Does Switzerland Require Everyone to Own a Gun? – Mandatory Military Service and Gun Rights in Switzerland
- Women may volunteer for military service (and will thus have access to training in a state-issued firearm).
- Those declared unfit for service are exempt from service (and an exemption is easy to get).
- Those who do go into the service are issued a weapon. They can choose to buy the firearm after their service (this is the closest thing to “everyone being required to own a gun” that exists in Switzerland).
- Hunting weapons, self-defense weapons, and “more lethal” weapons are treated differently (each “class of weapons” is treated differently).
- Background checks are required.
- And, many other rules apply including: the banning of high-powered weapons (part of a banned class of guns for civilians), an ability to disarm citizens, bans of immigrants and criminals owning guns, and other general restrictions and regulations. See more rules below.
The result is, that while gun ownership is not mandatory in Switzerland, both ownership and training are common. The Swiss therefore can be said to have a gun culture focused on responsible gun ownership and collective gun rights for qualifying citizens.
A video about the gun rules and regulations in Switzerland. This is the best video of the lot; check it out.
FACT: Gun ownership is high in Switzerland, at approximately .5 guns per person. About 30% of Swiss citizens own guns. Military issued firearms may 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. Put simply, the idea that the Swiss are required to own firearms and the idea that all Swiss own firearms are myths.
The Idealization of Swiss Gun Culture. Does Swiss Gun Culture Work?
Switzerland’s gun laws arguably work well, showing that the right to bare arms can be paired with reasonable laws without hampering public safety or personal rights.
However, with that in mind, Switzerland’s gun culture is commonly admired by other countries for the wrong reasons.
One can argue that Swiss gun culture works well, not because it respects the right to keep and bear arms alone, but because it takes regulation, responsible gun ownership, and 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 GunPolicy.org – 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.
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 often paired with a general misunderstanding of Swiss culture (generally those who use “the Switzerland argument” imply that gun ownership in Switzerland comes with little-to-no rules or with mandatory ownership; which isn’t the case).
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 arguably found 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.
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.
- 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 may 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).