Saturday, February 12, 2011

Swiss gun culture hangs in the balance

Switzerland goes to the polls this weekend to decide on a proposal to end the decades-old practice of military reservists - who make up a huge proportion of the adult male population - keeping their guns at home. By all accounts the result is likely to be very tight, and even if there is a narrow majority for the Yes side, it may fall foul of the "double-lock" rule that also requires support from a majority of the cantons (the less populous cantons tend to be more conservative). Regardless of how the vote pans out, though, it occurs to me that the American gun enthusiasts I used to 'debate' with would be nothing short of horrified to see such an important matter decided by something as frivolous as a democratic vote. Much better to let a tiny number of 18th Century bods who happened to have a gun fetish settle the matter for all time.

Reading the BBC article on the referendum, it's striking that although the arguments being advanced by the Swiss gun lobby are superficially similar to their American counterparts, there are significant differences. For instance...

"Dora Andres, president of the Swiss Federal Shooting Association, dismisses claims made by some women's groups that Swiss women would feel safer if guns were no longer stored at home.

"If a woman doesn't feel safe at home, if she feels afraid, that's a problem of her relationship, not a problem with weapons," she said."

Now, if that had been an American gun rights advocate, she wouldn't be telling women they had problems with their relationships. She'd instead be exhorting them to get a gun of their own pronto, and use it to "defend themselves" against their husbands and boyfriends. Guns "even the score", apparently.

Back on Planet Earth, it may well be in many cases that the relationship is indeed the problem. It doesn't change the fact that it's a problem that's generally a hell of a lot less severe when there isn't a gun involved. Most problems are.

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