Swiss gun laws

Switzerland meme - 1 in 2 citizens has guns. Lowest crime rate in the world

This meme is currently doing its rounds on facebook.

If you have been following the US gun debate over the years, you’ll know that gun advocates in the US loves to point to Switzerland as an example of why guns are not a problem. Of course, as often is the case with gun advocates in the US, they leave out a lot of facts, and even outright lie.

The meme seems to be fairly new, but the actual message has been pushed for several years, and has frequently been debunked. But since it is going around again, I guess we need to do a new debunking.


Before we start with anything else, let’s start with a short introduction to Swiss gun law (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Gun politics in Switzerland are unique in Europe. The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 34 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training. The personal weapons of the militia are kept at home as part of the military obligations. However, it is generally not permitted to keep army-issued ammunition, but compatible ammunition purchased for privately owned guns is permitted. At the end of military service period the previously used gun can be converted to a privately owned gun after a weapon acquisition permit has been granted (fully automatic weapons will be rebuilt into semi-automatic ones). Switzerland thus has a relatively high gun ownership rate (31%-61% in 2005, declining).[1] Current research from 2014 estimates gun ownership rate around 25%.[2]

As the Wikipedia article shows, there is a lot of difference between the rate of gun possession and gun ownership, with the later being as low as 25&. The distinction is important, since only gun owners are allowed to have ammunition.  The rest have the gun as part of their militia duty/military training, but don’t have any ammunition.

This is obviously a major difference from the US.

Also, the people who own guns, generally only get them after they have finished their militia duty, essentially ensuring that only people who has trained with the weapon can get it. Again a major difference from the US.

Of course, it is possible to get a permit to buying a gun even before finishing the militia duty, as long as you are over the age of 18, and are not psychiatrically disqualified nor identified as posing security problems, and have a clean criminal record. This is, unless of course, you have one of the following citizenships: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Algeria and Albania. If you hold any of those citizenships, you are out of luck, as you are barred from getting a permit to buy a gun, even if you live in Switzerland.

When buying guns or ammunition, information about the seller, the buyer and the actual purchase is registered at the cantonal weapon registration bureau, which keeps registration details about weapon owners. Again, this is nothing like the US.

There are strict rules about transporting guns and concealed carry permits, about storage of guns etc.

All these facts are left out by the NRA and other gun advocates in the US, who only mentions the prevalence of guns, but not the restrictions and registrations. Many of these restrictions and registrations are quite similar to measures that gun control advocates have tried to introduce in the US, but which the NRA and other gun advocates have fought against tooth-and-nails.

Now let us look at the idea of Switzerland having the lowest crime rate in the world.

Saying “the lowest crime rate in the world” isn’t a very precise statement, and it is hard to be sure what is included in that, so let us try to look at some relevant crime numbers in Switzerland.

When we look at firearms-related deaths, Switzerland is certainly not the one with the lowest rate. Switzerland had 0.23 firearms-related homicides per 100,000 people in 2013, which was more than at least 25 other countries. Switzerland’s number for unintentional killings are also higher than a number of other countries (as is the number for firearm-related deaths whose category is undetermined).

If we look at intentional homicides in general, Switzerland is doing better than when we only looked at firearms-related homicides. Switzerland had 0.6 homicides per 100,000 people in 2011, which put it fairly low on the list, but still with at least 7 countries below it, including Japan.

When looking at incarceration rate, there is also a indication that Switzerland is not the crime-free gun paradise as some people want to make it into. While incarceration rate doesn’t really tell anything about the level of crime, it still seems reasonable to expect that a country with nearly no crime would have a very low incarceration rate. Switzerland has one 0f 84 people per 100,000. This is pretty low, placing Switzerland solidly in the lower half, but there are quite a few countries lower on the list.

No matter at what numbers we look at, does Switzerland come out as the one with the lowest crime rate.

But it is worth noticing that Switzerland certainly comes out ahead of the US on those lists. The numbers in the US are consistently among the worst in the Western World (and frequently the worst).

So given that, I think the meme might actually be on to something. Maybe the US should try to introduce gun laws and militia training similar to Switzerland. This might reduce the firearms-related killings from their current horrifying levels.

For more on Swiss gun laws, see the legal report at the Library of Congress.

Kent Hovind’s far-right connections

This is a re-post of the first real blogpost from my former Pro-science blog. Since Kent Hovind has started to show up in the media again, and since the Bundys have shown that far-right militias is still a concern, I thought it was also appropriate to start off this blog with this post. It was first posted February 7, 2007. It has been modified slightly to reflect the passage of time, and to compensate for dead links.

As most readers probably are aware, “Dr. Dino” Kent Hovind was convicted of tax evasion in 2006 and sentenced to 10 years in jail. In 2015 he finished serving his sentence.

Back when the trial was going on, Hovind used some pretty nutty arguments for why he shouldn’t be paying taxes. Those arguments reminded me a lot of the arguments used by the far-right Patriot movement, such as the Montana Freemen. Given the fact that Hovind has a history of promoting anti-semitic literature (as David Neiwert explains), I couldn’t help wonder what connections he might have with the Patriot movement, or even the Christian Identity movement,

Mentioning this is the comments of a post at Pharyngula, PZ Myers pointed out to me that Hovind kept referring to his “lawyer” Glenn Stoll, and that Stoll is based in Seattle, close to much of the Patriot movement.

Well, Glenn Stoll is not necessarily part of the Christian Indentity movement, but he is certainly part of the Patriot movement. He is even briefly mentioned in David Neiwert’s excellent book: In God’s Country -The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (p. 283.)

Two weeks later, Kirk – who actually lived with his wife, Judy, in the southern Seattle suburb of Tukwila – presided as the “Referee/Magistrate” of the first recorded session of “our one supreme court Common Law, Washington republic.” According to the document itself, the court was convened on Mercer Island at the home of James Gutschmidt, a Patriot who was attempting to starve of foreclosure on his property. Gutschmidt claimed in the document he was “not a Fourteenth Amendment citizen or subject … not a resident, but a Citizen as described in the Holy Bible and in the Constitution prior to the Fourthteenth Amendment.”

Sitting in as “jurors” for the case was a virtual “who’s who” of the Patriot community in the Central Puget Sound area:[….]

Glenn Stoll, a longtime associate of Don Ellwanger’s who was present during the standoff at Ellwanger’s veterinary clinic. Stoll was designated “Clerk of the Court.”1

Glenn Stoll is not a lawyer, and has an injunction order against promoting his “tax-fraud scheme”. He is also connected to the Patriot group Embassy of Heaven, who issues their own passports and other papers. Stoll have a history of trying to use Embassy of Heaven passports as proof of identification. The Embassy of Heaven and it’s leader, Paul Revere, also has a history of problems with the IRS and other authorities (as people might notice, the later link leads to a Embassy of Heaven article, that also mentions Glenn Stoll).

As I said, Stoll is not necessarily part of the Christian Identity movement, but he certainly hang out with people who doesn’t seem too far removed from them. I wrote to David Neiwert, and asked him if he knew of any connections between Stoll and the Christian Identity movement, and he responded

I can’t tell you to what extent Stoll is an Identity believer, though it wouldn’t surprise me if he is one, for reasons I’ll explain momentarily. What I can say with certainty is that he not only was a militia organizer (he set up some of the earliest meetings in Snohomish County) and Patriot true believer, he was such a devout Constitutionalist that he was involved setting up Common Law Courts modeled directly after the Freemen.
This is where a likely Identity can be found, because the CL Courts he was involved in were run mostly by John Kirk (whose name you can find extensively in IGC). Kirk attended Freemen sessions in Jordan and at times expressed a number of Identity-based ideas in association with the CL courts.

IGC refers to In God’s Country -The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest.

I think it’s fairly clear that Glenn Stoll doesn’t exactly hold mainstream views, and given the fact that he has an injunction against him, which is prominently displayed on Stoll’s company’s website (as required), Hovind can’t claim that he didn’t have a fair warning that he was going to get in trouble.

1David Neiwert was kind enough to send me the document as images, so if you want to see what such a document looks like, you can see them below.

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A new start, or “Hello all”

There are a lot of exciting changes happening at FtB – a large crowd of new bloggers have joined, and a bunch of the well-known bloggers here have spun out, and created their own new network The Orbit, which looks absolutely great. Since I was among the new bloggers who has just joined, I didn’t know anything about the new blog network before it was made public. I am a bit unsure how the focus will be different from the focus on FtB, but I think there is plenty of space for two blog networks focusing on social justice and other important issues, and am definitely going to keep reading the bloggers at both FtB and The Orbit.

Well, enough about the blog networks – I expect people are curious about me and my blog Pro-science.

Briefly put, I’m a Danish IT consultant focusing mostly on projects in the public sector. I live in Copenhagen, and am one of the founders and co-organizers of Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub (link takes you to a Danish facebook page). I used to blog at Pro-science on blogspot, but have been fairly quiet the last couple of years. This is obviously going to change with this new version of the blog. The name of the blog should be read as “for science”, and it follows from numerous debates where people pushing one sort or other of woo has accused me of being anti-whatever-they-push, to which I could only state that no, I am just pro-science.

I am planning to write about science, progressive issues, and occasionally about Danish politics and Denmark. In other words, pretty much what you can see on my old blog.

Unlike my old blog, however, I need to get myself a banner. I hadn’t realized this. This will require some considerations….

In the interest of full disclosure, FtB is financed by ads, with any spare revenue after the costs are paid, being spread among the bloggers. I have asked not to be part of this revenue sharing. This means that any traffic to my blog will benefit the other bloggers at FtB, not me.