Debunking Viral Emails and Facebook Posts 1: Swiss Gun Ownership
Every single day I either get a viral email or see several Facebook posts that are misleading or false. I TRY to hit delete or ignore these posts, because I get tired of confronting friends and family members who won’t change their minds even when presented with unmitigated facts to disprove their thoughtless, unconfirmed claims. This is very difficult, because I have a terrible compulsion to correct people. This blog has served to protect my fragile relationships with friends and family who are one ignorant comment away from being verbally lashed. I believe that as therapy, I shall periodically choose one of these emails or Facebook posts to address. Here’s the first one I saw today:
Not quite accurate: Switzerland issues a gun to every able-bodied male, who must serve in their military reserves (sometimes till aged 50) or be taxed 3% of gross income if unfit for service. Females may volunteer to serve. Distribution of ammunition for said weapons is tightly regulated and may only be used in cases of war/civil defense (being a neutral country, there is no war). These conscripts are trained and required to keep their personal weapon well-maintained and secure. Gun ownership for private citizens not serving in the militia is regulated with common-sense laws that would make the gun lobby of the US shudder with revulsion.
Comparing gun ownership and crime statistics is pointless if one does not also assess the differences between the two countries. Here in the United States, we are not required to serve in the military or do any type of civil service. Nearly everyone can own a weapon and carry it around. Most states have no requirement that a gun owner even know how to operate their weapon or be educated in gun safety. A quick Google search offers a generous sample of people who injure themselves or others accidentally with their own weapon.
Although Switzerland does have a lower gun-related crime rate compared to the US, it is not the lowest in the world, even among nations where gun ownership is legal. The reason that gun advocates cite this statistic is to imply that since everyone owns a gun, criminals are afraid to use them. This is patently ridiculous, especially given the knowledge that concealed carry permits are highly regulated in Switzerland, usually given only to military and security officers. Permit applicants must state a reason for the need of the weapon and are required to pass an exam demonstrating fitness to own and carry the weapon. The permit expires after five years and applies only to the type of firearm specified in the permit. All gun owners must pass a criminal background check and have no known mental health issues or security concerns. Purchases of ammunition are recorded by name at point of sale in a bound book. Ammo for long rifles used for hunting are not regulated or recorded. Semi-automatic weapons are very tightly regulated.
The gun-related death rate is eight times higher in the United states than that of our economic counterparts in the world, with the highest youth death rate and the highest gun-suicide rate of all industrialized nations. We are also tops for gun ownership in the entire world, of course, without peer. The only nations that outpace our gun violence rates are war-torn or severely economically depressed nations with horrifying statistics on civil rights and poverty.
Some additional comparisons that you may find interesting: Switzerland has universal (and mandatory) healthcare coverage, a very low poverty rate, 3% unemployment rate, and virtually no homelessness-all factors that contribute to the crime rate in the USA. Switzerland also has one of the lowest marginal tax rates in the world, with a stable economy and one of highest per capita income rates in the world. The banking sector thrives because of the nation’s neutrality and sovereignty, as Mitt Romney knows well. They are also skinnier than we are, damn it! “What America can learn from Switzerland” is a LOT!
If you come across an questionable email or post and would like help debunking or proving a claim, please pass it along to me. I will do my best to research it. I know it probably won’t change a lot of minds, but arming one’s self with facts is key to being a well-informed voter and citizen. Oh, and I haven’t paid much attention to my official Facebook BrabbleRabble page yet, but I would really appreciate your “likes” and/or shares. Apparently, something happens when I get 30 of them, and I’m curious. I need 21 more followers to unlock these secrets;)