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Swiss To Keep Army Guns In The Home

  • February 15th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

swiss-rifle.jpgThe myth of the Swiss bank robber who took great trouble to buy guns, but always left his service rifle in the cupboard at home, has survived a strongly-contested gun control referendum.


Voters said “no” by 56% to 44% (13.2.11), to a proposal for the nation’s thousands of reservist soldiers to keep their guns back at the armoury, no longer in their own home.

swiss-troops.jpgSwitzerland’s dogged independence has traditionally taken the form of an armed neutrality, defence provided by a policy of not ever declaring war, mountains all around, and compulsory military service for all men aged 18 to 42.

A small state with just 7.8-million citizens even today, the country has underlined its own isolation by hosting inter-governmental peace conferences and keeping out of organisations like the European Union, and until 2002 even the United Nations.


The gun in the cupboard has been a cherished part of all that, these days the standard, and popular weapon being the Sturmgewehre 90 assault rifle – the Stg.90 (picture).

Modern military doctrine, and technology, tends to put more emphasis on professional troops and advanced weaponry, less on such yeomanry; but the gun was a key player in the referendum, not so much as part of a survival strategy for the nation, rather presented as the symbol of a way of life.

swiss-army-knife.jpg(The army has of course its other main claim to fame, the multi-bladed pocket-knife, picture, developed from Mark 1, featuring the conventional sharp steel blade, and a pick handy for getting pebbles out of the hooves of horses, and now in myriad versions).


swiss-landscape.jpgTraditionalists and gun-lovers took on others in referendum debate, from rights groups to doctors, who were objecting to a very high rate of suicide involving firearms in Switzerland, and a rise in cases of violent crime (on an admittedly low base).

Ultra-nationalists on the radical right had a field day, barracking for “no”.

The referendum takes its place in a long campaign for stiffer gun control in a region  of Europe, extending through Austria into Germany, where sports shooting is a leading pass-time, with some links to a tradition of hunting in the wild.


World Radio Switzerland (WRS), “Swiss hang on to citizen-soldier tradition”, 14.2.11., (14.2.11).

BBC News, London, “Swiss vote on tighter gun controls”, 13.2.11., (14.2.11).

Swiss Rifles (Home), “This page is devoted to the Magazine-fed Cartridge Firing Service Rifles of Switzerland”., (14.2.11).


swissrifle,, pohly, greenferret