Swiss Miss: Figuring Out Switzerland’s Real Gun Stats


By Dean Weingarten

Whenever international comparisons of homicide rates are studied, you have to be sure  to consider the Swiss. Not only does Switzerland have very low homicide rates, it has one of the highest levels of gun ownership in the world. A state of affairs that many consider related. As I attempted to find out what the gun homicide rate for Switzerland was, I ran into a curious phenomena. The most commonly quoted figures for gun homicides were for both gun homicides and attempted gun homicides. In one source . . .

This led to the startling conclusion that gun homicides for a given year were greater than the total number homicides. At the site, total homicides in Switzerland for 2009 is listed as 51. And the total gun homicides is 55.

It didn’t take too much research to figure out that what most writers are seeing is the composite figure for both attempted and fatal gun homicides. As the number of attempted gun homicides outnumbers the fatal gun homicides, this has a significant impact on the number of total gun homicides people use and on the rate of firearm homicides claimed in Switzerland.

In the runup to the referendum on gun control the Swiss held early in 2011, figures were published giving the actual number of gun homicides for the previous four years for which statistics were available, 2007-09. The number of attempted homicides with firearms was given for 2009, too.

Here are the numbers:

1998 — 53 homicides with firearms for a rate of .75/100,000
2007 — 27 homicides with firearms for a rate of .35/100,000
2008 — 20 homicides with firearms for a rate of .26/100,000
2009 — 24 homicides with firearms for a rate of .31/100,000
2009 — the number of attempted homicides with firearms was 31.

These are exceptionally low rates and they’re lower than those of Australia and Canada, both of which have much more restrictive gun control schemes. They are slightly higher than France and Sweden, though the overall homicide rate (Which, after all, is the more
important number) is slightly higher in those countries, again, with much more restrictive gun control.

Here is a link to the source for the actual number of homicides with firearms. Be sure to subtract the suicides with firearms from the total number of homicides and suicides with firearms to find the actual number of criminal fatal firearm homicides. Once again, a armed society is a more polite and peaceful society.

A version of this article originally appeared at Dean’s blog, Gun Watch.


  1. avatar Rich Keagy says:

    With that picture, I yearn for the land of my ancestors.

  2. Isn’t it more relevant when trying to frame an argument for/against gun control when comparing to other countries to look at overall violent crime rate, not just gun crimes? The idea is that gun ownership has a deterrent effect on all violent crime. This is the main thing that annoys me with anti-2A people using UK as an example to point out that they have fewer gun deaths…ya but their violent crime is higher. Knife related crimes; muggings and rapings included, jumped way up after they started trying to ban guns. Now they try to ban and regulate knives (certain lengths).

    1. Yes, it is the overall crime rate that is important. If the anti-freedom types want to include suicides, then it should include all suicides.

      Homicide rates are only marginally changed by the presence or absence of firearms. The culture determines whether the firearms are generally used for good or evil. It is the background of morality laid down by religion that seems most important in determining homicide rates, although in Japan, it seems to be a weird sort of conformist/statist religion indoctrinated in the schools at an early age.

      Of course, we always have the problems of honesty in determing what are considered homicides for statistics, and what are not. In Japan “family suicides” are not considered homicides. In muslim countries, “honor killing” are often not considered, and a personal friend was shocked at the level of personal violence that he saw in Turkey, so I do not trust the “official” figures for those countries.

      In Africa, subsaharan countries have shockingly high homicide rates.

  3. avatar RightYouAreKen says:

    I’m not sure Switzerland’s gun ownership figures can be compared directly since they actually don’t allow most folks to carry guns for self defense, or even hold ammunition at home.

    1. It varies quite a bit by canton. My understanding is that ammunition is easily available. There has been a significant attempt to impose many more laws over the last decade, but they have been defeated.

  4. avatar JPD says:

    Good article. Also of note is that violent crimes, home robbery, those numbers are low as well.

    What helps is mandatory military service for men. Plus they remain in reserves till 30, officers I believe till 34.

    Government has their guns put on semi-automatic when reserve commitment is complete.

    Hunting recreational, and competitive shooting is popular with men and women.

    They do have quite a few gun laws. On transportation, storage, selling, buying. Ammo is closely monitored.

    Of course, comparing the Swiss to the US is apples and oranges.

    Switzerland does not border a third world country. They have a drug problem, but nothing as violent and large as U.S.

    Average income and education level is much higher than the U.S. average.

    Homogeneous population. Where we are a mix of every religious and ethnic group on the planet.

    Strict enforcement of the laws. The U.S. is a mess in that respect.

    Small country, small population, all mountains. Who is going to invade them? Mountain goats?

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      “Homogeneous population.”

      Not so much, at least 4 main languages are spoken there and culturally they borrow from their neighbors.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Switzerland is one of the more culturally diverse countries in Europe. And they do not all speak the same language, either.

        1. avatar sanchanim says:

          Yeah and the skiing rocks, and the babes!!! woot woot!

        2. avatar Adam says:

          Not really ‘diverse’–The French, German, Italian, and Romansch populations are culturally similar (Western European, Christian). ‘Diversity’ generally leads to a breakdown in social cohesion, and often more crime, especially when it comes in the form of poorly screened immigration from crime-ridden countries. This is a politically incorrect fact. Note that Canada’s pre-Trudeau gun laws were so lax that Canadians could buy MACHINE GUNS without permits, and there was no background check system. Yet the sorts of shootings that are now common in cities like Toronto were unheard of. Most of the gun violence is the result of post-Trudeau immigration trends:

        3. avatar pat says:

          America does not have a gun problem, it has a gang problem (mainly black and hispanic guetto thugs). Crips Bloods Crips Bloods Crips Bloods

    2. avatar Adam says:

      RPG-toting third world bank robbers from French banlieues:

    3. avatar JPD says:

      Adam got what I was talking about. The Swiss citizens, born and bred make up 80% of the population. Registered resident aliens make up the other 20%. With most of these from Eastern European countries. Also, these registered resident aliens are not allowed Swiss citizenship.

      So yeah, compared to the U.S., Homogeneous culture is in place.

      1. avatar Lolinski says:

        Yes that is true they even have discriminatory gun laws. Bosnians cant own guns there tigether with other ethnicities, thats the reason I dont live there and the reason I dislike them.

  5. avatar Moose says:

    “Once again, a armed society is a more police and peaceful society.”
    I believe you meant polite. Good article.

  6. avatar RKBA says:

    Last Sentence:

    “Once again, a armed society is a more police and peaceful society.”

    Should be?

    “Once again, an armed society is a more polite and peaceful society.”

  7. avatar Ken says:

    I am always leery of making crime/gun/suicide/whatever comparisons between countries, especially the United States. In terms of history, demographics, political systems, size, and just about everything else, the US is unique. On the gun debate, there was a book written a number of years ago by David Kopel called The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy. It delves deeply into the societal differences of Japan, Canada, and the US and how restrictive gun control laws of other countries will not and cannot be effectively transferred into american society. Some of his conclusions about what would or should work here are questionable but the overall history lesson is very enlightening.

  8. avatar Pwrserge says:

    Fairly attractive women with SIG 550s for the win. Who knew that Swiss-miss was packing serious ordinance.

  9. avatar sdog says:

    beautiful country, i’ve been to Europe but not there, but its on the list. (it would be a weird feeling to ride a bike with a black rifle on my back, imo).

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      I used to ride my bicycle with a .22 rifle on my back.

  10. avatar great unknown says:

    According to this article

    NH had 0.43 gun homicides/100K in 2004

    Higher rates you see listed for “firearm deaths” include suicide and “accidental discharge”.

    Of course, a piece of good chocolate [in the company of one of those armed Swiss misses] reduces the tendency to suicide drastically.

  11. avatar Curzen says:

    all the US needs to do now to get similar numbers is create a swiss style welfare state and double the per capita GDP to get to their level

    1. Many states in the United States already have similar numbers without the welfare state. See New Hampshire.

      To get similar numbers, we need only change the subcultures in the United States that have little regard for human life. This is not an easy task. It would have to be done over decades by assimilating them into the mainstream culture. Every newborn child is a wild animal that has to be taught moral values. This has been made very difficult by the balkanization of American culture for political purposes.

      1. avatar great unknown says:

        Figure out how to reintroduce good father-figures into the inner-city culture, and you deserve a Nobel Peace Prize [although these days, that’s pretty bad company to be in].

      2. avatar Curzen says:

        looking at NH demographics, education, economy and social services they go above and beyond the US average and are curiously close to Switzerland actually…

        1. avatar great unknown says:

          And we have great skiing and hunting. But no exceptional local chocolate [does maple syrup count?]. And if there are a large number of young women of Swiss or Swedish caliber, I’ve missed them. Or need new bifocals.

  12. avatar Lance says:

    John Lott is right: More guns= less crime.

  13. avatar MOG says:

    I can think of at least a couple of reasons not to commit suicide in Sweden, but, then, I am a dirty old man.

    1. Sweden has a reported suicide rate about 10 percent higher than that for the United States. Sweden 11.1/100,000 U.S. 10.1/100,000 according to this source:

      1. avatar BLX says:

        I know 5 in Sweden and none of them by gun. Rope seems to be the prevalent method.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      I was a dirty young man and I see no reason to change just because of age.

  14. avatar percynjpn says:

    By way of contrast, how about a post about gun stats in Finland, which has a much higher than average rate of gun ownership than other Western European states, similar to Switzerland? Also, whether or not Santa’s elves are evenly represented in those statistics – just curious.

    1. From Wikipedia, a rather questionable source, the homicide rate per 100,000 is 2.8 for Finland, with gun homicides 14 percent of that or .39/100,000.

      It is not exactly clear what years these rates are for.

      It is a begining point, though. It shows Finnish homicide rates about four times higher than Switzerland, with “gun homicide” rates about the same as the Swiss.

  15. avatar Greg in Allston says:

    No matter how you cut it, Switzerland totally rocks! This country is the embodiment of self reliance and rationality, neat as a pin in almost every regard. And Swiss women, aye yigh yigh!

    1. avatar Lolinski says:

      The fact that coming from a specific country denies you gun ownership is not rational at all.

  16. avatar Adam says:

    Again, one has to look closely at WHO is responsible for the bulk of criminality:

    Again, Canada once had incredibly liberal gun laws. But the same time Pierre Trudeau introduced tough gun control, he threw open the doors to third world immigration. At some point, we have to stop being politically correct, and admit that this is a problem. The wave of gun violence in Toronto that prompted calls for a handgun ban was entirely the work

    of Jamaican gangsters. The annual Caribbean festival has become a running joke, in terms of shootings and stabbings. And East African, Vietnamese, and South Asian gangs are highly active and violent out West:


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