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Are guns to blame for murder-suicides in Switzerland?

By Nancy Salvato
web posted May 22, 2006

In an article posted at the BBC News website, entitled, "Domestic killings shock Swiss", the author references Martin Boess, head of Switzerland's crime prevention unit, as blaming, "the Swiss army's policy of requiring Swiss men, who all have to do military service, to keep their guns and ammunition at home in case of an emergency call-up," for the apparent increase in, ‘"family dramas", in which a man kills his wife, often his own children, and himself." In his opinion, and a growing number of Swiss citizens, the ease with which a weapon can be impulsively accessed is what supports the necessity for stricter gun control. Their argument; if weapons were stored outside the home, there probably wouldn’t have been 14 cases of family slaughter in the last 11 months. Another theory, proposed by Brigitte Schnegg; professor of gender politics at Berne University, suggests that there is a catalyst for predisposing a man to commit this type of crime, "Family problems are seen as a defeat for the man, it all has to do with male honour." While the two explanations for a rise in homicide/suicide certainly don’t contradict each other, there is no definitive correlation between owning a gun and being willing to use it for such a crime.

In, "More Gun Control, Please!", Larry Elder asks the following, of those blaming guns in the home for acts of violence, "Why does Switzerland, a country that requires a military-style rifle, plus ammunition, in every home, enjoy a very low homicide rate?"

As a matter of fact, according to Thomas Sowell in, "Gun Control Myths: Gun Restrictions and Murder Rates" , statistics actually negate any positive correlation between owning a firearm and higher murder rates; though the figures are often manipulated in order to support the call for gun control. Indeed, Israel, New Zealand, and Finland are known to have high rates of gun ownership and low rates of murder. Furthermore, in the U.S., white people own more guns than blacks, yet have lower murder rates. There are more people who possess weapons in rural areas, yet urban areas have higher rates of murder. Even more applicable to this particular situation,

People killed at home by family members are highly atypical. The great majority of these victims have had to call the police to their homes before, because of domestic violence, and just over half have had the cops out several times. These are not just ordinary people who happened to lose their temper when a gun was at hand.

In another article, "Gun Control Myths: The Case of England", Sowell has this to say.

Moreover, in recent years the murder rate in England has been going up under still more severe gun control laws, while the murder rate in the United States has been going down as more and more states have allowed private citizens to carry concealed weapons.

Finally, as for reducing the impulsivity associated with homicide/suicide, the following statistic, which can be found in the above Larry Elder piece, is startling.

Following the 1994 Brady Act's imposition of a 5-day waiting period for the 32 states previously not subject to such waiting periods, those states should have seen a reduction in crime, compared to the other 18 "control" states. But according to The Journal of the American Medical Association, "Our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates. . . . We find no differences in homicide or firearm homicide rates to adult victims in the 32 states directly subject to the Brady Act provisions compared with the remaining control states." The study did find a decrease in gun suicides for men over 55. But the overall suicide rate remained unchanged. Men over 55 simply resorted to other means to kill themselves.

I propose that there is a third theory which might explain the reason for senseless homicide/suicide, senseless because a person of sane mind would understand that with courage and conviction, seemingly insurmountable problems can be overcome; just not as quickly as many in this culture of fast food and sitcom attention spans would want. Paul Craig Roberts, in "The Anti-Culture of the New Left Spawns Violence" presents a very succinct answer to the question that should be asked in order to come up with the correct answer to this problem.

Why did shootings unrelated to criminal gain become both thinkable and doable? Deranged, frustrated, disappointed and bitter people have been around forever, but motiveless killings are a new phenomenon in our culture.

In order for a person to take out his frustrations and disappointments on innocents, he must escape a culture that inculcates traditional ideas of right and wrong, and thus be "liberated" from a sense of personal responsibility and morality.

Moral relativism and the entangling web of the mundane trappings of our entitlement society have allowed these heinous acts of senseless violence to creep into our culture only to be explained away by a society that believes everyone is a victim and therefore not responsible for acts committed. No matter how it is rationalized, people kill people, guns don’t kill people.

Nancy Salvato is the President of The Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She is also a Staff Writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, where she contributes on matters of education policy. Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2006





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