When you think of Switzerland, what comes to mind? The Swiss Alps, cheese, chocolate, Swiss Army Knives, and watches, but what about guns?
Unlike many countries around the world, Switzerland actually has a high number of guns per capita, but one of the lowest gun-related crime rates. What’s the secret?
In this article, we will take a look at Guns in Switzerland and everything that goes with it from the laws around Swiss gun ownership to the gun culture and lots more.
Table of Contents
Number of Guns in Switzerland
Switzerland has a long-standing tradition of gun ownership and there are an estimated 2.3 million guns in the country owned by civilians.
With a population of approximately 8.77 million people, there is a gun in Switzerland for close to 1 out of 4 people. This makes Switzerland one of the countries with the highest gun ownership rates in the world.
Gun Laws in Switzerland
Despite having a ton of guns, Switzerland has a super low level of gun violence, and one of the reasons for this is its strict gun control laws.
Swiss gun laws are rigorous and the Swiss are excellent at following rules too, which helps a lot.
Requirements to Own A Gun
Switzerland’s gun laws used to be a lot more relaxed, in fact, each canton pretty much had its own gun law. But, in the 1990s gun crime rates increased and Swiss laws were tightened to combat this.
Then when Switzerland joined the Schengen Agreement in 2008, its weapons law go even stricter again.
For Swiss citizens to become gun owners, they have to jump through some hoops to obtain their gun license.
Each person wishing to buy a gun:
- must be at least 18 years old
- have no criminal record
- demonstrate they have knowledge of firearms safety.
All this in order to get their weapon acquisition permit and gun carrying permit.
They must also provide evidence of membership in a shooting club (usually at a local shooting range) such as the national rifle association or have completed military service. Considering all men in Switzerland are or were military personnel, it makes owning a gun for them relatively easy.
Gun owners must reapply for their licenses every five years and go through a background check before renewing.
As you can see, the weapons act is very strict and the Swiss are excellent at enforcing these laws as well as checking up on them.
Swiss law mandates that all guns must be stored securely to prevent unauthorized access. Guns must be kept in a locked container or a safe, and ammunition must be stored separately from firearms.
Furthermore, any individual who fails to keep their firearm in a safe place can face severe consequences, including fines or imprisonment.
This means, once you have your weapons acquisition permit, and your gun carrying license, you then have to buy a gun safe to store your guns in. Swiss authorities will check guns are being stored properly at people’s homes very often, and that the ammunition is kept separately too.
Carrying & Transporting Guns
Switzerland is one of the safest countries in the world, so there is never a reason for anyone to carry a gun, but it is permitted in certain scenarios.
Switzerland permits individuals to carry firearms for self-defense in public places, but it’s relatively uncommon.
Individuals are required to have a valid reason for carrying a firearm, and it is illegal to carry firearms in areas such as schools, hospitals, and public buildings.
Individuals must also ensure that their firearm is unloaded and securely stored in a case while transporting it in a vehicle.
Types of Guns Permitted in Switzerland
Switzerland allows the possession of a wide range of firearms, including handguns and rifles, but certain types are banned.
Automatic weapons, such as machine guns, are strictly prohibited, and the only way to own a fully automatic firearm is to obtain a special permit from the authorities.
Swiss Gun Culture
Gun ownership is deeply embedded in Swiss culture, and it is seen as a symbol of independence and freedom.
For many Swiss men, owning a gun is a way of life and is often passed down through generations, as this dates way back to the times of hunting in the Alps.
Shooting clubs are also widespread, and many Swiss citizens participate in shooting sports, including marksmanship and biathlon events too.
Gun Ownership in Switzerland Compared to Other Countries
Compared to other countries, Switzerland’s high gun ownership rate is exceptional.
Switzerland is ranked third in the world for the number of guns per capita, behind only the United States and Yemen.
This is quite a serious fact, and it is not something one would expect to hear about the neutral country of Switzerland – but when all men go through military service, it does seem to add up a little bit.
Despite this, Switzerland is one of the safest countries in the world and has one of the lowest gun-related crime rates on the planet, with only 47 homicides involving firearms in 2020.
Gun-Related Deaths in Switzerland
As already mentioned above, the level of gun-related homicides in Switzerland is super low, which is mighty impressive considering the number of guns in people’s houses. This truly is gun control at its best.
But, the number of gun-related deaths is actually a lot higher and this is due to suicides. According to the Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA), nearly 70% of gun deaths in Switzerland are suicides.
It is estimated that 33% of male suicides in Switzerland are with guns, and this is linked to easy access to guns, particularly in men aged 25 to 31.
So, while gun control laws work very well at reducing gun crime, it does not do much to help self-harm with guns by the individuals who own them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Swiss Army have guns?
Yes, the Swiss Army does have guns, of course. It is no surprise that the Swiss Army is equipped with guns, and the country’s strong military tradition has influenced its civilian gun culture.
Swiss military members are required to keep their service weapons at home, but they are not permitted to use them outside of their military duties.
The Swiss Army is famously known for its mandatory military service for men, with women having the option to serve voluntarily.
Are foreigners allowed to buy a gun in Switzerland?
Foreigners who are permanent residents of Switzerland can buy guns in the country after obtaining a permit, but non-residents are not allowed to purchase firearms.
The permit process is rigorous and involves a background check and verification of the individual’s eligibility to own firearms.
However, it’s worth noting that purchasing firearms as a foreigner may be challenging due to the strict requirements and regulations.
What is the gun festival in Switzerland called?
Switzerland’s unique gun culture is celebrated annually at the Knabenschiessen festival, which takes place in Zurich. The festival, which translates to “boys shooting,” is one of the oldest and most famous shooting festivals in the country.
The event dates back to the 17th century, when young boys were trained in archery which later evolved to marksmanship with firearms. The festival includes a shooting competition, carnival rides, food stalls, and other fun activities.
Are there gun ranges in Switzerland?
Yes, there are lots of gun ranges in Switzerland and this should not come as a surprise considering the booming gun culture and the number of guns owned per person.
These ranges offer various shooting disciplines including pistol, rifle, and shotgun, and cater to different skill levels too.
Many Swiss citizens are members of shooting clubs and frequently visit gun ranges to practice their shooting skills, both for sports and self-defense purposes. Plus, they have to be a member of a gun club to get the license to own a gun in the first place.
However, gun ranges in Switzerland are subject to strict regulations and are frequently monitored to ensure compliance with the country’s gun laws.