd cry if I weren't laughing.

        And the beat goes on.

        December 8, 2013 at 7:47 pm |






    December 7, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  4. Chukwuemeka

    If we need to tackle the issue of gun violence then we must start addressing societal and economic issues. If one was to compare the demographics of economic equilibrium between the Swiss and American society, a clear divide would be observed. The Swiss have a better majority being comfortable compared to the US. This has encroached on the value system of the American society and so we have many people loosing the true essence of life and living.

    December 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • gio7707

      yup, distribution of wealth , education is a big issue , why don't we write letters to the politicians in the house and demand 4weeks of vacation, 13 month of salary , no sickdays (means if you are sick you just are sick !!). Maybe addressed to the republicans ?? I don't know ..

      December 8, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    Citizens of Switzerland are highly cultured and educated. They can responsibly handle weapons suitable for military use and safely keep them at home
    Citizens and residents of the USA aren't not highly cultured in the sense that the Swiss are, as much as USA resident's value their various images of culture, and few persons in the USA are as educated as the average Swiss persons. Allowing all USA citizens to keep military weapons poses a danger that would not exist in Switzerland.
    The American situation regarding culture, education, and social responsibility is becoming worse, not better.
    The Swiss have a better economy because they are a more evolved people than we. The better economy did not cause the evolution of the people.
    I disagree strongly with suggestions that redistribution of American wealth would improve our people.
    To the contrary, spreading the wealth around would render the people even lazier and less educated.

    December 8, 2013 at 5:55 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©



      December 8, 2013 at 6:00 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      I did not write "aren't not" above.
      The phone did that.

      December 8, 2013 at 6:02 am |
    • gio7707

      pretty much agree with you , but please don't forget that keeping home the so called "Sturmgewehr" has extremely contributed to the suicidal rate in Switzerland , I left mine when I came to the US .

      December 8, 2013 at 10:21 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        @gio7707, I think that suicide is almost always irrational, but not aways.
        I'd be interested to see comparisons of the reasoning before actually committing suicide of Swiss citizens and their USA counterparts.
        My hunch is that the Swiss seldom kill themselves because they were bullied on social blogs.

        December 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
      • banasy©

        I would hope that if people were giving the reasons for killing themselves prior, an empathetic person would try to intervene.
        I wonder if empathy levels are lower in this country than others?

        December 8, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • banasy©

      Population of Switzerland 7,925,517 (July 2012 est.)

      Population of NYC alone 8,336,697 (2012 est.)

      Bigger countries have bigger problems.

      December 8, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Edward

      However, Swiss cannot keep ammo at home. There were some publicized cases of suicides using military issued weapons so the rules are now that active military keep their weapons at home but ammo stays at the local depot or firing range where it can be retrieved in case of war. This includes weapons used at firing ranges for sport – quite commonly found in Switzerland. Those folks can't keep ammo at home either. Exceptions to this rule include commando units and military police. It is a common misconception in the U.S. that all Swiss homes are armed. Also, at the end of obligatory military service period, Swiss men may keep their rifles, though they are no longer automatic at that point (the firing mechanism is modified after discharge from the service). Right wing Americans like to romanticize about the idyllic armed Swiss populace, but the details are often left out during those discussions. It's hard to shoot someone without bullets.

      January 1, 2014 at 8:25 pm |
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    My phone also prints possessives where I write plurals, such as "resident's" where I wrote "residents."

    December 8, 2013 at 6:06 am |
  7. Michael

    The depiction of military target practice and recreational shooting at a shooting club fails to show that Switzerland has strict regulations governing sales, ownership, carrying and shooting of weapons.

    The Swiss Federal Weapons Law ("Waffengesetz"):
    – prohibits the sale, purchase, ownership or shooting of automatic or semi-automatic weapons (Art. 5 Waffengesetz);
    – requires a purchase permit to purchase a weapon, issued by the Cantonal authority where the purchaser live. The permit is valid for the purchase of single weapon only, and expires after six months (Art. 8 Waffengesetz) – there are exceptions for hunting rifles;
    – sales (including names, ID, weapon type and number) are registered with the Cantonal authority (Art. 11 Waffengesetz);
    – transporting weapons is only permissible for a specific purpose, e.g. to and from a shooting club (Art. 28 Waffengesetz);
    – carrying guns requires a gun carrying permit, which is granted only if you can credibly show that you need to carry a weapon to protect yourself or others, and after completing a test (Art. 27 Waffengesetz) – there are exceptions for hunters who have a hunting licence for their hunting rifles.

    Overall, the Swiss Federal Weapons Law guarantees the right to purchase, own, and carry guns (Art. 3 Waffengesetz) albeit with certain common sense limits.

    December 8, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  8. Jal

    Does holding a weapon steal logical bandwidth?

    December 8, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • ✠RZ✠

      I know Jal, let's ask our spammer friend Nano the Irradiator. Hey Nano ? You still got that XD crazy glued to your hand from last Xmas ? By the way Jal, I think Venezuela has made some recent changes to their gun laws, so I doubt Nano really gets out that much anymore.

      December 8, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  9. pbernasc

    try buying a gun in Switzerland and you will understand why there is no such thing as free guns for all in Switzerland like there is in the USA

    December 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  10. Name*Moran b eeghuzzar

    But Switzerland-& its cheese-are full of (bullet)holes!

    December 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  11. Fubarack

    Sounds like my town, but we have more than 46 guns per 100 people, and also near zero gun crime.

    December 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  12. Carl

    How many countries have invaded and oppressed the Swiss?

    December 9, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • Name*Moran b eeghuzzar

      How many countries have invaded and oppressed Australia? Canada? Andorra? My cottage?(Hint:its in the mountains on a pristine lake)

      December 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  13. jsbmith

    NSA are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police and are torturing innocent citizens. Read "A Note on Uberveillance" by M. D. Michael. Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into "excited delirium" (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they're being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner's book "A Long Walk". I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable!

    December 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Name*Moran b eeghuzzar

      Are you a dog? If so, maybe the 'doctor' was a vet implanting you with a chip to keep you safe? It's ruff, isn't it. By the way-are you fixed yet?

      December 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Edward

      If you adjust the tinfoil hat, I've found that the 'chip' doesn't cause those symptoms. I chat with my CIA monitor all the time, though the conversations are pretty one-sided, I'll admit.

      January 1, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
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