Switzerland explained For Members

Why do so many Swiss youngsters love guns?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why do so many Swiss youngsters love guns?
Guns are part of Switzerland's culture, for youmg and old alike. Photo by Antonio Groß on Unsplash

A 13-year-old was named champion in Sunday’s youth shooting festival in Zurich. In Switzerland, this is considered a wholesome activity for young people.


On Sunday, the hills around Zurich were alive with the sound of…gunfire, as the annual Knabenschiessen, a traditional target shooting competition, was held.

However, nobody panicked or ran for cover, because local residents knew that the jarring sounds came from a group of kids doing what comes naturally to many of them: sharpshooting.

Like each year, a champion who got the best score was selected — a teen named Miro Scheiwiller, age 13, won the coveted title for which 3,500 other youngsters were vying.

An image of teenagers carrying rifles slung across their shoulders fills people in many countries — like the United States — with dread.

And there is a good reason for that: in 2022, there were at least 183 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in the US, resulting in 66 deaths and 158 injuries. 

Many were perpetrated by students themselves.

No wonder the mere idea of kids with loaded guns fills many people in the US with horror. 

But this is not the case in Switzerland.


A sure shot

Not only are mass shootings extremely rare in Switzerland (the last one occurring in 2013), but there have never been any school shootings here at all.

The reason for it can be summed up in one word: education.

The Swiss learn to shoot from an early age from specially trained instructors, and they develop a deep sense of responsibility toward their firearms. 

Once they join a youth section of their local shooting federation, some of which accept children as young as five, they are taught essential safety skills such as how to take care of their weapon and how to secure it, even before they fire their first (supervised) shot.

One club, called Youth + Sports, which operates under the auspices of the Sports Ministry, says on its website that sharpshooting with the rifle is a popular activity for young people because it "combines concentration, precision, statics and body control".

The government is funding these clubs and instructors, monitoring their activities to ensure everyone follows the safety and other rules.

While the latest numbers are difficult to come by, data from 2018 shows that at that time, over 10,000 youngsters belonged to shooting clubs.


Culture and mentality

Another reason why kids and guns do mix in Switzerland (unlike in the United States) — apart from the above-mentioned emphasis on safety and responsibility — is the general attitude toward guns, which is deeply engrained in Swiss mentality.

From the earliest age, guns are viewed in two sensible ways: one, as part of everyone's patriotic and civic duty to protect Switzerland from enemies.

This is especially true for boys, who will have to serve in the military once they turn 18, and sharpshooting will be a required skill (women can volunteer but are not obliged to serve).

READ ALSO: Will Switzerland introduce obligatory military service for women?
Secondly, from a non-military point of view, guns — and good shooting skills — are part of the sports / recreation culture: numerous people, kids and adults alike, practice target shooting as a hobby.

For them, it is the same as any other sport which requires preparation and discipline to succeed.


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