Friday, July 29, 2005

Of Guns and the Swiss Tradition

Uh oh. Another praise of Switzerland, coming from the gunslingers. Most of the facts are accurate, but to say that crime is "virtually non-existent" in Switzerland is quite overdoing it. Check out the full article at Mens Daily News.

by Eric Ross, Ph.D.

Guns bad, gun laws good, confiscate guns, put gun manufacturers out of business, and let’s all live happily thereafter, crime-free. Right? – Wrong, my dear friend, dead wrong.

Let’s look at Switzerland. Tourists are astonished to see citizens carrying military rifles in public, especially at the time of a rifle competition, Schuetzenfest (shooting festival) in town. You may see men and women, old and young, even children as young as 12, carrying rifles over their shoulders on the streets, right past the police stations. (Make no mistake of trying this at home, in the U.S., as a trigger-happy police SWAT Team, with helicopters, night-vision scopes, and armored vehicles will be called upon you.)

We all heard of those famous brand names, the Swiss banks that don’t bow down to the world’s political powers, the powers which come and go, and the Swiss Army knife, and Swiss Army watch, but this is not what the Swiss military is really known for. The Swiss military has a reputation of having the world’s best marksmen and athletes in its ranks, and it is not a regular army, rather – it’s a citizen’s militia. Between their regular annual tour of duty of two to three weeks per year from ages 20 to 42, Swiss soldiers and officers are obliged to keep their weapons at home, and may practice at the many rifle and pistol ranges managed by local communities. The old tradition of armed citizenry brought the country peace, prosperity and neutrality, which nobody, not even Hitler dared to violate. Nazi armies chose to invade other countries, those with strict gun controls, and easily controlled citizens.

In fact, Switzerland has more firepower per person than any country in the world, and an average Swiss citizen has more firepower than available to combat troops in many armies. Yet, Switzerland is one of the safest places on the planet, a country where crime is virtually non-existent.

Swiss Federal Police Office data often sounds almost too good to be true, with no homicides at all reported in Geneva. Most crime in Switzerland, about 70 percent, is attributed to foreigners. The country had a rate of 1.2 homicides per 100,000 population in 1997, with only a fraction of those committed with firearms, and 36 robberies per 100,000. In 2000, the total number of murders in Switzerland was 69, of which 40 were committed with firearms. That’s a rate of 0.57 per 100,000, or 2.5 times less than in England.


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At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Richard Pyle said...

Hi Dr. Ross

I am writing to correct the statistics used in your recent article. I presume you got your international comparison figures from the Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998 - 2000. You say that:

"In 2000, the total number of murders in Switzerland was 69, of which 40 were committed with firearms. That’s a rate of 0.57 per 100,000, or 2.5 times less than in England."

While I agree with the overall figures given for Switzerland, the comparison with England (includes Wales), is wrong. The Swiss overall murder rate is 0.96 per 100,000. It is only the firearm murder rate which is 0.57. The total number of murders in England and Wales in 2000 was 850, giving a rate per 100,000 of 1.61 which is 1.7 times that of Switzerland. The figures for firearm murders in England are not seperately recorded in 2000.

Incidently, comparative figures for firearm murders in both countries are available for the previous year 1999. These were Switerland, 72 (1.01 per 100,000) England and Wales 62 (.12 per 100,000) which rather destroys your argument.


Richard Pyle

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