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Guns in America and Switzerland: Completely Different Cultures

Posted on the 05 February 2013 by Kzawadzki @kzawadzki

And that is the biggest cultural difference on the subject of gun ownership between Swiss and U.S. nationals: Americans are at war with one another; they are armed to fight whatever scheme their paranoid minds have created for them. Or, they imagine themselves heroes; patriots who will tackle offenders and restore law and order, thanks to the guns they own. In contrast, in Switzerland, people have guns because it is part of their civic duty. They have guns so they can protect one another from potential external invaders, such as the Germans and Russians in previous years.

Interestingly, in my 20 years in the U.S., I have never felt the need to protect myself from my government or my neighbors. I have found Americans to be respectful, law-abiding citizens with whom one can easily reason. My house has never been broken into, and my neighbors always volunteer to keep an eye on it when I travel for an extended period of time. In general, people are fundamentally good in America, and I am quite certain that our government will not turn on us.

Gun ownership in Switzerland might be high, but it has zero correlation with the stability of the country. In other words, it is not because many families have an unloaded and disassembled gun in their padlocked closet that crime is low. It is because Swiss people are trained to understand the danger of owning a gun; because they trust one another; because they empower their government to serve them to the best of its ability — and because they do not glorify weaponry.

via Valerie Berset-Price: This Is How They Hijacked My Country.

Valerie Berset-Price, a Swiss-American dual citizen, discusses in this piece for Huffington Post World a critical difference between gun ownership – and culture – in Switzerland and the United States.

Gun Wall

Gun Wall (Photo credit: Mike Saechang)

That’s just the concluding few paragraphs… The whole piece is very much worth a read. But it makes me think: it’s not simply a matter of whether a gun is an assault weapon or not (or whether there is such a thing as an “assault weapon” at all). It’s about the culture and the way people relate to government and country, to each other, and to their guns.

But I wonder, with distrust in government at what seems to be an all-time high, for instance, is it possible for us to change our culture? I mean, it seems that when tragedies like Sandy Hook or Aurora occur elsewhere, the people and politicians in other countries are more able to stand together, debate and consider existing and new laws to prevent a repetition. Here, we have folks like the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre that invoke the Second Amendment as nothing more than a means to shut down any debate. But perhaps stranger yet, at least to me, is that when we hear of gun violence, our first reaction is to rush the guns stores and stock up for the impending apocalypse.

There’s nothing wrong with owning a gun for self-defense or hunting, and as I’ve said before, I don’t seek to demonize all gun owners. The only ones I refuse to endorse are the extremists that not only vehemently refuse to even talk about any of it, but gleefully joke about shooting anyone who dares oppose them – in doing so, suggesting that they are exactly the people who should be kept away from guns. Why do we prefer to aim and fire, and not sit down and discuss?

This HuffPost blogger hits the nail on the head in her comparison between Switzerland and the U.S. There, gun ownership is part of civic duty. The guns are obtained and owned by trained soldiers (which just happens to be just about everyone in the small neutral country). Here, as she says, people are good, but some people are simply “wannabe” soldiers, and there seems to be more of a sense of a “me vs. the world” siege mentality.

Unless we change that culture of distrust and, I’ll say it, paranoia vis-a-vis our neighbors and our government, I wonder if any gun control measure will be effective. What use is an “assault weapons ban” if we keep fetishizing these arms? And what use is a universal background check if the law-abiding citizens getting vetted are nevertheless convinced the government is on the verge of tyranny every time a politician sneezes?

The NRA is not helping matters at all as they beat the drums of war against a government that, no, is not coming to take your guns. But there has to be more to it than simply Wayne LaPierre running his mouth about needing more guns everywhere. And there’s more to it than any and all gun control simply being ineffective in general.

We glorify weapons and adopt a siege mentality, so we need to have these things to assert power. It’s become ingrained in our culture. And that, sadly, does not always mean we respect the gun as a true weapon of deadly force. But it is – and that’s what makes it more than just a fetish toy or hobby. That’s why the Second Amendment is also so much more important than simply as a tool to stop debate.

Maybe if we recognize some of these things, we’ll get closer to, well, being better, regardless of bans on certain guns or magazines.


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