When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL

What Swiss Guns Tell Us About American Mass Shootings

Switzerland is behind only the U.S. and Yemen in rate of gun ownership. For Americans, maybe it's not just about the quantity of guns but also their relationship with them.

Swiss gun culture is shaped by the country's mandatory military service
Swiss gun culture is shaped by the country's mandatory military service
Tori Otten

-Analysis-

After the shooting in Las Vegas, social media platforms predictably lit up with calls for new gun control laws. And just as predictably, American gun rights advocates repeated the truism that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." But to better understand why America has a singular malady of homicide-by-firearm, it may be worth looking at Switzerland.

Lausanne-based daily Le Temps reports Thursday that among that nation's 8.4 million inhabitants, there are about 3.4 million legally owned guns — making it the third-highest level of gun ownership in the world, just behind the United States and Yemen. But even though it has a lot of guns, Switzerland also has incredibly stringent gun laws. Anyone who purchases a firearm has to undergo a thorough background check, even when buying from a private individual. Fully automatic weapons are banned. Also, when transporting a gun, the owner must go directly to the shooting range or hunting ground and then back home. Detours, such as to the grocery store, while carrying your weapon are prohibited.

Maybe America's mass shooting epidemic is not just about access to guns.

And yes, famously neutral Switzerland is also keeping the peace at home. It has one of the world's lowest murder rates, and has had just one mass shooting in recent decades: in 2001, when a man opened fire in the parliament house, killing 14 people, including himself.

Switzerland clearly has a gun culture of its own, but a very different one than the U.S. It is based primarily in the country's mandatory military service, where Swiss citizens learn about guns in a highly controlled group setting. Owning a gun for self-defense, or for the sake of owning a gun, is uncommon, Le Temps explains. Even mid-level criminals, such as drug dealers, are generally unarmed.

So maybe America's mass shooting epidemic is not just about access to guns, but about the country's relationship with its weapons. Canada, its northern neighbor, also happens to rank high (13th) on the list of gun ownership, with a rate of 30.8 firearms per 100 residents.

As Mathieu Bock-Côté writes in the Journal de Montréal, the U.S. expresses itself "through an unhealthy passion for firearms." Gun shows, pro-gun rights rallies, gun fashion shows: Americans are obsessed with their guns.

The most impassioned argument against gun regulations is that people don't want the government "taking away" their firearms. Americans need their guns to feel safe — but sometimes also to feel powerful. When someone commits a massacre like Sunday night's in Las Vegas, Bock-Côté writes, he wants "for a moment to feel like the master of the world." Is there anything more American than that?

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

How South American Oceans Can Sway The U.S.-China Showdown

As global rivalries and over-fishing impact the seas around South America, countries there must find a common strategy to protect their maritime backyards.

RIMPAC 2022

Juan Gabriel Tokatlian

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — As the U.S.-China rivalry gathers pace, oceans matter more than ever. This is evident just looking at the declarations and initiatives enacted concerning the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Yet there is very little debate in South America on the Sino-American confrontation and its impact on seas around South America, specifically the South-Eastern Pacific (SEP) and South-Western Atlantic (SWA). These have long ceased to be empty spaces — and their importance to the world's superpowers can only grow.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ