Fact Check

Gun Ownership in Switzerland

Switzerland issues firearms to adult men and provides training in their use?

Published Dec 18, 2012

Claim:   Switzerland issues firearms to adult men and provides training in their use.


Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, July 2012]

Someone on FB has shared a post that claims Switzerland provides each of its citizens a sig550 assault rifle and provides training in use of this weapon. Surely this isn't true!?

Switzerland issues every adult a gun and trains them how to use it: Switzerland has lowest gun-related crime rate in the civilized world.


Origins:   As noted on Wikipedia, Swiss men between the ages of 20 and 30 are typically expected to undergo militia training, a program which includes the issuance of and instruction in the use of firearms.

The Swiss army has long been a militia trained and structured to rapidly respond against foreign aggression. Swiss males grow up expecting to undergo basic military training, usually at age 20, after which Swiss men remain part of the "militia" in reserve capacity until age 30 (or age 34 for officers). Each such individual is required to keep his army-issued personal weapon (the 5.56x45mm Sig 550 rifle for enlisted personnel and/or the 9mm SIG-Sauer P220 semi-automatic pistol for officers, medical and postal personnel) at home.

When their period of service has ended, militiamen have the choice of keeping their personal weapon and other selected items of their equipment. In cases of retention, the rifle is sent to the weapons factory where the fully automatic function is removed; the rifle is then returned to the discharged owner as a semi-automatic or self-loading rifle.

To carry firearms in public or outdoors (and for an individual who is a member of the militia carrying a firearm other than his Army-issue personal weapons off-duty), a person must have a permit, which in most cases is issued only to private citizens working in occupations such as security.

Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world, with 45.7 guns per 100 residents (ranking below only the United States, Serbia, and Yemen in this measurement).

A list of countries by firearm-related death rate shows Switzerland as having 6.4 firearm deaths per 100,000 population per year, a figure considerably lower than in the United States (10.27) but higher than a number of other countries. As for gun-related crime in general, a 2001 BBC article reported that in Switzerland "the gun crime rate is so low that statistics are not even kept."

Last updated:   22 July 2012

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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