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An Armory in Gun-Shy Europe

According to Swiss police, there were 204 homicides in Switzerland in 2005, including 48 that involved guns. That is about the same number of gun-related killings as took place last year in England and Wales, which have strict gun control and a population seven times the size of Switzerland's.

According to a 25-nation survey by the International Action Network on Small Arms, a British-based organization against gun violence, Switzerland's total number of gun deaths, including accidents, in 2005 was 6.2 per 100,000 citizens, which was second only to the U.S. rate of 9.42 per 100,000. Switzerland's rate of gun deaths was more than double that of 18 of the countries surveyed, including neighbors Germany and Italy.

Schluer and other gun advocates attributed much of the violence to criminals who obtain weapons illegally.

But gun-control proponents here contend that guns kept at home are used increasingly in suicides; according to government figures, there were 271 suicides by firearm in Switzerland in 2004 out of a total of 1,283.

Annabelle, a Swiss women's magazine, reported that there were at least eight cases in the country last year of men shooting their wives or children, then themselves. These included the murder of international ski champion Corinne Rey-Bellet by her husband, who then shot himself. To highlight the problem, the magazine printed posters showing a happy Swiss family: mom with a baby, a young boy in dress clothes and a beaming dad wearing a tie and holding his assault rifle uncomfortably close to his wife's face.

"We don't know any woman who wants a weapon in the house," said Lisa Feldmann, the magazine's editor. "Women and the younger generation think this is crazy."

Although there was a national debate, Switzerland did not make any major changes to its gun laws after the massacre in Zug, a picturesque town of about 24,000 on the shores of a placid lake that bears the same name.

"I don't know how many people have to die before things change," said Weichelt-Picard, who was in the room during the Zug killings and helped tend to the dead and wounded, all of whom she knew. "There are too many people in our world who can't handle a gun in moments where they are angry or upset."

Weichelt-Picard said her first reaction to the news about Virginia Tech was, "Oh no, not again." She said she was in trauma therapy for months after the shooting here.

Simone Hinnen, 35, one of 14 people wounded in the shootings, still wears an elastic bandage over the scarring on her right lower leg and, after a half-dozen operations, still has trouble walking. Hinnen said that stricter gun laws would not have stopped the Zug shooter, who used privately purchased guns, but that guns stored at home often lead to family violence.

"I understand people who say this is our history," she said. "But for the younger generation, I think it's different. It should be forbidden to have a gun at home."

On Friday afternoon, Marcel Brunschwiler, 34, a business consultant, ate lunch in a sunny plaza next to the building where the Zug shootings happened. He said that while Switzerland and the United States are world leaders in gun ownership, gun-related killings are in his view far more common in the United States. He blamed that partly on violent American television shows such as "24," which he watches avidly.

"Kids in America watch these shows and think, 'I just have to kill this guy and the problem's solved,' " Brunschwiler said. "We have a completely different way of thinking."

Brunschwiler said he owns a 9mm pistol, which he keeps in a drawer with his CDs.


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