The Inacurate Comparison Between Gun Laws in Chicago and Switzerland

The gun lobby is continually pointing its fingers at Chicago as to how gun restriction does not work.  They also point to Switzerland, a country with a large gun culture, to show how massive gun ownership can work. Heck, they say, gun ownership is even mandated However, there is so much more involved than just the laws of Chicago.  And there is so very much more to Swiss gun laws than the gun lobby states.

First, let us look at Chicago.  Population, poverty and a lack of education are a big part of the problem in Chicago.  Also, the reason a gun ban ‘doesn’t work’ in Chicago is quite simply that we don’t have universal laws throughout all the states.   Buying a gun in Chicago may be difficult, but you can make it to Wisconsin in 45 minutes and there you will have little to no difficulties legally purchasing a weapon.  No one checks what happens when you travel from state to state so laws such as Chicago’s when Wisconsin has lax laws are not going to work.  So, let’s be clear, inconsistencies in gun laws between states is a reason the ban does not work in Chicago but the primary cause of violence that has been consistently documented is poverty and lack of education.  However, the murder rate in Chicago is down by about 17% since the ban took place.  So it works, kind of, but it won’t work as well as it could because of the laws of surrounding states and the lack of attention to poverty and education in Chicago.

Now Switzerland.  First of all Switzerland is a very different society. Its population is smaller than that of NYC. Not to mention the fact that NYC has 19.4% of the population under the poverty line and Switzerland has 4.8% of the population under the poverty line.  These numbers do make a difference as it is also well documented (Sociology 101 people) that crime rates go up in times of economic stress. Are our crime rates rising because not enough people have guns or because of the fact that we have a boom and bust economy which is currently rising out of recession?  Are Switzerland’s lower crime rates related to the mass possession of fire arms or the fact that it has one of the most stable economies in the world?  These are also things that must be taken into account.

Yes, many people own a gun in Switzerland. But gun owners are also mandated to take military training as Switzerland has no standing army. However, Switzerland’s gun laws are actually stricter than laws in the United States and the Swiss have fewer guns than US not more.  According to the Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective report from 2005 sponsored in part by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime 10% of Swiss homes contained handguns while in the US 18% of households contained handguns.  Beyond that only 29% of households in Switzerland contained any firearms whereas in the US it was 43%. (table 18 pg 279) So the US already beats Switzerland in regards to firearm prevalence. If that is the case, why then, are our crime rates higher than the rates in Switzerland?

While military training and the storing of government issued military weapons is required by Swiss law (though you can opt to store your militia weapon in the local armory) up until 2007 only 50 rounds of ammunition were given to members of the militia.  The rounds were sealed and regular inspection ensured that they were not used improperly. In 2007, it was decided to stop issuing ammo all together and the ammo out had to be returned.  Only a select few in the militia are allowed to have ammo in the home.  Service typically ends between ages 30-34 and to keep your weapon after that requires a license.  For private citizens, ammo (for military weapons) is subsidized by the government and is available at shooting ranges with the requirement that all ammo sold there must be used there.

The 1999 Gun Act requires a permit that allows the purchase of 3 firearms.  The permit asks for a lot of information including:  Two years’ worth of addresses, name, birthday, nationality, place of origin, home phone, mobile phone, email, pending criminal charges, reasons for wanting firearm sport, hunting, collecting, name of weapon or / the essential weapons component / s and other information (if known): Weapon / weapons essential ingredient.  This permit also includes and Inheritance Clause which states: “Individuals who purchase firearms or essential weapon components by inheritance must apply within six months for a firearms acquisition certificate, provided that the items are not transferred within that period of an authorized person. The request for obtaining the weapons purchase certificate must be attached to a directory that lists the inherited objects, indicating the weapon type, manufacturer or manufacturers, caliber, description and weapon number. It must be signed by representatives of the deceased or their heirs.” Furthermore, the permit requires an original extract from Swiss Criminal Records no older than three months. A copy of a valid passport, identity card, or residence permit is also required.  If none of those are available then official confirmation of residence or proof of legal ability to acquire weapons in their home state.   The signing statement itself reads:  “I certify that I have answered the questions truthfully and that I’m not incapacitated; suffering under any disease, which could pose an increased risk for handling weapons, such as drug or alcohol use or dependence on narcotics. I allow the competent authority to verify the information, in particular the police, the penal, custody, welfare and administrative authorities.”  So, quite a few background checks go into a civilian purchasing a firearm even if it is inherited and in line with the laws proposed by gun-control advocates.

But there is so much more to the 1999 Swiss gun law.  For example,  a permit is not needed to buy a gun from and individual but the seller is expected to determine that the buyer can meet the requirements of purchasing from a dealer.  They are required to prepare a written contract with the identities of both parties and must include, weapon type, manufacturer and serial number.  This contract must be kept by both parties for at least 10 years. The seller must also see some form of official ID. So, even in a private sale in Switzerland while a permit is not required record from the sale is required and the seller is is obligated to prove eligibility and identity before selling a weapon.  Pretty much what gun-control advocates want anyway.

While single shot long arms (muzzle or breech loaders) are available without a permit the sale of automatic firearms, selective fire weapons and accessories such as suppressors are essentially forbidden.  They are legal only with a special permit issued by police and this permit includes even more requirements, such as a gun locker.  In addition, the Schengen treaty of 2008 requires all guns to be marked and registered with a serial number.  Ammo is also regulated with hollow point rounds only permitted for hunters.  The sale of ammo is required to be registered with the buyer’s name in a bound book. Again, laws exactly like the ones gun-control groups favor.

Essentially, Swiss gun laws are exactly what the “gun-control” crowd is asking for.  This is what you don’t hear from the NRA.  They will tout Switzerland as an example of how owning guns can be safe but fail to mention that ownership in Switzerland is actually highly regulated.  Want the US to be more like Switzerland?  I am pretty sure most of the people on the gun-control side would be all for it.  However, the pro-gun people led by the NRA would throw a major fit. Personally, I object to any untrained civilian owning a weapon such as an AR-15.  If you want to require full military training to own one, now that is a different story.  For those of you who say an AR-15 is not as dangerous as a fully auto weapon I direct you to the bump fire.  This is where you use the guns recoil to fire multiple shots essentially simulating full auto.   Another assault rifle ban is the US really isn’t going to do much because it does not address the issue of the guns that are already on the streets.  But we really have to look deeper into the correlation of our previous ban expiring and the increase in cartel violence in Mexico.  Detailed background checks, registration, training, ammo restrictions and records of sale are exactly what the gun-control crowd is looking for.  This is what Switzerland has and it works. It is also what the NRA and the gun lobby vehemently protest.