Q&A with a Swiss gun expert: Peter Nussbaumer

We sat down with Swiss gun expert and administrator at the gun club Pistolenschützen Ägerital – Morgarten, Peter Nussbaumer. Keep reading and find out what he has to say about the relationship between Swiss people and guns. Read our more in-depth article on the topic.


Children as young as five in Switzerland may begin gun safety training.


Please tell me about growing up in Switzerland and about your introduction to firearms.


The first time I held a gun was when I took the so-called ‘Jungschützen’ course. That’s a workshop for young boys not yet enlisted in the military. It’s a chance for them to gain some experience with firearms before joining the military, where they’ll not only get to use one, but also get to take it home. It was after joining the military that I started going to the Morgarten gun club and over time it became my hobby. It’s been 30 years now since I’ve been in charge there. So, I basically got that interest through the military. 


What do you think is unique about Switzerland’s gun culture?


The unique thing is, that as long as you have a clean criminal record, you’re allowed to keep your gun at home. However, you have to store it correctly. The pieces of the gun must be kept separately, so that it can’t just be picked up and used.


What do you think is the general attitude toward guns among Swiss people? 


It used to be absolutely normal for a young boy to go to the gun club and do some shooting. That’s no longer the case. This has an effect on the number of gun club members. The numbers have dropped massively. This is also due to the fact that there are fewer and fewer people in the military. Previously, men had to stay in the military until the age of 50, nowadays they can leave at 32. This also means a decrease of the army inventory and with it a decrease of the Swiss people’s gun acceptance.


The Swiss Weapons Law reads citizens have the “right to acquire, possess and carry arms,” but concealed carry permits are very rarely issued.


Is gun-ownership a controversial topic? 


I wouldn’t say so. The level of acceptance absolutely varies. I mean, it depends on who you’re talking to. Conservatives think it’s a good thing that we get to keep our guns at home. But left-winged people obviously don’t think that way. However, that goes for everything in Switzerland, not just guns. Some are for and some are against it.


Are most Swiss introduced to firearms through the military? 


Yes. The only other way is probably if one of the parents is a member of a gun club.


Why do you think gun clubs remain popular in Switzerland to this date?


Previously, a gun club was directly connected to the military. Nowadays, it’s more about the club-lifestyle. Just like when you join a soccer club for example. The sport itself is one thing but what you do after practice is another thing. Like, going out for a drink, talking and just having a good time with likeminded people. This is what it’s about for most of us, I think.


Compulsory military training is for all male Swiss citizens, although not all are deemed suitable for training. Women serve voluntarily. Weapons can be kept at home or in a government weaponry.


What kind of Swiss are interested in gun clubs – men? Women? What ages? 


Our gun club Morgarten has about 100 members. 22% are women. 21% are foreigners. The average age is very high, over 60 years old. We don’t really have young people join us anymore.


Are gun clubs more popular in certain cantons?


It depends on the club. If it’s proactive and regularly organizes events to recruit new people, it’s obviously going to be more popular. But there is a big difference between gun clubs in the city and those in the countryside. People in the city are a lot less accepting of shooting as a sport. In the countryside shooting is more of a tradition. People there grew up with it and are used to it.


Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership and yet, very low violent crime. Why do you think that is?


If you try to get a gun here in Switzerland, you’ll have to declare the reason. Saying you’ll use it for self-protection won’t get you far. Problems aren’t solved like this here in Switzerland, we have different legal remedies you can use to protect yourself.


Switzerland has the third highest rate of firearms per capita (behind the United States and war-stricken Yemen), according to the NGO Small Arms Survey.


What would you say to Swiss people who are interested in banning guns across the country?


As long as we can fight this ban, we will. But if one day we can’t, I guess we’ll give back our guns. But I hope the ban won’t happen. There are around 100,000 people in Switzerland who enjoy this hobby. It would be like taking away bicycles from cyclists. Sadly, a lot of people see guns as evil, but if the person holding it behaves in a normal manner, the gun isn’t a problem. 


Are you interested in learning more about the history as well as the legal situation of gun-ownership in Switzerland? Read our more in-depth article on the topic.


This article may be shared and re-published on other websites without our permission, so long as it links back to the original UltraSwiss page.


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