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In Switzerland, gun ownership is high but mass shootings are low. Why?
In the face of seemingly unstoppable gun violence, Americans could stand to gain by looking to the Swiss.
- According to a recent study, the U.S. had the second highest number of gun-related deaths in 2016 after Brazil.
- Like the U.S., Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership. However, it has a considerably lower rate of deaths from gun violence.
- Though pro-gun advocates point to Switzerland as an example of how gun ownership doesn't have to correlate with mass shootings, Switzerland has very different regulations, practices, and policies related to guns than America.
About 251,000 people around the world died from gun violence in 2016, according one study. One-third of that number — more than 80,000 — came from the two countries with the most gun-related deaths: Brazil, in 1st place, and the United States, in 2nd place.
It's clear there's an issue here, in the Americas, but gun rights are a contentious topic in the United States. Pro-gun proponents argue that gun ownership is a necessary prerequisite to prevent tyranny, while anti-gun proponents argue that the cost of widespread gun ownership is too high a cost, in terms of potential violence, to pay for defending against a hypothetical threat. They point to European countries where the rate of gun ownership is significantly lower and, commensurately, the rate of gun deaths is significantly lower.
However, Switzerland appears to be an exception. The country's gun ownership rate is high. Although its rate of deaths from gun violence is still high for Europe, compared to the United States, Switzerland seems to have a much more effective practices when it comes to mass shooting, which last occurred in the land-locked nation in 2001.
What makes Switzerland different
Swiss soldiers learn to maintain a helicopter. Though historically neutral, Switzerland has mandatory military conscription for all able-bodied adult men. Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images
Though Swiss gun ownership remains fairly high for Europe — there are about 27.5 guns for every 100 people in Switzerland — compared to the United States, it's relatively low — for every 100 Americans, there are about 120.5 guns. Whereas the U.S. has nearly 12 deaths per 100,000, Switzerland has around 7. Considering the discrepancy between U.S. and Swiss gun ownership, that lesser number may be directly attributable to the number of guns in circulation.
Where Switzerland does shine, however, is in its low number of mass shootings. It hasn't had one since 2001, when a man raided the local government body in Zug, killing 14 people before himself. This said, there are a few factors that may play into their lower rates of mass shootings.
First, Switzerland has mandatory military service for able-bodied adult men, and women may volunteer for military service as well. Mandatory conscription is actually extremely popular in Switzerland, with 73 percent of Swiss citizens voting against a referendum to abolish the practice. After their military service, the Swiss are kept in reserve until age 30–34, if they were an officer — during which time they must keep their service weapon. As a result, many Swiss people own firearms and are highly trained in their use by default. In contrast, if a U.S. citizen lives in a particularly permissive state, they can buy a gun without any kind of training whatsoever.
Furthermore, Swiss civilians must demonstrate that they are physically, intellectually, and mentally capable prior to conscription in the army (source in French). While this is a requirement for service in the U.S. military, it is not required for gun ownership in many states in America. Since many Swiss citizens obtain their weapons through the military, this acts as a major avenue by which gun owners' capability can be verified.
Technically, American federal law does prohibit the severely mentally ill from purchasing firearms, but the implementation of this ban is poor. The federal background check system is severely understaffed and underfunded, and records on prospective gun buyers' mental conditions are typically incomplete or absent even if a court had previously found them to be unwell. Dylann Roof, who fired upon a church in Charleston, South Carolina, should have failed his background check, but was able to buy his .45 caliber Glock anyways. In contrast, some Swiss police may ask for a certificate from a psychiatrist prior to approving a gun license, which is required before buying most kinds of guns in Switzerland.
Pro-gun advocates in the U.S. often point to Switzerland to prove that high gun ownership doesn't necessarily mean high gun deaths. However, Switzerland has a wildly different regulatory environment and — perhaps most importantly — culture than the US. Mandatory military service would be unlikely to be popular in the U.S., not least because where Switzerland has been historically neutral, the U.S. has historically been involved in a number of wars in recent history. But there might be something to be said about changing our attitudes toward guns, at the very least so that there can be productive discussions on what gun policy should be.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
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