Sometimes, a small, in itself insignificant or seemingly anecdotal event can shed light on details of the “big picture” that would otherwise not be comprehended. Through such a case, the road to the title’s subject will take a detour.
Several years ago, your correspondent had a remarkable experience. After years in Switzerland, I discovered that even as a foreigner I could get a permit to purchase a pistol. As a very good marksman –my teacher had Olympic golds- I went after it. My resumed hobby, along with by motorcycling and photography, completed my happiness. That condition provoked a mention about owning arms and related matters in a lecture to “William Tell’s” grandchildren. A few days passed and our bell rang. One of “my kids” stood there holding a longish object.
The article, wrapped in greasy paper turned out to be a Swiss army carbine “31”, a collector’s item coveted for its precision. Only this carbine turned out to be especially unusual. Instead of being a weapon left for the private use of a veteran after the end of his service, the specimen in the original wrapping proved to be brand new. Even the shaft was left untreated in the interest of enhanced wartime production. As it was, the unique specimen was worth a fortune. Overwhelmed, I wanted to know the story behind the stunning object.
Well, the kid had a grandmother. When the war broke out the young woman witnessed how country after country was overrun because their armies could not match Hitler’s forces and their populations were unarmed. So she purchased seven carbines for those members of the family that were not in the military. In the end, the Germans did not come. In part because Berlin anticipated 200000 casualties due to the combination of the terrain and an armed population. So the rifles could remain in the attic. I reacted to the story by observing that, had there been many such families, history would have taken a different course.
The last of the regular Swiss referendums -her system that is a mixture of representative and direct democracy- has lent my little story relevance. As elsewhere, the local left is committed to abolish the armed forces –except in states in which they hold total power. Stubbornly negating the hint about how weakness provokes aggression, their official thesis is that armies make wars, therefore, “no army, no war”. Corrected, the reality is “no army, no resistance to conquest”. In the pursuit of the strategy of disarming societies, the Swiss had to vote on a law to force reservists to store their weapon in an armory. The proposal also demanded the registration of weapons and allowed arms only in case of “need”. Instantly, the matter became the subject of a major controversy involving issues well outside the subject matter. To understand this there are things the reader must know.
Switzerland is a neutral country whereas neutrality is used with the adjective “armed”. The intent is backed by a modern defense and with economic self-sufficiency. Switzerland’s existence dates back to the 13th century when her peasant infantry was able to defeat the nobles’ mounted armies. No Swiss representing the state has fought abroad since the 1515. (Forcibly inducted Swiss have served in Napoleon’s conglomerate armies. They have, stupidly, to live up to their reputation of reliability, heroically covered his last retreat from Russia. Notably, in Russian, the word for “Swiss” also means “guard”.)
Universal military service in a small standing army backed up by reserves relying on all males is a national tradition here. Serving, being armed and citizenship are, to many, related concepts. By tradition, reservists, obliged to serve periodically to maintain their skills, take their weapons home. That made me the delighted guardian of my son’s assault rifle –an excellent product. After the service, at around 45, the weapon can be kept if one participates in the “obligatory” yearly shooting practice. A combination of these factors means that every village has a gun and pistol club and a shooting range. Target shooting is a national past time.
The leftist-green-feminist attack on the right to bear arms claimed that the universal armament of citizens has major negative fall-outs. The weapon in the attic frightens terrorized women. The gun in the home is also an instrument of male terror against defenseless females and children. Furthermore, weapons are used in crimes. Lastly, suicides often involve arms. Furthermore, the militia-system is militarism and militarism is to be opposed at all times and at all places. Needless to say, the leading opinion makers and their establishment supported the disarming of the citizens.
The facts, which citizens were quick to present, proved to be less eloquent than the propaganda of the abolishers. Some of the points remind one of the cases made by the derisively labeled American “gun lobby”. Taking away the average person’s arms of mainly service-related origin will hardly disarm the criminals that use weapons. In a country where the 20+ per cent of alien population commits well over half the crimes and the majority of criminal cases involving weapons, disarming the majority will not affect the criminal minority. The clandestine arms of the criminals will not be surrendered. Abandoning the tradition of the right and duty to possess arms will facilitate the actions of armed criminals and thus upgrade the value of illegal weapons. Where the majority is unarmed, the utility of the armed criminal’s tools are correspondingly enhanced.
Naturally, as one would expect, there are rare cases in which army-issued weapons are used to commit a crime. And obviously, in some family quarrels a person in rage resorts to the easily available weapon. It would also be astonishing if some suicides as emphasized by propaganda, would not involve ordnance. At the same time, suicides are planned. If no weapon is available then other means are used. In reality, only a small portion of suicides involve a weapon and only 1.8 % of these are military issue.
This reduces the controversy over the local version of American “Second Amendment” rights to a fight over an ideological matter in which the facts do not support the charge. Essentially the claim that weapons are a symptom of militarism and family terror suggest an absurd analogy. It is known that couches are the venue of marital infidelity, which is socially not desirable. For those that wish to disarm law-abiding citizens, the solution to the infidelity problem must be to destroy couches. Once at it, kitchen knives should be put under government control. (Red-Green jurisdiction is recommended.) Bridges –from which many jump- should be closed and trains –locally a favorite means of suicide- should travel at bike-speed.
Now, having visited the frivolous, let us shift back to the serious. Any instrument, such as axes and screwdrivers, can serve as murder weapons. Cars are also weapons if misused. (Those, who know European drivers, have noticed that cars are not used as a means of transportation but as weapons.) This still leaves the question open, whether a disarmed society is achievable if the criminals are also counted. Furthermore, are weapons in the hands of those that wish to hold them, correllants of crime? On the other hand, the value of arms held as an aid in crime, grows in relation to normal society’s deprivation of the same. Well-groomed statistics might prove anything. Nevertheless, the fact remains that weapons are not the cause, only the instrument of criminality.
As someone who once ran a spring in record-breaking time while pursued by a Soviet T34 tank, the writer has had cause to develop a “prejudice” regarding weapons. Such a situation, even is equipped with a pistol with a half-empty clip, raised the then unmet desire for a “Panzerfaust”. Observe the ongoing struggle of the Libyans against their Leader who slaughters them as a measure of revolutionary education. The educational measure appears to those pupils to be a call to arms. In such a case, the problem is to find the weapons to which the call refers.
Oh, yes! In the end, the Swiss voted not to make the state’s monopoly over the means of power as total as society’s disarmament was to be. Accordingly, the current system, which expresses the people’s confidence in its constituent individuals, remains in force. In response, the well-connected representatives of the political class have announced that their share of the vote deserves to be “respected”. Once again, they reject the result of a plebiscite that dared to ignore their admonitions and claim of moral leadership. Accordingly, limitations through administrative means need to be explored. This situation makes one opine that the goal of the conservative movement in Western-style democracies should be a move in the direction of introducing direct democracy. The effort should raise the demand for the introduction of regular referendums and easily achieved initiatives. As a result, politics would take a shape that is far from the moment’s profile.