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Gun Crime In Britain; Follow The Swiss Example?

Feb 25, 2008
Gun crime n Britain is generally seen to be getting worse, especially in major cities. Government figures will argue that the levels of gun crime are in fact in decline, what can be surmised however is that the number of homicides and use of firearms by criminal gangs is on the increase.

Unlike other countries gun ownership in the UK is limited, what is strange however is that many countries have higher levels of gun ownership, but less gun crime, Switzerland can be seen as a case in point.

Swiss culture has guns heavily intertwined with life but gun crime levels are so low that statistics are not even kept. With a population of approximately six million it is believed that around two million have guns in their homes. These include over a million automatic and pistols combined. With such a large arsenal at the Swiss public's disposal why aren't levels of gun crime higher?

This is mainly down to the unique way the Swiss military is organised. Unlike the UK there is no standing army and most male citizens are required to serve some national service for around a week a year. Troops between the ages of twenty one and thirty two are given an automatic rifle with full ammunition and told to keep it at home. After they reach thirty two they are given a bolt action rifle. These armaments are provided by the government and restrictions on gun ownership are some of the most lax in Europe.

Shooting is popular hobby in Switzerland, with marksmanship competitions being a large part of the Swiss social scene. Despite these large levels of gun ownership, gun crime is practically non-existent, public building do not possess high security and politicians rarely need a security team to follow them around.

Some commentators have highlighted the Swiss example as showing no clear connection between firearm ownership and gun crime. Others however have argued that the situation in Switzerland is far more complex and the reasons gun crime figures are so low is down to other factors.

Switzerland as one of the richest countries in the world is relatively isolated to modern social phenomena. It possesses none of the social problems that cause gun crime in other industrialised nations. For instance urban deprivation is practically unheard of in Switzerland while problems with drugs are controlled differently and are nowhere near as large in other industrialised countries.

Unlike other nations where gun ownership is to do with power and protection for drug dealers and gang members, the Swiss own guns as part of the national defence policy and owning a gun is twinned with a sense of collective responsibility. From their first introduction to guns, Swiss citizens are taught to see their guns as purely tools to defend their country if the need arises.

The Swiss example is not a policy that should be followed in other industrialised nations. It is unique in the way the public feel about guns and other nations would most probably not respond well to arming vast swathes of the population. If the US is taken as an example, where large numbers of guns are owned by the general public, gun crime is the highest in the world. In Britain the policy would certainly falter and actually increase levels of firearm incidents.

Added to the general public mindset to guns being different, Britain, unlike Switzerland has areas of serious urban deprivation and a huge gang culture and drug industry. For British gun policy to be effective reducing the number of guns rather than handing them out to the general public is a more advisable method to tackle the cancer that is gun crime.
About the Author
Social commentator Thomas Pretty looks at gun crime problems in Britain and gun policy in Switzerland. To find out more please visit http://www.knifecrimes.org
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