Switzerland Requires Citizens to Own Guns myth

Are the Swiss Required 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.[1][2][3][4][5]

Here are some other relevant facts on gun ownership 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 (exemptions are common, especially in urban areas; although being exempted can result in paying a higher income tax in some cases).[6]
  • 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). You can see a basic overview of this on Wikipedia’s page on regulation on weapons and ammo in Switzerland; or, see a full overview on admin.ch’s Regulation on Arms, Equipment for Arms and Ammunition (you’ll need to translate the page into English).
  • 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.

FACTS AND CLARITY ON GUN OWNERSHIP STATISTICS IN SWITZERLAND: Gun ownership is high in Switzerland, at approximately .25 – .5 guns per person depending on what is counted (for example if military owned weapons are counted and/or hunting weapons are counted, the number is very different than if only registered privately owned firearms are counted). Meanwhile, it is roughly accurate to say about 25% – 30% of Swiss citizens own guns even though the exact number depends on what study you look at and what you count. For example the widely cited Small Arms study from 2007 says 26% of Swiss own guns, but does not count military owned weapons or hunting weapons (as many as 75% of Swiss own a hunting weapon).

A video about the gun rules and regulations in Switzerland. This is the best video of the lot; check it out.

FACT: Military issued firearms may be purchased from the government after service, and then the gun is converted to a non-assault weapon (meaning, a fully automatic converted into a semiautomatic weapon). Restrictions can be placed on both the firearm and its ammunition.

BOTTOMLINE: While getting the exact numbers on gun ownership is a bit tricky, the idea that the Swiss are required to own firearms and the idea that all Swiss own firearms easily proven myths.

The Idealization of Swiss Gun Culture. Does Swiss Gun Culture Work?

Switzerland’s gun laws arguably work well (at least in terms of simple metrics like pairing high ownership rates with low gun-related crime),[7][8] showing that the right to bear 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 pro-firearm citizens of other countries for what are arguably the wrong reasons. One might 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.

Clarifications on the concept of a well-regulated militia as it relates to the Swiss Armed Forces: The Swiss Armed Forces is a standing army comprised of some active duty soldiers and many conscripts and volunteers (AKA “militiamen”). This has parallels with the militias of the U.S. Second Amendment, in terms of having conscripts and volunteers trained and ready to be called on to secure a free state, but it is not exactly the same as “a militia” (just like the U.S. National Guard is the reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces, but one wouldn’t call the Guard or Armed Forces as a whole “a militia” despite the Guard’s own parallels). With that said, article 58 of the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999 literally refers to the Swiss Army as a militia “Switzerland shall have armed forces. In principle, the armed forces shall be organised as a militia” (or at least this is how it reads when translated into English). Thus, like the U.S. gaurd is part of the military, the conscripted militiaman are part of the Swiss Armed Forces (and since they are a trained and ready or “working and well-regulated” militia with “the right to keep and bear,” they also fit well the description of a militia in the U.S. Second Amendment).[9]

FACT: Although firearm related crimes per-capita are low in Switzerland considering the high level of firearm ownership, firearm related suicides per-capita in Switzerland are rather high. Of course in countries where gun ownership are common this would be the case (it is in the U.S. as well), but that doesn’t make it any less noteworthy. A simple place to look at this data is Wikipedia’s “List of countries by firearm-related death rate,” but the data can also be found in studies like “Epidemiologie von Suiziden, Suizidversuchen und assistierten Suiziden in der Schweiz – April 2015” (which, when translated, presents statistics on suicide rates in Switzerland). Looking at data like this can help offer insight into the somewhat subjective topic of “does Swiss gun culture work?”[10][11]

TIP: Discovering the exact number of guns owned in Switzerland is nearly impossible as they don’t need to register hunting weapons. About 25% – 30% 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.

CONSIDER: 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, one could argue that 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.[12]

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.

CHANGING LAWS: 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. Further, the “EU Gun Ban” could affect Swiss gun laws moving forward.

Why Does Switzerland’s Gun Culture Work? – the Bottomline: Although there is no one metric to point to that proves without a doubt that Swiss gun culture works or why this is the case, one could argue that the key to what one might perceive as Switzerland’s successful gun culture (that is high ownership, low gun-related crime) is arguably found in their [what we can very loosely call] 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 (where the concept of firearm ownership is focused on the collective defense of the state more than the defense of one’s estate from one’s neighbor; that is, a culture focused on the collective defense rather than individual defense). For more, see the Swiss Constitution’s section on the Armed Forces and Civil Defense.

Do all Swiss have guns? 

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.[13]
  • 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 / military.
  • Gun ownership is high in Switzerland, at approximately .5 guns per person. About 25% – 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).

TIP: See loc.gov’s Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Switzerland for more reading.

Article Citations
  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. Conscription in Switzerland – Wikipedia
  6. Swiss Federal Law: Ordinance on the exemption from duty
  7. Switzerland guns: Living with firearms the Swiss way – BBC – 11 February 2013
  8. What’s Worked, And What Hasn’t, In Gun-Loving Switzerland – NPR – March 19, 20134:32 PM ET
  9. article 58 of the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999 
  10. Epidemiologie von Suiziden, Suizidversuchen und assistierten Suiziden in der Schweiz – April 2015
  11. List of countries by firearm-related death rate
  12. A contrast of radically different gun laws and homicide rates in Honduras and Switzerland is based on faulty information.
  13. Military of Switzerland

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. The result is what one might call “a Well Regulated Militia” and “reasonable regulations on firearms.”

Swiss gun culture stands as a good example of how regulation and the right to keep and bear can be paired in a civil state.

Switzerland does not however stand as an example of a country that requires citizens to own guns or that has a gun culture that works without training, regulations, and a culture of responsible gun ownership.

Author: Thomas DeMichele

Thomas DeMichele is the content creator behind ObamaCareFacts.com, FactMyth.com, CryptocurrencyFacts.com, and other DogMediaSolutions.com and Massive Dog properties. He also contributes to MakerDAO and other cryptocurrency-based projects. Tom's focus in all...

Leave a Reply to Tony Brunner Cancel reply

Your Vote: Click Your Vote

We'll never share your email with anyone else.

Mr. Pki Did not vote.

Switzerland does not have a Urban element like a US Chicago, St Louis, Baltimore and others.

RO GAL Did not vote.

Swiss gun ownership is not too different than US wrt being responsible, trained and not a criminal. Their military required military service (a once greatUS idea) takes care of the background check and training to own a weapon. Every person should have the right to protect themself and their family. A firearm allows almost ANY family member to accomplish this if needed.

Hap Did not vote.

Which is it?
Gun ownership is high in Switzerland, at approximately .5 guns per person. About 30% of Swiss citizens own guns.
About 30-40% have illicit and registered firearms, and about 75% own a hunting rifle as a reasonable estimate.

Lida Schedler Did not vote.

As far as “militia” vs “the army”, I can tell you my family was very involved in the Revolution back in the 1700’s and I’ve read quite a bit of family history on it. As far as my family was concerned there was no distinction. You would sign up, stay in the army for a short while – even just a few months – go home, take care of business, then go back to the army if needed. That was the militia. The founders were aiming for a “citizen’s army” where all were armed and all citizens participated and believed in freedom and defending the citizenry.

Granted, it may have not always worked with maximum efficiency but it came from the heart and was rooted in the idea of a free people fighting for what they believed. And after all, everything in America at the time was a great experiment. They were stepping out where none had gone before.

From what I understand, our founders were inspired to this idea from visits to Switzerland, although I am sure the basic idea came from their philosophy.


Editor: This was a comment about how the problem with gun violence in America is black Americans and that we needed to address that culture. It was phrased in a way that I couldn’t / wouldn’t post it on our educational site meant for all audiences. However, I want to address the logic instead of deleting it.

James Ausland Did not vote.

Just wish to place one comment. LEARN WHAT A WELL REGULATED MILITIA IS BEFORE USING IT AS A MEME. Militia is not a military it is not an official branch of service, it is a civilian operated unit. It is there in this case if we were ever to have a overpowering and tyrant like government so we might be able to like we did with King George, overthrow it. Learn before you try to shove your anti-gun shiz down peoples throats.

Cornelius Huckerton Did not vote.

Switzerland does not have a thug culture and the blacks that get infected with it. Helps a lot with keeping the country free of mass shootings despite high gun ownership.

Kameron Kennemer Did not vote.

Highly misleading editorial.

“Military issued firearms may be purchased from the government after service, and then the gun is converted to a non-assault weapon (meaning, an automatic converted into a non-automatic weapon)”

You can’t convert a automatic weapon into a non-automatic weapon. You can however convert a fully automatic weapon into a semiautomatic.

Gun grabbers lie. There is no clear definition of an assault weapon. It is a made up word by them. They can call any semiautomatic weapon an assault weapon. Then all that’s left is single action weapons.

Guess what thet call them?

Sniper Rifles!

Andrew Did not vote.

YOU are the myth! The able bodied are REQUIRED to serve in the military and they are REQUIRED to have a weapon as part of that service. That’s mandatory gun ownership. We can’t debate anything if jackasses keep lying in the name of truth telling.

Tyler Did not vote.

I would like to know what the heck the author means by have their rifle converted a non-assault weapon? There is no such thing! I like what Gary Johnson said they convert them from fully auto to semi-auto. Ahhhhh dang sounds just like the US. According to the authors definition of a non assault rifle is a prime example of an AR-15 good thing all our AR-15’s have been converted to non-assault now all the media can stop complaining!


Many false statements in this article and anyone saying to check out Wikipedia should be ignored as it is becoming filled with false information every day.

Billy Did not vote.

It isn’t an assault weapon until you assault someone with it…. When is everyone gonna get that straight???? If you own a pitbull it’s just a dog but if it attacks someone that dog becomes an assault weapon and you go to jail….. Look it up!!

RR Bullard Did not vote.

Throughout the US Constitution, terminology lacks ”definition”, at least to the extent upon which the crafters may have agreed, but much less to the extent, we, the heirs of the Constitution, may agree today. Beginning the 2nd Amendment with ”A well-regulated militia” and ending with ”…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” cries out for definition in the context the current day.

We could start with, for example, agreeing that when granting the government elsewhere in the Constitution the power to ”raise an army”, what the crafters had in mind so shortly after the birth of our nation was to convert (”raise”) the ”well-regulated militia” comparatively quickly into the backbone of our formal standing ”army” in the immediate defense of physical threats to the US by armed entities (May we assume foreign or domestic?) We could continue with unelaborated ”arms”, which in the context of the Constitution in 1789 did not exclude cannon, torch rockets, explosives, etc.

Irrespective of what the crafters had in mind, until today there has been a lot of ”infringement” upon ”the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, but never an explicit connection of this ”infringement” to the people sustaining active membership or participation in ”a well-regulated militia”, which membership or participation may have been ”mandated” or, at least, enabled by their ”bearing” of [whatever] arms they had chosen to acquire without being ”infringed” upon. Does the ”[non]-infringement” imply the obligation ”’of the people” to be in whatever is the ”well-regulated militia” of the day in exchange for their being granted ”the right of the people to keep and bear arms”?

The only way the Constitutional connection of ”well-regulated militia” has ever come close to ”if one, then the other”, the ”other” being ”…the right of the people to keep and bear arms…” is the opportunistic, almost instantaneous formation of a ”posse comitatus” (still all male, by the way) by local law enforcement. What these usually gun-owning citizens suddenly pressed into service to support local law enforcement authorities have in common with the ”well-regulated militia” envisioned by the crafters of the Constitution is a substantial stretch. Sheriffs of the Old West and elsewhere to the present day maintain a very broad interpretation of their law enforcement authority under the 2nd Amendment; i. e,, the modern accepted view is their ”posses” are the Constitutional equivalent of a ”a well-regulated militia” for the purposes of pressing local citizens (They do not have to own a fire arm.) into posse service.

If the crafters did not mean that the militia and gun ownership were fundamentally congruent, then we need to amend the 2nd Amendment to remove ”well-regulated militia” so that the right of ”the people to keep and bear arms” is unconditional, although I would suggest inserting the word ”lawfully” between ”to” and ”keep”,

dnhook Did not vote.

From your bio: “As a FactMyth.com author I consider my gig more like ‘dirty jobs’ than a soapbox speech. I’m not an expert, i’m just a guy with a keyboard who knows how to research and write.”
Apparently you don’t know how to research, as “well regulated” as used in the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States means “well supplied.” It had nothing to do with governmental regulation or oversight. Read the Federalist Papers and some history before you spew nonsense.

William Nelson Did not vote.

You fail to disclose that the Swiss had no 2nd Amendment like that of the US. And only very recently had no gun control at all. Not including fully automatic weapons of course: ” The first federal gun-control law (hereinafter the Weapons Act) became effective in Switzerland on January 1, 1999.[8] As originally enacted, the Weapons Act brought a gun-control regime that was similar to the gun-control laws of neighboring countries, albeit less restrictive. Between 2004 and 2010, several amendments made the Weapons Act more stringent.” Until Swiss weapons started showing up in crime scenes in Europe they couldn’t of cared less. Now they follow more or less Europe’s lead.

Robert I. Price Doesn't beleive this myth.

On this date this site is all too relevant.

In the USofA the notion of proper training has gone by the wayside in favor of “arming the masses to the max” in the hopes that a stray bullet will kill the bad guy before he kills 17 students.

Responsible ownership is no longer an NRA priority, monetary profit and political influence are the primary focus.

RIP a.k.a. Robert I. Price

Peter E. van Oest Doesn't beleive this myth.

Very well explained how in a civilized country this works without an unacceptable amount of gun death per year

steven meyer Did not vote.

The key fact asserted in this article is that an estimated 75% 0f the people have unregistered or
guns for hunting.

Kriss Wegemer Supports this as a Fact.

The man in the first video is specifically and exactly talking about defending himself against the state.

When he was telling the story about the lady weeping in the Holocaust museum, he said that he promised himself that he would never allow himself to be without a way to fight forces “dragging us away to ovens or prisons”. That was an act of the state against its people, who were rather famously not able to fight back. The right to keep and bear arms had been taken from them…. by the state. Seems very clear.

High powered weapons are obviously not illegal. Every gun he pulled from the cabinet and showed to the camera was a high powered weapon.

Each was also assault an weapon. Unless you are saying that removing the full auto feature makes it no longer an assault weapon.

Hubert Hurst Did not vote.

Some of the above information is correct, but most of it is the opinion of the writer and may or may not be true.
The only true fact is that Switzerland does not require citizens to own guns, the government issues guns to a large percentage of the population and when they are of age the may buy the gun and many have more than one gun,

Rudolf Doesn't beleive this myth.

We do not have any militia, we do have the Swiss Army, do try not to offend us, after all Switzerland has managed to stay out of armed conflicts for + 300 years now.

Stephen Doesn't beleive this myth.

Somebody commented that the United States has the gang culture which Switzerland doesn’t have, but none of the famous mass shooters in the States has belonged to any gang.

Also, Canada has gangs too, and our firearms laws are not extremely strict, but we don’t have nearly the same amount of gun deaths (per capita.)

And El Salvador is a terrible example, just like Venezuela (where I have lived.) Laws exist, but lack of enforcement and corruption completely negates their effectiveness.

Finally, there’s no denying the positive effects that gun restrictions have had on the gun death rate in Australia and Ireland.

Retrocon Doesn't beleive this myth.

But I will take exception to those who equated Swiss “well regulated militia” with US Constitution Second Amendment.

The US Second Amendment was not referring to a militia as a formal entity of “enlisted” members, with formal training and regulation. The militia was simply every able bodied man between 18 and 55 or some such ages.

“Well Regulated” had nothing to do with governmental regulations and laws. The term at the time basically meant “properly outfitted” or “provisioned.” They wanted citizens to have firearms that worked when needed, as many citizens of the time had firearms that simply didn’t work.

The proof is simple, aside from looking up the meaning for that era, which does prove my point. The other proof is that there were no federal regulations of any kind placed on firearms or the “militia.” If the framers and founders intent was to put gun regulations in place, they would have. They didn’t.

Gary Johnston Did not vote.

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.