Gun ownership in Switzerland, Facts and Regulations.

Switzerland Gun Ownership: Facts and Regulations

Switzerland is known for having one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, with an estimated 2 million+ privately owned guns in the country.

However, despite the high amount of guns present, Switzerland has a relatively low rate of gun violence.

One reason for Switzerland’s high rate of gun ownership is its tradition of mandatory military service. Every able-bodied male between the age of 18-30 is called up for the Swiss army; for women, this is optional.

Furthermore, after completing their service, soldiers are allowed to keep their service weapons, which contributes to the high Swiss gun ownership.

Switzerland gun ownership

Additionally, Switzerland has a strong tradition of hunting, and many citizens own guns for this reason. Either way, if you own a gun in Switzerland, you need a permit, and this is something that is highly regulated by their gun control laws.

Let’s dive into interesting facts about gun control in Switzerland, starting first with a little history.

History of Gun Ownership in Switzerland

Switzerland has a long history of gun ownership, dating back to the 13th century when the country was founded. At that time, the government required all Swiss men to own weapons and be trained in their use, in order to defend the country against invaders.

In 1850, Switzerland passed a federal law regulating the possession and use of firearms. This law required all gun owners to register their weapons with the government and prohibited the sale of firearms to minors and the mentally ill.

Swiss flag on army uniform.

However, the law did not restrict the type of firearms that could be owned and did not require gun owners to obtain a license or permit.

In 1999, Switzerland passed a new federal law on firearms, which tightened regulations. This law required all gun owners to obtain a license and prohibited the sale of firearms to anyone with a criminal record. The law also restricted the sale of certain types of firearms, such as automatic weapons, machine guns, and handguns.

Despite all these regulations, Switzerland still has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world ( but a low rate of actual gun violence). According to a 2017 report by Small Arms Survey, there are approximately 2.3 million firearms in circulation in Switzerland, which translates to about 27 guns for every 100 people.

Overall, the history of gun ownership in Switzerland is closely tied to the country’s military tradition and culture of self-defense.

When you look at the map below, you can understand why, the country is completely landlocked by much larger, more powerful nations.

You can now understand why the government made Swiss men go into the military!

Map of Switzerland and surrounding countries

Swiss Gun Culture

Swiss gun culture is rooted in the country’s history of neutrality and self-defense. As you know now, the Swiss government requires all able-bodied men at the age of 18 to undergo mandatory conscription and keep their service weapons at home.

Swiss army in standing formation.

Yes, you heard correctly, the majority of Swiss military opt to keep their weapons at home, although ammunition is left at the barracks.

Furthermore, while the Swiss government does not require citizens to own guns, many Swiss people choose to do so for sport and hunting. Shooting is a popular sport in Switzerland, and the country has a long tradition of hunting.

Actually, Switzerland has the largest rifle shooting match in the world, held every 5 years.

Rifle hunting in Switzerland

If you are living near Zurich, there is an English-speaking range not far away you can check out here.

Regulations on Guns in Switzerland

In Switzerland, gun ownership is regulated by the Federal Weapons Act.

The law requires that anyone who wants to purchase a firearm must obtain a permit.

Furthermore, the permit is issued by the cantonal police, who conduct a background check on the applicant to ensure that they are not a danger to themselves or others.

Gun in  Switzerland

The law also requires that all firearms be registered, further enforcing gun control. This includes pistols, rifles, and shotguns. The registration process involves providing information about the firearm, such as the make and model, serial number, and caliber.

On top of all this, the authorities also keep track of the amount of ammunition that is purchased by firearm owners.

There are no restrictions on the number of firearms that an individual can own. However, the law requires that firearms be stored in a secure place and that ammunition be stored separately from the firearms.

The law also requires that firearms be transported in a secure manner in accordance to the country’s gun laws.

Handgun in Switzerland with bullets.

The law also sets out specific rules for the possession of pistols. Anyone who wants to own a pistol must obtain a special permit, a type of weapon acquisition permit.

To obtain the permit, the applicant must demonstrate that they have a legitimate reason for owning a pistol, such as participation in a shooting sport.

The applicant must also demonstrate that they:

  • are over 18 years old
  • have no criminal record
  • can demonstrate knowledge of firearms safety

Now, let’s dive into further details of the famous Swiss Army,

Military Service, The Swiss Army, and Gun Ownership

One of the consequences of mandatory military service is that many Swiss citizens own firearms.

When a man completes his military service, he is allowed to keep his service weapon, provided he meets certain requirements. (But as mentioned above, the Swiss Army does not allow ammunition to be kept at home).

However, it is important to note that not all Swiss citizens who own guns are former soldiers.

Shooting in Switzerland

Remember, hunting and shooting as sports are very popular in the country; in fact the Swiss Shooting Sports Federation has 130,000+ members.

Keen to see how responsible the people of Switzerland are? Check out this rifle range where both civilians and the Swiss army come to practice. Did I mention you are shooting over a major highway?

Shooting and Hunting in Switzerland

Now, if you are a shooting or hunting enthusiast, Switzerland is a great place to be.

In fact, hunting is essential for controlling various types of deer species in the country.

Switzerland has a well-established hunting culture, with many people taking part in the sport every year. Hunting is regulated by cantonal (state) authorities, and hunters are required to obtain a permit before they can start.

The country’s forests and mountains are home to a variety of game species, including deer, chamois, ibex, and wild boar.

Large Elk in the forest in Switzerland.

Debate on Gun Ownership in Switzerland

As you now know, Switzerland is known for its high rate of gun ownership, which, although accepted, and there are minimal gun-related deaths, the topic has sparked debate on many occasions.

On one hand, supporters of gus argue that it is a fundamental right to bear arms. They believe that owning a gun is necessary for self-defense and to protect oneself and their property.

Hunting in Swiss Forest.

Additionally, many Swiss people view getting a gun license and a gun as a part of their culture and heritage, with a long history of hunting and shooting sports.

On the other hand, opponents of weapons argue that it poses a significant risk to public safety. They believe that the more guns there are in circulation, the more likely they are to end up in the wrong hands.

Although gun violence is not common, people also point to the fact that Switzerland has a relatively high rate of gun-related suicides, which could be reduced with stricter gun laws.

Also, if you travel on a train in the country on a Sunday afternoon, you will see an abundance of young soldiers with automatic weapons traveling to and from the base!

Overall, the debate on gun ownership in Switzerland is ongoing and something that is often debated.

Gun-Related Accidents and Suicides in Switzerland

According to a report by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, between 2010 and 2019, there were an average of 24 fatal and 97 non-fatal gun accidents per year. The majority of these accidents occurred during hunting activities.

Suicide is the leading cause of gun-related deaths in Switzerland, accounting for approximately 70% of all gun deaths.

The Swiss government has implemented measures to reduce the risk of gun-related accidents and suicides. For example, hunters are required to complete a safety course before obtaining a hunting license, and gun owners are required to store their firearms securely.

Additionally, the Swiss Suicide Prevention Center provides resources and support for individuals who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Despite these measures, there is still room for improvement in reducing gun-related accidents and suicides in Switzerland.

Shooting range in Switzerland

Our Final Say

In Switzerland, gun ownership is high, but mass shootings are low. The Swiss gun laws and the country’s deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms all add to this.

Regulating firearms in gun-loving Switzerland is a complex issue. The European Union parliament has attempted to tighten gun ownership rules, but gun lobbying groups in Switzerland have protested.

The Swiss government has also faced pressure to change its laws, particularly after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. However, the country’s deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms and its low crime rates have led to the continuation of its unique gun laws.

Happy Shooting!

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