What’s Up With The Gun Posters?

Why are there posters with a Grand Theft Auto thug pointing a gun at me everywhere in Switzerland? Is this a new video game?

No, it is not a video game, it is a "No" poster for the Volksinitiative “Für den Schutz vor Waffengewalt” (for the protection against weapon/gun violence) which is the only national question being put to voters in Switzerland’s first referendum of 2011 on February 13. Again Switzerland's right wing People's Party (SVP) is arousing fear in the Swiss populace.

The initiative was proposed by doctors, social workers and others affected by gun violence. Now many may say that when they think of Switzerland they don't think of gun violence. Well for the third most armed country in the world Switzerland is a peaceful country. For every 100 people there are 45,7 weapons. When put in terms of households though this equates to 1 in 3 households possessing firearms. Yet behind this peaceful facade lurk some troubling numbers, and this is where gun violence shines.

Looking at the World Health Organization’s statistics, Switzerland has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe at approximately 35 people for every 100 000 people. According to Suicide researcher Dr. Valadeta Ajdacic from the University Clinic in Zurich, in the past ten years there have been more than 13,000 cases of suicide in Switzerland, or on average 1341 per year. A new study published in the Schweizerischen Ärtzetzeitung (Swiss Doctor’s Journal) shows that 34% of suicides are committed with a gun. Dr. Valadeta Ajdacic believes that limiting access to weapons would reduce these numbers by about 100 suicides per year. Then of fact there is the sad story that every so often someone, usually a man,

kills not only himself but also his wife and children. And as highlighted in the Volksabstimmung vom 13. Februar 2011 Erläuterungen des Bundesrates (explanation and commentary to the initiative) just the threat of having a gun in the closet is a psychological torment for many and is not spoken about.\n\nWhile the cause of suicide may be hotly debated, the statics will point to the most traditional and conservative areas as being where they are the highest. When you live close to everyone and your every move in noticed and scrutinized by family, friends and neighbors the feeling of failure can come about easily. In this manner the Swiss bear a great resemblance to their number one fans the Japanese.\n\nThe “Waffen Initiative” asks that military officers leave their weapons in an armory when off duty. This seemingly simple and logical request is aimed at lowering suicide and murder rates, by making guns less accessible. It would further implement a federal gun registry replacing the cantonal registries. As Switzerland must exchange gun ownership data with the E.U. under the Schengen-Dublin agreement, this would help eliminate a level of confusion and bureaucracy as the E.U. would get information from just Switzerland and not 26 separate cantons. Furthermore, with the country being so small it makes more sense to have this done centrally.\n\nHowever, from the view of the SVP and many others it is an infringement on rights and further government intervention. Yet it begs the question that if you only need your weapon for military exercises or sport shooting, why do you need it at home? In fact you are not supposed to have ammunition for it at home anyway. The arguments against the initiativeare illogical and based on fear. Oskar Freysinger, a SVP politician, openly asked what Switzerland  would be like if Wilhelm Tell had not been allowed to have a crossbow at home. A wiser person might ask, what this SVP politician would have become had he paid attention in his history class. Yet this shows that like so much in Switzerland tradition and myth form strong counter arguments to progress.

As for claims that it is for personal protection, I have not found any reports of cases in which an off duty officer used a military weapon for personal defense against criminal violence or activity. Again, officers are not to have ammunition in the first place.

Arguments for the “Waffen Initiative” are logical and well intended. They will put limits on people’s rights as they have existed to present and will mean that owning a gun for hunters and sport shooters will be more difficult. However, civil society means voluntarily limiting one’s individual freedoms for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The Bundesrat and parliament in their official statement regarding the “Waffen Initiative” hold it for unnecessary and believe that the current laws are good enough, as the initiative cannot guarantee a reduction in gun violence. While this may be true, all of the studies would suggest that where there is less access to weapons there is less violence — without a gun at hand a potential suicide victim might consider his or choices again.

If you’re looking for more information on the topic, it can be found in German at: www.schutz-vor-waffengewalt.ch

Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen

Else-Züblin-Strasse 99

8404 Winterthur\nSwitzerland

Tel: +41 (0)79 345 78 72

E-Mail: marathon.sprachen@me.com

Homepage: www.marathonsprachen.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/marathonsprachen

Twitter: @marathonsprache


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  • Suicide rates are an illigitmate point of argument. People have the right to kill themsleves, if they so desire, and will continue to do so regardless of gun access. The greater population at large can not be legitimately compelled to disarm becasue of the forever-to-be-present suicidal population. Disarming the populace using this reason is ridiculous on it’s face.\r\n\r\nFurther, the relatively miniscule murder statistics must be examined in further detail before sweeping generalizations can be made. Are the very low amount of murders in the country committed mostly by swiss natives with their military weapons, or committed by foreigners? Those statistics must be separated, as the native swiss should not be penalized for the actions of foreigners. It is illigitmate to penalize the swiss for the actions of a foreign population that they are compelled to endure. Instead, police or other action must be taken toward the offending population, if it is their actions which push the murder statistics to unnacceptable levels. Penalizing the Swiss for their statistics is unjust.\r\n\r\nRemember, there will always be murders in any society. Ridding a country of guns will not eliminate them, especially at the baseline level that can be expected in every society due to mental health population statistics. Once murder levels rise above a certain threshold, then the offending population must be examined. Period.

  •  Clearly the UN wants Switzerland to disarm and are going all out with the propaganda. The reason this country has not had to be involved in wars is because of their citizen army. That’s why the US has never been invaded.  Suicides aren’t caused by guns and everyone has the right to own a gun to protect themselves or their family.  They may keep their army weapons in the armory and this will not prevent them from killing themselves. I question the statistics coming from WHO and certainly this illogical and faulty reasoning for grabbing the guns from a country that might be the last true Republic on earth!!

  • New numbers released today. 49% of suicides with guns in Switzerland are committed with military issued guns: \r\nhttp://www.20min.ch/news/dossier/waffenschutz/story/Jeder-Zweite-erschiesst-sich-mit-Armeewaffe-23595937

  • Hi,\r\n\r\n”In fact you are not supposed to have ammunition for it at home anyway.”\r\n\r\nThis is incorrect. It is limited to military-issued ammunition. Privately purchased ammunition can thankfully still legally be kept at home. It also moots the point of unloaded weapons being useless against crime and discards the idea of weapons as a deterrent.\r\n\r\nRegarding suicide rates, countries like South Korea and Japan have vastly higher rates, with vastly stricter gun laws. Using your logic, I might infer that strict gun laws drive suicide candidates to kill themselves in other ways?\r\n\r\n”civil society means voluntarily limiting one’s individual freedoms for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”\r\n\r\nPrecisely. And that includes not allowing emotional, irrational argumentation to enter into political discourse. Banning things that make you personally uncomfortable is not a responsible way to participate in a democratic process.

    • Hi John,\r\n\r\nYour first point is indeed correct, ammunition can be purchased privately.\r\n\r\nYour other point is half correct. Yes other countries have higher suicide rates. Limiting access to guns may just lead to those wishing to commit suicide to do so by other means. However, it may also allow a few people to take stock of their situation and reconsider what they are about to do and maybe find help. Lower suicide rates are not guaranteed though.\r\n\r\nThe arguments presented are not emotional nor irrational. They are based on statistics and readily available information. The ban is in fact rather more just a stricter control. People obtaining proper permits would still be allowed to have guns. And you are right, they may still kill themselves and others. But generally speaking less guns will result in less deaths as a result of gun violence.\r\n\r\nThere is an expression that goes, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” This is true. But people use guns to kill people — be that others or themselves. Because guns distance the killer from the victim, it is easier to shoot someone than it is to kill them in another way. This is an unfortunate psychological effect of guns.\r\n\r\nRegarding your plea to democracy. If a majority of voters believe that limiting access to weapons will lead to a safer country and save lives and pass the initiative, this is then Swiss Democracy in action. And while it may be hotly debated, this initiative does not infringe on anyone’s basic rights, nor does it seek to paint others with a black brush.

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