Gun politics in Switzerland
are unique in Europe. The personal weapon of militia is kept at home as part of the military obligations. Switzerland has one of the highest militia gun ownership rates in the world.
In recent times political opposition has expressed a desire for tighter gun regulations.
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 Rekrutenschule
(German for "recruit school"), the initial boot camp, after which Swiss men remain part of the "militia" in reserve capacity until age 30 (age 34 for officers).
Each such individual is required to keep his army-issued personal weapon (the 5.56x45mm Sig 550
rifle for enlisted personnel and/or the 9mm SIG-Sauer P220
semi-automatic pistol for officers, medical and postal personnel) at home with a specified personal retention quantity of government-issued personal ammunition (50 rounds 5.56 mm / 48 rounds 9mm), which is sealed and inspected regularly to ensure that no unauthorized use takes place.
The ammunition are intended for use while traveling to the army barracks in case of invasion.
When their period of service has ended, militiamen have the choice of keeping their personal weapon and other selected items of their equipment. In this case of retention, the rifle is sent to the weapons factory where the fully automatic function is removed; the rifle is then returned to the discharged owner. The rifle is then a semi-automatic or self-loading rifle.
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 shooting ranges patronized by both private citizens and members of the militia.
There is a regulatory requirement that ammunition sold at ranges must be used there. However, pro-gun advocates David Kopel and Stephen D'Andrilli claim "the rule is barely known and almost never obeyed".
Indeed, while the sale of non-hunting ammunition is registered at the dealer if purchased at a private store, ammunition purchased at a shooting range is not. Non-military ammunition for long-gun hunting and .22 Long Rifle (LR) ammo is not subsidized, but is not subject to sales controls.
The Swiss Army maintains tight 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.
In 2001 Swiss citizen Friedrich Leibacher
entered a regional Swiss parliament building and used a rifle to kill 14 people before killing himself.
Strangely enough, this wasn't his personal army issue weapon, but a private version of the army issue rifle. He committed suicide with a pistol and used an improvised explosive device.