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Are these claims about Switzerland’s Gun ownership true?

Should America Follow Switzerland’s Gun Rules?

Switzerland, 1 in 2 citizens has guns, lowest crime rate in the worldSwitzerland has been making the social media rounds lately, I have been seeing a lot of posts about gun control, as I am sure everyone has, especially with all of the recent shootings. This image claims that Switzerland has the lowest crime rate in the world. It also claims that one is two citizens has a gun. Usually connected to this claim are claims about Switzerland’s gun laws, such as these:

 

“mandatory for everyone to join the military”
“once a year the Swiss government pays for all the ammunition that those who live there ”
“Full auto guns are illegal in Switzerland outside of the militia”
“when you the citizen are done serving his or hers call of duty the Swiss government gives them their rifles”
“All ammo must be stored at the Armory”
“Semi Automatic guns are illegal”
“Switzerland has strict gun laws”

These are just some of the things I see mentioned along side this picture, and almost always posted on posts about the 2nd amendment.

To answer these questions one at a time:

1 in 2 citizens has a gun

It’s pretty close to this, Switzerland’s gun ownership rate is 45.7 per 100 people, according to the research at the Small Arms Survey [1]

Lowest Crime Rate in the World

Crime rate seems to be a difficult thing to track, but homicide rates are easier. According to most of what I can find Switzerland is very low on the homicide rate scales, close to the lowest in the world, but not quite the lowest. According to the crime prevention research center the are about the 10th lowest amount of crime in the world. [2]

Mandatory for everyone to join the military

This is half true. According to the The Swiss Constitution, Art. 59 Military service and alternative service is (for 3 months) [2]:

1 Every Swiss man is required to do military service. Alternative civilian service shall be provided for by law.
2 Military service is voluntary for Swiss women.
3 Any Swiss man who does not do military or alternative service is liable to pay a tax. This tax is levied by the Confederation and assessed and collected by the Cantons.
4 The Confederation shall legislate for fair compensation for loss of income.
5 Persons who suffer damage to their health or lose their lives while doing military or alternative civilian service are entitled to appropriate support from the Confederation, whether for themselves or for their next of kin.

The tax for not joining the military is  additional 4% of annual income tax until the age of 30, unless they are affected by a disability.

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Art. 5 to 1 Accounting for services performed in civil protection

For men serving in civil defense, the exemption tax calculated according to the law is reduced by 4% for each day in the year accomplished subjugation and taken into account in accordance with Art. 24 of the Federal Law of October 4, 2002 on the protection of the population and on civil protection [3]

The Swiss government pays for all the ammunition for Swiss Citizens

From everything I can see, this is also only partly true. The Swiss government pays for all ammo used in conjunction with the militia and shooting events, but all of this ammo must be stored in the armory or unused ammo in shooting events returned, and is not for personal use. [4][5]

Full auto guns are illegal in Switzerland outside of the militia

This is true, when citizens are in the militia they are issued full auto rifles, and when they leave the militia they can keep these weapons by converting them to semiautomatic weapons.  It is illegal for civilians (including former-militia) to convert these back to full auto, or own other full auto weapons.

According to 514.54 Federal Act of 20 June 1997 on weapons and their accessories and ammunition (Swiss Law) [6]:

Article 5, Paragraph 2, letter a:  It is prohibited the possession of: Automatic firearms and launchers in accordance with paragraph 1 letter b and its essential and specially designed components; Paragraph 3, letter a: It is prohibited the firing of: Automatic firearms;
Article 20, Paragraph 1: The conversion of semi-automatic firearms to automatic firearms that altering or removing weapons numbers and the shortening of handguns are prohibited.

When the citizen is done serving in the militia, the Swiss government gives them their rifles

Yes, this is true, well, except for the “give” part, you actually have to purchase it (with the required permits). According to the 514 101 Regulation of VBS on the personal equipment of the army personnel Article 48 [7]:

Art. 48 Purchase of equipment

1 members of the army can buy those pieces of equipment which you do not receive absence Provided service days to the property.
2 Excludes the sale of hand or handgun to members of the army, which does not meet the conditions for their transition into their property.

All ammo must be stored at the Armory

As mentioned above, ammunition issued by the militia must be stored at the militia armories, however privately purchased ammo can be kept at home. [6]

According to 514.54 Federal Act of 20 June 1997 on weapons and their accessories and ammunition (Swiss Law) [6]:

Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 15: 1 ammunition and ammunition components may be purchased only by persons who are entitled to obtain the corresponding weapon.
Article 16: 1 Who participates in shooting events of shooting clubs, can acquire the same proviso ammunition freely. The organizing club ensures proper monitoring of the munitions delivery. 2 Anyone who has not yet reached the age of 18, the ammunition can acquire free when it is fired immediately and under supervision.
Article 16a: For possession of ammunition or ammunition components shall be entitled to any person who acquired the items legally.

Semi Automatic guns are illegal

None of the Switzerland Gun laws I could find outright ban semi-automatic weapons. You do need a special permit to buy (weapons acquisition certificates) which can be obtained by anyone not [6]:

Chapter 2, Section 1,Art. 8 Weapons Acquisition certificate 1:
1 18 years of age or under;
2 are or will be represented by a person authorized under comprehensive preventive educational assistance;
3 adopting a cause that they themselves or third parties threaten with a weapon;
4 are due to an act which expresses a violent or homicidal sentiments, or registered for repeatedly committed crimes or offenses in the criminal record as long as the entry is not deleted.

Switzerland has strict gun laws

I guess this one depends on what you consider strict gun laws. Unlike America, whose Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, the only mention in the Switzerland Constitution of weapons is about control of weapons, both in use and manufacture [8].

Art. 107 Weapons and war material 

1 The Confederation shall legislate against misuse of weapons and their accessories and ammunition.
2 It shall legislate on the manufacture, procurement and sale of war material as well as the import, export and transit of such material.

As far as more specific laws controlling guns and ammunition in Switzerland, there are a lot of regulations and rules concerning the purchase, carry, and ownership of weapons.

514.54 Federal law on weapons and their accessories and ammunition (Weapon law, WG) is the Swiss Weapon law that covers Guns, Ammunition, and accessories. There are several sections containing different rules and regulations. Article 1 of the law, is as follows [6]:

Art. 1 Purpose and subject matter

1 This law has to combat the misuse of weapons, weapon components, weapon accessories, ammunition and ammunition components for the purpose.
2 It regulates the acquisition, the introduction into Swiss territory, exportation, storage, possession, carrying, transportation, mediating, the production of and trade in:
a.Weapons, essential weapon components or specially designed weapons and accessories;
b. Ammunition and ammunition components.
3 It has also the purpose of preventing the abusive carrying of dangerous objects.

Section 2, Article 5, describes weapons that are prohibited under Swiss law:

Paragraph 1 says that acquiring, transferring, and conveying of automatic, auto- to semi-automatic weapons, military weapons and ammunition, and other items are prohibited (paragraph 6 says that Swiss militia weapons converted to semi-auto are acceptable)

Since this specifies transfer, acquisition, and conveyance, I am going to assume that if you already own one of the items listed you can continue to legally own them.

Paragraph 2 says it is illegal to own automatic weapons, grenade launchers, and ammunition.

Article 6 bans the acquisition, possession, and manufacture of ammunition except for use in hunting and shooting events

Article 6a says that in the case of inheritance you must apply for an exemption within six months, and bans gun purchases by non-citizens.

Article 7 says the Swiss Government can ban all gun ownership to citizens of certain countries. (assuming this means dual citizenship’s because of 6a’s ban)

Article 7b prohibits sales of guns, ammunition, ammunition components and accessories at publicly accessible exhibitions and markets.

Article 8 is all about the Weapons Acquisition Permit. Anyone who wants to buy a gun in Switzerland much aqcuire one of these permits, and only who wants to buy a gun for any reason other than sport or hunting must also submit a “basic needs” permit.  This is pretty much a “prima facie good cause” permit that proves you actually need the gun or something other than sport or hunting, such as if you were a police officer or armed guard.

Article 8 prohibits from acquiring a Weapons Acquisition Permit the following:

  • Anyone under 18
  • adopting a cause that they themselves or third parties threaten with a weapon
  • are due to an act which expresses a violent or homicidal sentiments, or registered for repeatedly committed crimes or offenses in the criminal record as long as the entry is not deleted.
  • are or will be represented by a person authorized under comprehensive preventive educational assistance;

Article 9 describes more about the Weapons Acquisition Permit itself, you can only buy one gun or component with each permit, and the permit is only valid for 6 months.

Article 10 describes what weapons can be purchased without a permit:

1 The following weapons and their essential components may be acquired without weapons acquisition bill:
a.einschüssige and multi-barreled hunting rifles and replicas of einschüssigen muzzle;
b.designated by the Federal Handrepetiergewehre that the off-duty and sporting Gunnery after the military law of 3 February 1995 2 commonly used approved shooting clubs and hunting purposes domestically;
c.einschüssige rabbit slayer;
d.Air and CO 2 Weapons, which develop a muzzle energy of at least 7.5 joules, or may be confused because of their appearance with real firearms;
e.Imitation, Schreckschuss- and soft-air guns that can be confused because of their appearance with real firearms.

Article 10a, and 11, describe personal sales, and say that the person selling the weapon is expected to be able to prove that the purchaser is legally eligible to buy the weapons, and must make and sign by both parties a contract for sale. The contract must provide the name address, date of birth and signature of both parties, the weapon manufacturer, caliber, serial number, date and place of transfer, type and number of identification of purchaser (such as drivers license) and must be submitted to the regional registration office.

Article 15 says that ammunition can only be bought by someone with legal ownership of a weapon, and only ammo specific to that weapon.

Article 16 says that people involved in a shooting club event can acquire the ammo for free, only to be used in that event.

Article 16a says that only people who are legally eligible to own the specific weapon can possess  the ammo that goes to it.

Article 25 is about traveling with weapons and ammunition within the Swiss territory. A Special permit which is good for only one year,  is required to travel with a weapon or ammo except in the case of hunting, militia members, border patrol, police, and foreign nationals on diplomatic missions.

Article 26 is about storage,and says that weapons, essential weapon components, weapon accessories, ammunition and ammunition components are kept carefully and to protect against access by unauthorized third parties.

Article 27 is about the public carry of weapons. It says anyone who is not listed under article 8, paragraph 2 (as above) can transport weapons if they acquire a special license to carry the weapons, prove that there is a need to carry due to a real threat, and pass an exam on the handling of weapons and knowledge of the legal conditions use of weapons, and the permit is only good for 5 years.

Article 27 also says that the following does not need a permit:

a Holders of a hunting permit, game wardens and gamekeepers interior, rangers and game wardens inside for the carrying of arms in pursuit of its business;
b. Participants in events, be where worn in relation to historical events weapons;
c. Participants at shooting events with soft-air guns at a safe terrain for carrying such weapons.
d. foreign security officers aviation in the field of Swiss airports, as long as the body responsible for aviation security foreign authority via a general license pursuant to Article 27 A has;
e. Employees of foreign border authorities, participating together with employees of Swiss border guard authorities in operational deployments at the external borders of the Schengen area in Switzerland.

Article 28 is about the transportation of weapons (paragraph 2 says that they can’t be loaded):

1 No weapon carrying permit is required for the transport of weapons, in particular:

a. to and from classes, exercises and events from shooting ranges, hunting or Soft-Air-Force-clubs and military organizations or associations;
b. to and from an armory;
c. to and from an owner or a holder of a weapons trade license;
d. of and trade events;
e. with a change of residence.

2 When transporting firearms firearm and ammunition must be separated.

Since in Switzerland, all guns need to be registered, all of the information is kept in databases

Article 32a describes what data is kept on gun registrations

1 The DEWA and the DEWS contain the following dataa.

a. Personal details and registration number of the purchaser or the purchaser;
b. Weapon, producer or manufacturer, designation, caliber, weapons number and the date of transfer;
c. Date inclusion in the database.

2 The DEBBWA contains the following data:

a. Personal details and registration number of persons to whom licenses withdrawn or denied, or where weapons were confiscated;
b. Circumstances which have led to the withdrawal of the authorization;
c. Weapon, type and number and the date of transfer;
d. Circumstances which have given rise to the confiscation;
e. other disposition of confiscated weapons;
f.  Date inclusion in the database.
3 The DAWA contains the following data:

a. Personal details and AHV insurance number of those who received a gun to the property on leaving the army;
b. Personal details and AHV insurance number of the persons to whom the personal weapon or personal Leihwaffe was withdrawn due to the military legislation;
c. Weapon, type and number and the date of transfer or withdrawal;
d. Circumstances which have given rise to the withdrawal of the weapon;
e. other disposition of confiscated weapons;
f.  Date inclusion in the database.

4 The ASWA contains the following data:

a. Weapon, type and number;
b. Ammunition types;
c. Personal details of victims, perpetrators or gun owners in connection with criminal offenses;
d. Circumstances which have led to the confiscation of the weapon.

4bis The Darue following data includes:

a. the labeling information referred to in Articles 18 A and 18 B;
b. Further characteristics and references of manufacturers or manufacturer and of the importer or importer;
c. Contact the manufacturer or the manufacturer, the supplier or the supplier and the importer or the importer;
d. the details of the import license.

5 The electronic information system pursuant to Article 32 a paragraph 2 shall contain the following data:

a. Personal details and registration number of the purchaser or the transferee and the transferor person;
b. Weapon, producer or manufacturer, designation, caliber, weapons number and the date of the transfer.

Conclusion

Switzerland does have a fairly high percent of gun ownership (only the USA, Serbia, and Yemen rank higher), and a fairly low level of crime per capita (0.6 per 100k, compared to the USA which is 4.7 per 100k, Switzerland is the 11th in 218 in murders, and the USA is 108th in 218)

Switzerland also has strict gun ownership, registration, carry, and transport rules. Guns must be registered, you need a permit to buy them, you need a permit to transport them (unloaded only, and only from home to the shooting range, armory, etc, no carrying it around freely) and you need a special, hard to get permit to publicly carry them.

References

[1] http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/A-Yearbook/2007/en/Small-Arms-Survey-2007-Chapter-02-annexe-4-EN.pdf
[2] http://crimeresearch.org/2014/03/comparing-murder-rates-across-countries
[3] http://www.vtg.admin.ch/internet/vtg/fr/home/militaerdienst/rekrut.html
[4] http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/soldiers-can-keep-guns-at-home-but-not-ammo/970614
[5] https://www.admin.ch/opc/fr/classified-compilation/19950245/index.html
[6] https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/19983208/index.html
[7] https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/20031035/index.html
[8] https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/19995395/201506140000/101.pdf

 

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    Updated: October 3, 2015 — 1:30 pm
    • A Bricker

      Some facts almost completely misrep gun ownership here (I have lived here in Switzerland, as a Swiss citizen for 15 years). Shooting clubs exist, although they are not popular. Yes, every male is required to do military service (somewhat stupid for a neutral country, & often boring…), but those ‘given’ weapons is very tightly screened, even during the routine enrollment interview & med check; those who are gung-ho are nearly always screened out. Those who are interested in officer training are given light weapons training; the grenadier branch (very gung-ho) are pushed to the limit, but the emphasis is not on rambo, but on loyalty & comradery, as well as skills important to Switzerland. I do not know a single person (although they surely exist) who purchased their weapon after mandatory service was completed. The culture here is pragmatic: what in the world would I do with a heavy, semi-auto in my closet? Again, those serving do not bring weapons home. Farmers, policemen, hunters may own guns (think rabbit hunting). There is next to no gun culture here, and this fact makes American culture scary to many Euros & Swiss.

    • The U.S. constitution does not guarantee individuals the right to bear arms. the constitution allows ‘a well-REGULATED MILITIA’. Americans DO NOT have the right to own a gun.

      • James McDonald

        The Supreme Court says otherwise.

        • veggiedude

          It took them 200 years to think otherwise because after 1977 the NRA changed it’s position on gun control and lobbied for the second amendment to be changed in how it was interpreted.

      • Nathaniel Malinowski

        Apparently you’ve never read the constitution.

        • ph864

          I have and the founders ( Almost all Rich White Slave owing Patricians ) , thought the Ideal of Citizen Militia was the Best Way way to avoid a Standing Army Complex which wrecked havoc on European Countries for centuries. I can ensure you that they would be applied at the thought of a civilized country having 33,539 Deaths a year from it citizens shooting and killing each other.
          People today miss the intend of the founders about Gun ownership which was in the States Militia not private Armies.

          • Evy82

            Wrong….”A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. “

          • ProteinBar

            Actually less than 30% of the founders were slave owners and several of them were against slavery and tried to get laws passed against it. They were prevented from freeing their slaves by various laws and did not want to sell them because they would most likely be worse off somewhere else.

            • ProteinBar

              2/3 of all gun deaths are suicides.

          • LeslieFish

            Around 21,000 of those 33,539 deaths are suicides, which — however tragic — is, by definition, not a threat to the public. Another 500 or so are accidents, a number which is shrinking every year thanks to widespread safety training — provided by the much-maligned NRA.

      • Moz In Oz

        You need to educate yourself on the definition (in general and particular) of militia. This has been in the courts forever and repeatedly and has been made crystal clear…Americans have BY ALL MEANS according to the Constitution the right to own a gun…even outside their house and off their property.
        You may not LIKE that fact but that seems more like a personal problem to me.

      • Antiliar

        False. “Well-regulated militia” meant all adult males, or all adult citizens (since at that time only males could vote). 10 U.S. Code @310, though updated and modernized, still retains elements of the original meaning. There is both an organized and unorganized militia. Since there were no standing armies at that time, it had to be adult males. Therefore, an individual right.

    • Richard Lutz

      All able-bodied adults of good character who are not in the military are members of the unorganized militia and have a social duty to help defend their government, their liberties, and vulnerable minorities by possessing the same type of rifle commonly used by soldiers and use it for sporting purposes so they maintain their proficiency with it, and in so doing helping to deter tyranny and crimes against humanity like genocide. You can find out more about
      the militia and small arms by visiting the Militia Information Service website (www.militia.info).

    • ph864

      I just saw a American Terrorist Organization called the NRA which said that Guns are for protection , Well what Fuc& or I’m and the rest of Americans Paying Taxes for for the po ice
      ‘ I can save Money and be my own Po-ice

      while we’ll at it let “ALL” go back to 1776 and to Protect us Rich white slave owners and the Blacks, Native Americans and Poor White TRUSH from thinking about Joining Hand and and overthrowing this Government for the Rich White people.

      I have another REALLY more sensible Ideal, Let sent all Gunners to Fight ISSI and go to Russia to meet with the Donald’s Newest Buddy PUTIN!

      • funkey monkey

        warren vs district of columbia

        the supreme court ruled the police have no obligation to protect you.
        there job is to arrest criminals and investigate crimes
        NOT TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC

        • Lawrence DeBudd

          so it would seem the “Protect and Serve” mantra often emblazoned on their vehicles is just for show.

    • Agent Hunk

      when did switzerland copy the American 2nd amendment?or did we use that for our Constitution?
      I cannot find switzerland history on their Constitution anywhere….

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