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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Swiss may soon have to store guns in public militia arsenals

...nation, which next month votes on how to store guns for its standing militia.

European Dispatch

January 19, 2011
By Michael Scott Moore


Every third household in Switzerland has a firearm, normally government-issued, because every male citizen under about 50 is also a reserve soldier. Instead of a standing professional army, the government maintains a well-armed militia to be called up in case of war.


But a referendum on Feb. 13 will decide whether the Swiss should go on keeping their guns at home or store them in public arsenals. Lately, yes votes for the arsenal bill have led public opinion — 45 percent support it versus 34 percent who oppose, plus a wide undecided margin, according to a poll from early January.


(More after the Jump)

U.S. gun advocates put this down to national character. “Cultural conditions, not gun laws, are the most important factors in a nation’s crime rate,” ran the (unchanging) argument in a 1990 issue of American Rifleman. “Young adults in Washington, D.C., are subject to strict gun control but no social control, and they commit a staggering amount of armed crime. Young adults in Zurich are subject to minimal gun control but strict social control, and they commit almost no crime.”

But one main difference in Switzerland is that the swarm of public firearms includes very few automatic weapons. Before the government sends an assault rifle home with a reserve soldier, it removes the automatic or rapid-fire function and leaves the weapon in self-loading, or semi-automatic, mode.

Active-duty soldiers traditionally get to store assault rifles at home; but the arsenal law would only strengthen Swiss restrictions against home storage of “especially dangerous weapons that are designed only to kill, such as automatic or so-called pump-action weapons,” as the Swiss broadcasting network SRF puts it.

The non-radical idea of banning sophisticated military firearms from American streets is, of course, roughly the Obama administration’s position on gun control. But when the president in 2009 tried to extend the assault-weapons ban that expired under Bush in 2004 — the law that would have prevented Jared Loughner from buying that long clip for his Glock pistol — there was a panicked run on assault rifles across the United States; Obama backed down.


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