Actually, it's kind of hard to get a gun in Israel or Switzerland
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein interviews SUNY Downstate Professor Janet Rosenbaum - who unlike the rest of us has actually researched it
- who tells him that it's actually not so easy to get a gun in Israel or Switzerland
(as I wrote in an earlier post
regarding Israel). This is from the second link.
Israel and Switzerland are often mentioned as countries that prove that
high rates of gun ownership don’t necessarily lead to high rates of gun
crime. In fact, I wrote that on Friday. But you say your research shows
that’s not true.
Janet Rosenbaum: First of all, because they don’t have high levels of
gun ownership. The gun ownership in Israel and Switzerland has
For instance, in Israel, they’re very limited in who is able to own a
gun. There are only a few tens of thousands of legal guns in Israel,
and the only people allowed to own them legally live in the settlements,
do business in the settlements, or are in professions at risk of
Both countries require you to have a reason to have a gun. There
isn’t this idea that you have a right to a gun. You need a reason. And
then you need to go back to the permitting authority every six months or
so to assure them the reason is still valid.
The second thing is that there’s this widespread misunderstanding
that Israel and Switzerland promote gun ownership. They don’t. Ten years
ago, when Israel had the outbreak of violence, there was an expansion
of gun ownership, but only to people above a certain rank in the
military. There was no sense that having ordinary citizens [carry guns]
would make anything safer.
Switzerland has also been moving away from having widespread guns.
The laws are done canton by canton, which is like a province. Everyone
in Switzerland serves in the army, and the cantons used to let you have
the guns at home. They’ve been moving to keeping the guns in depots.
That means they’re not in the household, which makes sense because the
literature shows us that if the gun is in the household, the risk goes
up for everyone in the household.
As I understand it, there’s a stronger link between guns and suicide
than between guns and homicide. And one of the really interesting parts
of your paper is your recounting of the Israeli military’s effort to cut
suicides among soldiers by restricting access to guns.
JR: Yes, it’s very striking. In Israel, it used to be that all
soldiers would take the guns home with them. Now they have to leave them
on base. Over the years they’ve done this — it began, I think, in 2006 —
there’s been a 60 percent decrease in suicide on weekends among IDS
soldiers. And it did not correspond to an increase in weekday suicide.
People think suicide is an impulse that exists and builds. This shows
that doesn’t happen. The impulse to suicide is transitory. Someone with
access to a gun at that moment may commit suicide, but if not, they may
I was surprised by one statistic in your article: You said that Israel
rejects 40 percent of its applications for a gun, the highest rate of
rejection of any country in the world. And even when you get approved,
you say that “all guns must have an Interior Ministry permit and
identifying mark for tracing.” That seems like it might make people
think twice before they shoot from a gun they know the government can
JR: That’s a requirement. I don’t know a great deal about the ballistics issue there. But that is in the regulations.
Israel and Switzerland are both small, highly cohesive countries. So
some say that the difference in gun crime shows that there’s something
about American culture that’s leading to these atrocities. Do you buy
JR: Israel is not a peaceful society. If there were a lot of guns, it
may be even more violent. Israeli schools are well known for having a
lot of the kicking and punching type of violence. I don’t know that
Switzerland has that reputation. But Israel does, and it seems that the
lack of guns promotes the lack of firearm violence rather than there
being some nascent tendency toward peacefulness and cohesion. That
cohesion may or may not exist, but not having guns prevents guns from
being used in violence. People do still commit homicide and suicide but
they do it with less lethal means. The most common form of suicide in
Israel is strangulation, which is striking, because it’s not that common
Labels: gun control, Israel, Switzerland