Are the Swiss Required to Own Guns?

Switzerland requires its citizens to own guns.

Does Switzerland Require Everyone to Own a Gun? Mandatory Military Service and Gun Rights in Switzerland

Switzerland doesn’t require its citizens to own guns. In Switzerland, guns are regulated in three classes and there is mandatory military service for able-bodied men. Women may volunteer for any position and those declared unfit for service are exempt. Hunting weapons, self-defense weapons, and “more lethal” weapons are treated differently. Background checks are required, and many other rules apply (see below). The result is a gun culture focused on responsible gun ownership and collective rights.[1][2][3][4]

Switzerland’s gun culture is commonly admired by other countries, but often for the wrong reasons. The Swiss gun culture works well, not because it respects the right to keep and bear arms, but because it takes the concept of a well-regulated militia seriously regarding both services to the state and gun control.

Below we discuss the basics of Swiss gun culture. Make sure to check out the videos featuring Swiss citizens explaining their gun culture in their words.

TIP: Discovering the exact number of guns owned in Switzerland is nearly impossible as they don’t need to register hunting weapons. About 30-40% have illicit and registered firearms, and about 75% own a hunting rifle as a reasonable estimate. Learn more at – Switzerland.

Why Switzerland Has The Lowest Crime Rate In The World. Notice the collectivist gun culture displayed in this pro-gun video. The concept is a defense of the state enforced by the state’s rule-set, not personal defense from other citizens or the state. This is the difference between the U.S. and Switzerland.

FACT: In the U.S. we take an individualist stance focusing on our rights to bear and keep arms and our right to self-defense. In Switzerland, individual rights come second to collective rights related to a well-regulated militia in defense of the state.

TIP: As you may have imagined the meme contrasting Honduras and Switzerland’s gun laws is wrong on many levels.[5]

Switzerland Gun Regulations

Switzerland is often used as an example by those against gun control laws to show how gun ownership benefits a state. However, this is a general misreading of Swiss culture. Switzerland’s gun laws are rather strict, including three classes of weapons and ammunition with varying degrees of restrictions, mandatory background checks per-purchase, training, the banning of high-powered weapons, an ability to disarm citizens, bans of immigrants and criminals owning guns, and other general restrictions and regulations.

The Swiss respect the right to bear and keep arms, but it is the gun culture surrounding this right and not the right itself which is the key to their comparative success.

Does every Swiss have a gun?. We could ask the NRA about Swiss gun laws, but instead, let’s just ask a person from Switzerland.

Why Does Switzerland’s Gun Culture Work?

The key to Switzerland’s success with gun culture is in their well-regulated militia, willingness to enact gun control laws, and the general sense of nationalism and pride instilled in them from their mandatory military service.

With the above in mind, the Swiss have voted against conscription recently and are currently debating more strict gun laws after a recent mass shooting.

Is Switzerland a model country for gun ownership?.

FACT: Only Yemen, America, and Serbia have more guns per-capita than the Swiss.

Quick Facts About Switzerland and Guns

  • Switzerland has the second largest armed force per capita after the Israeli Defence Forces.[6]
  • Switzerland has long held a posture of neutrality regarding war and conflict. To maintain a strong defense, the Swiss instead focus on maintaining a strong well-regulated militia.
  • Gun ownership is high in Switzerland, at approximately .5 guns per person. About 30% of Swiss citizens own guns. Military issued firearms must be purchased from the government after service, and then the gun is converted to a non-assault weapon. Restrictions can be placed on both the firearm and its ammunition.
  • In Switzerland, you don’t need a permit for hunting weapons, but you do for other firearms and ammunition.
  • Every time you buy a non-hunting weapon you need to get a background check (you can get up to 3 guns at one time).

A video about the gun rules and regulations in Switzerland. This is the best video of the lot; it is also the longest, so I saved it for the end.


The Swiss are not Required to Own Guns… But, they do have sometimes restrictive Regulations on guns and Mandatory Military Service for able-bodied men. It’s what one might call “a Well Regulated Militia”.



  1. The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture That Works
  2. Small Arms Survey 2007
  3. Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Switzerland
  4. Switzerland guns: Living with firearms the Swiss way
  5. A contrast of radically different gun laws and homicide rates in Honduras and Switzerland is based on faulty information.
  6. Military of Switzerland

"Switzerland Requires Citizens to Own Guns" is tagged with: Gun Control and Gun Rights, Human Rights, United States of America

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Gary Johnston on

Swiss laws are not really that strict, they are basically like Michigan twenty years ago minus the recent registration. Semi-automatics can be freely purchases, it is automatics that can’t be. Those leaving the militia can keep their weapons but the unit armorer converts it to fire semi-automatic only. Our individualistic gun culture works as well as theirs and the Czech Republic. The difference is that we have a gang culture which they don’t have. Since they get their guns from the same black market they sell their drugs, no laws will change that. You don’t define “high powered”. a high powered rifle is a typical hunting rifle like the .30-06 or .270. The more powerful 9.3×62mm is popular in Europe, including Switzerland.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Interesting take. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.