Monday, March 2, 2009

Switzerland: "Switzerland doesn't have an army, it is an army"

And so the Swiss are headed off for another vote. This is a post which is relevant for me due to past experiences, and the fact that in 15 years we could have a rifle in our home to from my 4 year old son...

Edit: Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia... I started to take one which I thought would be pretty nice of a soldier in Zurich, however the look I got told me it was not a great idea, so these are Wikiphotos... I needed to move on from this post and it was delaying me...

Back to the problem...

Some background… From the age of 18, all able-bodied Swiss men are called up to do their military service. Recruits receive a rifle which they have to store at home after they've completed their basic training. It should be noted that they are not allowed to store ammunition.

Due to the democratic process in Switzerland, now Anti-gun supporters have collected enough signatures to force a nationwide vote on banning the weapons from being stored in the home.
Opponents say the practice is too dangerous, pointing to deaths and domestic violence cases involving army weapons.

If the Social Democratic Centre Left Party get their way then army weapons would remain in barracks, a national gun register, and a ban on private individuals buying or owning particularly dangerous guns such as automatic weapons and pump-action shotguns and tighter controls on firearm carriers. They say there are around 2.3 million weapons are currently in circulation Switzerland, of which a tenth belong to soldiers.

Opponents of the vote state that this is a long standing tradition and it allows for the militia army to be ready for a call to arms in times of crisis. It would weaken the country security and this vote raises questions on the ability of the military.

Switzerland can apparently mobilize the army within 12-48 hours. Independence is serious business and the intention is to make the prospect of invading Switzerland unthinkable. Swiss countryside is well covered with carefully mined bridges, hidden artillery, bomb shelters, and carefully prepared kill zones. Patrols scour the countryside, familiarizing them with every inch of the land; they hope they never have to defend.

The Social Democrats say that some suicides and attacks have been “caused” by military issue guns… They highlight some cases where military issue weapons have been used in attacks and suicides and therefore the prospect of this is worthy of a vote.

I am undecided (mainly due to the fact that the ammunition is not easily available). Some of the problems I have with this decision are the following…

* Surely if someone is going to go to all the trouble of getting hold of the ammunition (provided it is hard to come by), to kill someone, or themselves, then in all likelihood they would go to the trouble of getting hold of a gun for the same purpose. I am not sure the availability of the gun is a deterrent, since it cannot work without ammunition obviously.

* This is an essence of Switzerland’s maintenance of Sovereignty. Regardless of circumstances in the world today, nothing can be discounted going forward. Mobilization in 48 hours may not be necessary now, but who knows. But then, mobilization with an empty rifle is as useful as mobilization without one I would imagine.

* It is a low blow of the military to use the guilt complex on voters, stating that a vote to keep guns out of the home is a lack of confidence. Especially considering that recently there were arguments about uniforms and the “image” of uniformed soldiers using cannabis and drugs whilst in uniform.

* With crime rates going up in Switzerland (and the world), isn’t it a matter of time before these weapons become more prevalent in carrying out crime. However you look at it, this is an exposure.

* I don’t like reference to statistics, in any form since they can cloud judgement. Reference to the US, Germany or Africa doesn’t apply to Switzerland. Switzerland’s crime rate is low and still well below most countries in the rest of the world. No one can deny this and this has been with “guns in the home”.

* Switzerland is very liberal in my view on drug usage and alcohol. Why do some believe that this issue is more important? The same users of drugs and alcohol are the same soldiers the army is asking voters to have faith in, not so?

On the last point I now feel a little un-comfortable knowing that in my building at any one time, there are three of these in cupboards, with three highly skilled operators, with at least one of which may be drunk or taking drugs, who may be unhappy with me due to a small incident in the washing room. But then I have had a loaded rifle pointed at me, so I am speaking from experience.

Swiss democracy is extremely effective. However sometimes it loses sight of the bigger picture and conflicting messages come through from voters. Surely a decision like this doesn’t really affect anyone in any way, and it really is a matter of principle? Granted the vote does extend to other weapons and not just those which are in the military, but as a Swiss male, when I would be called to report, would I feel better about myself, reporting with an empty weapon rather than with none at all?