“One of the reasons the crime rate in Switzerland is low despite the prevalence of weapons — and also why the Swiss mentality can’t be transposed to the current American reality — is the culture of responsibility and safety that is anchored in society and passed from generation to generation. Kids as young as 12 belong to gun groups in their local communities, where they learn sharpshooting. The Swiss Shooting Sports Association runs about 3,000 clubs and has 150,000 members, including a youth section. Many members keep their guns and ammunition at home, while others choose to leave them at the club. And yet, despite such easy access to pistols and rifles, “no members have ever used their guns for criminal purposes,” says Max Flueckiger, the association’s spokesperson.
“Social conditions are fundamental in deterring crime,” says Peter Squires, professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Brighton in Great Britain, who has studied gun violence in different countries and concluded that a “culture of support” rather than focus on individualism, can deter mass killings.
“If people have a responsible, disciplined and organized introduction into an activity like shooting, there will be less risk of gun violence,” he tells TIME.”
Even as the gun-control debate rises again in the U.S. in the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the gun-loving Swiss are not about to lay down their arms. Guns are ubiquitous in this neutral nation, with sharpshooting considered a fun and wholesome recreational activity for people of all ages.
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