Do fewer guns equal less risk?

Rifles

Switzerland is a country with a gun tradition, both militarily and for sport. It has also faced high profile gun crimes in recent years.  Just this week, pensioner Peter Kneubühl appeared in court for his 2010 shooting of a police officer after barricading himself in his home.  And last week, a man in Daillon in the canton of Valais shot three people dead, and injured two others. That man’s weapons had been seized by police previously because he suffered a reported mental condition. Swiss gun laws and mindsets have evolved over the last two decades but the country still has a reputation for being comfortable with guns. This impression has been heard especially by some in the United States, as that nation faces a debate over guns following the Newtown shooting last month.

While Washington debates what to do about guns, some gun advocates are looking abroad for inspiration, to Switzerland. They say the Swiss have high gun ownership rates, low crime, and lots of freedom.

But some Swiss reject the comparison. After a long-weekend, Daniel Wyss’ gun shop in a village near the Swiss capital Bern, is buzzing with sportsmen and gun enthusiasts eager to re-arm.

Wyss said his customers are hunters, sportsmen, collectors, and folks who want to protect themselves. In that respect Swiss gun enthusiasts wouldn’t seem so different from those in the US.

But Jo Lang, vice president of the Swiss Green Party, said there is one big difference. Lang is a survivor of Switzerland’s worst shooting tragedy in 2001, when a gunman shot 14 people in a state legislature. And he’d like to see the difference remain…

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