Gun politics in Switzerland
|Part of the Politics series|
|Gun laws by country|
Gun politics in Switzerland are unique in Europe. The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 30 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training. The personal weapons of the militia are kept at home as part of the military obligations. However, it is generally not permitted to keep army-issued ammunition (compatible ammunition purchased privately by the individual is still permitted); Switzerland thus has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world. In recent times a minority of political opposition has expressed a desire for tighter gun regulations. A referendum in February 2011 rejected stricter gun control.
- 1 Army-issued arms and ammunition collection
- 2 Number of guns in circulation
- 3 Buying guns
- 4 Buying munition
- 5 Storage of military-issued ammunition
- 6 Carrying guns
- 7 Recreational shooting
- 8 Black powder
- 9 Gun crime
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Army-issued arms and ammunition collection
The Swiss army has long been a militia trained and structured to rapidly respond against foreign aggression. Swiss males grow up expecting to undergo basic military training, usually at age 20 in the recruit school, the basic-training camp, after which Swiss men remain part of the "militia" in reserve capacity until age 30 (age 34 for officers).
In October 2007, the Swiss Federal Council decided that the distribution of ammunition to soldiers shall stop and that all previously issued ammo shall be returned. By March 2011, more than 99% of the ammo has been received. Only special rapid deployment units and the military police still store ammunition at home today.
When their period of service has ended, militiamen have the choice of keeping their personal weapon and other selected items of their equipment. However, keeping the weapon after end of service requires a weapon acquisition permit.
The government sponsors training with rifles and shooting in competitions for interested adolescents, both male and female. The sale of ammunition – including Gw Pat.90 rounds for army-issue assault rifles – is subsidized by the Swiss government and made available at the many by the Federal Council licensed shooting ranges. That ammunition sold at ranges must be immediately used there under supervision (Art. 16 WG).
The Swiss Army maintains tightened adherence to high standards of lawful military conduct. In 2005, for example, when the Swiss prosecuted recruits who had reenacted the torture scenes of Abu Ghraib, one of the charges was improper use of service weapons.
Number of guns in circulation
In some 2001 statistics, it is noted that there are about 420,000 assault rifles (fully automatic, or "selective fire") stored at private homes, mostly SIG SG 550 models. Additionally, there are some 320,000 semi-auto rifles and military pistols exempted from military service in private possession, all selective-fire weapons having been converted to semi-automatic operation only. In addition, there are several hundred thousand other semi-automatic small arms classified as carbines. The total number of firearms in private homes is estimated minimally at 1.2 million to 3 million.[broken citation]
In 2005 over 10% of households contained handguns, compared to 18% of U.S. households that contained handguns. In 2005 almost 29% of households in Switzerland contained firearms of some kind, compared to almost 43% in the US.
The law is applied to the following weapons:
- Firearms, such as pistols, revolvers, rifles, pump gun (Vorderschaftrepetierer), lever action rifles (lever action), self-loading guns (shotguns and rifles);
- Air and C02 guns with muzzle energy of at least 7.5 joules, or if there is risk of confusion with a firearm;
- Imitation, alarm gun (Schreckschuss) and soft-air guns when there is risk of confusion with a firearm;
- Butterfly knives, throwing knives, knife-handed operation with automatic mechanism with total length greater than 12 cm and blade length greater than 5 cm;
- Daggers with symmetrical blade is less than 30 cm;
- Devices that are intended to hurt people like rod (Schlagrute), throwing star, brass knuckles, slings with armrest;
- all electric shock devices and spray products with irritants in Annex 2 weapons Regulation (WV), except for pepper spray.
Generally prohibited arms are:
- Automatic firearms such as machine guns, etc.
- Automatic knife when the blade more than 5 cm and total length of more than 12 cm
- Butterfly knife when the blade more than 5 cm and total length of more than 12 cm
- Throwing knives; regardless of the shape and size
- Symmetrical daggers when blade length less than 30 cm
- Brass knuckles
- Shock rods
- Throwing Stars
- Skidding with armrest
- Stun guns
- Weapons that imitate an object of utility as shooting phones, etc.
In order to purchase most weapons, the purchaser must obtain a weapon acquisition permit (Art. 8 WG). Swiss citizens over the age of 18 who are not psychiatrically disqualified nor identified as posing security problems, and who have a clean criminal record can request such a permit. Foreigners with the following citizenship are explicitely excluded from the right to posses of a weapon: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Algeria and Albania (Art. 12, WV). The following information must be provided to the cantonal weapon bureau together with the weapon application form:
- valid official identification or passport copy
- residence address
- criminal record copy not older than 3 months
For each transfer of a weapon or an essential weapon component without weapons acquisition permit (Art. 10 WG), a written contract must be concluded. Each Party shall keep them at least ten years. The contract must include the following information (Art. 11 WG):
- Familiy name, first name, birth date, residence address and signature of the person who sells the weapon or aessential weapon component
- Familiy name, first name, birth date, residence address and signature of the person who purchases the weapon or a essential weapon component
- Kind of weapon, manufacturer or producer, label, caliber, weapon number, and date and place of transfer;
- Type and number of official identification of the person who acquires the weapon or the essential weapon component
This information must be sent within 30 days to the cantonal weapon registration bureau, where the weapon holders are registered (Art. 9 WG).
Some weapons do not need a weapon acquisition permit (Art. 10 WG):
- Single-shot and multi-barreled hunting rifles and replicas of single-shot muzzle
- By the Federal Council designated hand bolt action rifles, which are commonly used in off-duty and sporting gunnery recognized by the military law of 3 February 19952 and shooting clubs for hunting purposes in Switzerland
- Single.shot rabbit slayer;
- Compressed air and CO2 weapons that develop a muzzle energy of at least 7.5 joules, or may be confused because of their appearance with real firearms
In order to purchase munition the buyer must follows the same legal rules like for buying guns. The buyer can only buy munition for guns he/she is legally owning and must provide the following information to the seller (Art. 15, 16 WG; Art 24 WV):
- valid official identification or passport (and must be older than 18 who are not psychiatric-ally disqualified nor identified as posing security problems, and must not be a citizen of the following countries (Art. 12 WV): Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Algeria and Albania)
- residence address
- criminal record copy not older than 3 months
- weapon acquisition permit not older than 2 years, or a weapon carrying permit not older than 5 years
This also applies for weapons which do not require a weapon acquisition permit (see above, excluding the weapon acquisition permit, of course).
This information must be sent within 30 days to the cantonal weapon registration bureau, where the weapon holder is registered.
The possession of the following munition is generally prohibited:
- Ammunition with armor piercing bullets
- Ammunition with projectiles containing an explosive or incendiary device
- Ammunition with one or more floors to the release of substances which damage the health of people in the long run
- Ammunition, missiles and missile launchers for military explosive
- Ammunition with projectiles for transmitting electric shocks
- Ammunition for handguns with deformation effect
Storage of military-issued ammunition
Prior to 2007 members of the Swiss Militia were supplied with 50 rounds of ammunition for their military weapon in a sealed ammo box that was regularly audited by the government. This was so that, in the case of an emergency, the militia could respond quickly. However, since 2007 this practice has been discontinued. Only 2,000 specialist militia members (who protect airports and other sites of particular sensitivity) are permitted to keep their military-issued ammunition at home. The rest of the militia get their ammunition from their military armory in the event of an emergency.
To carry a loaded firearm in public or outdoors (and for an individual who is a member of the militia carrying a firearm other than his Army-issue personal weapons off-duty), a person must have a Waffentragbewilligung (gun carrying permit), which in most cases is issued only to private citizens working in occupations such as security. It is, however, quite common to see a person serving military service to be en route with his rifle, albeit unloaded.
Conditions for getting a Carrying Permit
There are three conditions:
- fulfilling the conditions for buying a permit (see section above)
- stating plausibly the need to carry firearms to protect oneself, other people, or real property from a specified danger
- passing an examination proving both weapon handling skills and knowledge regarding lawful use of the weapon
The carrying permit remains valid for a term of five years (unless otherwise surrendered or revoked), and applies only to the type of firearm for which the permit was issued. Additional constraints may be invoked to modify any specific permit. Neither hunters nor game wardens require a carrying permit.
Guns may be transported in public as long as an appropriate justification is present. This means to transport a gun in public, the following requirements apply:
- The ammunition must be separated from the gun, no ammunition in a magazine.
- The transport needs to be as direct as possible and needs a valid purpose:
- For courses or exercises hosted by marksmanship, hunting or military organisations,
- To an army warehouse and back,
- To show the gun to a friend or a possible buyer
- To and from a holder of a valid arms trade permit,
- To and from a specific event, e.g. gun shows.
Recreational shooting is widespread in Switzerland. Practice with guns is a popular form of recreation, and is encouraged by the government, particularly for the members of the militia. Swiss firearms-related rights are supported by the organization ProTell.
200,000 people attend the annual Feldschiessen weekend, which is the largest rifle shooting competition in the world. In addition, there are several private shooting ranges which rent guns.
In Swiss gun shops, people can freely purchase black powder and modern black powder substitutes for use in firing historical rifles. The buyer must inform the vendor of their name and address.
Government statistics for the year 2010 records 40 homicides involving firearms, out of the 53 cases of homicide in 2010.
The annual rate of homicide by any means per 100,000 population was 0.70, which is one of the lowest in the world. However, the annual rate of homicide by guns per 100,000 population was 0.52, which is higher than neighboring countries'.
- Gun politics
- Schweizerischer Schützenverein
- Lists of countries by gun ownership
- Gun crime
- Swiss Army
- Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies (September 2007). "Small Arms Survey 2007" (PDF). Cambridge. ISBN 978-0-521-88039-8.
- "De-Quilling the Porcupine: Swiss Mull Tighter Gun Laws". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
- "Switzerland rejects tighter gun controls". BBC News. 13 February 2011.
- "Taschenmunition fast vollständig eingezogen" (in German). Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
- Patrick Marbach. "20 Minuten - Schweizer Rekruten spielen Irak-Folterer - News" (in German). 20 Minuten newspaper. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
- Markus Steudler (7 July 2004). "Swiss Foreign and Security Policy Network document" (PDF). Ssn.ethz.ch. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
- "Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective" (PDF). English.wodc.nl. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
Table 18 on page 279
- "SR 514.54 Bundesgesetz über Waffen, Waffenzubehör und Munition (Waffengesetz WG)" (in German, Italian, and French). Berne, Switzerland: The Swiss Federal Council. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
- "SR 514.541 Verordnung über Waffen, Waffenzubehör und Munition (Waffenverordnung WV)" (in German, Italian, and French). Berne, Switzerland: The Swiss Federal Council. 15 March 2013. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
- "Soldiers can keep guns at home but not ammo". SWI Swissinfo.ch. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
- "SR 514.54 Bundesgesetz über Waffen, Waffenzubehör und Munition (Waffengesetz, WG)". Admin.ch (in German, French, and or Italian). The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation. 20 June 1997. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
- "SR 514.10 Verordnung über die persönliche Ausrüstung der Armeeangehörigen (VPAA)" (in German, French, and or Italian). The Swiss federal Council. 5 December 2003. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
- "THE LONG LIST OF "GUN-CONTROL" MYTHS rev. 1/5/98" (TXT). Rkba.org. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
- "The World's Largest Rifle Shooting Match: Switzerland 1995", The 1996 Precision Shooting Annual, Precision Shooting, Inc., (1996)
- Switzerland. 2011. ‘Violent Infractions: Elucidations and Evolution of Infractions (Infractions de violence: Elucidations et Evolution des Infractions).’ Police Statistics on Crime Annual Report 2010 (Statistique Policière de la Criminalité Rapport Annuel 2010), p. 32. Neuchâtel: Office Fédéral de la Statistique / Département Fédéral de l'Intérieur. 1 January.
- 'Calculated Rates – Switzerland.’ Historical Population Data – USCB International Data Base. Suitland, MD: US Census Bureau Population Division. 1 April.
- Historical Population Data – USCB International Data Base. Suitland, MD: US Census Bureau Population Division. 1 April.
- Ordonnance fédérale sur les armes, les accessoires d’armes et les munitions Swiss federal application law on weapons, weapon accessories and ammunition.
- Swiss Portal for hunting and fishing
- proTELL website
- Firearms Training Company with Swiss Protell membership
- Bearing arms in Switzerland.