Late Wednesday night, a gunman opened fire in a small Swiss village, killing three women and injuring two men before being shot and killed by police. As Deutsche Welle reports:
The 33-year-old former psychiatric patient fired from his apartment and later came out into the street, firing more than 20 shots, officials said….He used at least two firearms, including an old Swiss army carbine and a rifle capable of firing lead shot. The gunman’s weapons were on record as having been seized and destroyed in 2005, and he was not currently listed as having any guns….The women who died were aged 32, 54 and 79; they were all shot in the head and chest. The youngest was married to one of the injured men, and they had young children. The men hurt in the attack were aged 33 and 63.
Daillon is a picturesque mountain town of 400 residents, and the gunman knew his victims. As the town and local authorities try to piece together a motive, it’s already clear that there was certainly no “good reason” for the shooting.
“There is bewilderment and shock in Valais [the canton, or “state,” in which Daillon is located]. This is a man who lived in Daillon and opened fire on his neighbours,” said police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the press in Switzerland is already drawing comparisons with U.S. gun policy, and gun violence. To quote SwissInfo.ch: “The Tribune de Genève newspaper expresses disbelief that such a thing could happen ‘not in the United states’ but ‘a few kilometres from here, our dead, fallen under the bullets of our gunman'”.
As Latitude News has reported, no nation has a higher rate of gun ownership than the U.S. — 88.8 firearms for every 100 people. However, Switzerland ranks number two in the developed world — 45.7 guns per 100 people. But America’s rate of gun-related murders is much higher than Switzerland’s.
Despite such a high rate of gun ownership, Janet Rosenbaum, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center, told Latitude News Swiss have much different attitudes and policies towards guns:
“First of all, there aren’t that many guns in Switzerland. Only about 30 percent of households there own a firearm. In the U.S., it’s around 50 [percent]. Second, a good number of cantons [Swiss provinces] require that guns be kept in a military depot, not in private homes. Third, guns in Switzerland do cause problems, so it’s not like it’s some kind of utopia where firearms are everywhere and people are totally happy about it.”
Rosenbaum explains how the Zug massacre in 2001 (14 people died) caused the Swiss to reconsider their attitudes towards guns. Although voters last year rejected a measure to ban army rifles from homes and further strengthen permit requirements, Rosenbaum says public opinion is steadily moving in support of more regulation.
Which, perhaps, makes this senseless shooting that much harder for Swiss to wrap their heads around.