WHY AN ARMED CITIZENRY?
From "AN ARMED SOCIETY" by Stephen P. Holbrook
Where Is Freedom Guaranteed
By A Heavily-Armed Civilian Population?
In A Land
Where Assault Rifles Are Freely
In The Homes And Hands Of Her Citizens!
In 1444, at a small river in northern Switzerland
known as Saint
Jacob on the
Birs, some 1,400 Swiss Confederates wielding bows and arrows, polearms,
attacked 44,000 French invaders, some of whom were armed with a
technology -- firearms. After four hours, 900 Swiss
were killed, but
remnent defiantly refused to surrender. They were promptly massacred
graves. The audacity of the small Swiss force to assault a
seasoned army served to deter further invaders.
European tyrants of the
must have thought, "Don't mess with the Swiss -- they're crazy!"
Switzerland, Europes' most peaceful country, has no standing army.
is defended by a militia composed of virtually all male
The government issues rifles to these citizens, and
the rifles are kept
Such also was the intent of the founders of the United States and the
Constitution for the United States; that the executive could not
armies, that responsibility resting solely with
Congress and then only
periods not exceeding two years; that standing armies should be
of peace; and that defense of the nation should rest with the
citizen militia. Such is the intent of the Second
Article of amendment
Constitution for the United States.
Exemplifying the slogan, "What if they gave a war and no one came?"
both World War I and World War II. Though
surrounded by the Axis powers, even Hitler was afraid to
Winston Churchill wrote in 1944: "Of all the neutrals, Switzerland
right to distinction....She has been a democratic State,
freedom in self-defence among her mountains,
and in thought, in spite
largely on our side."
The Swiss call their rifles "assault rifles" to add to the mystique
rulers that these people mean business. These rifles
never been used for criminal purposes, although they would
against any invader. Instead, they are used for essentially one
shoot as many
bullseyes on paper targets as quickly as possible at
The Swiss have the reputation of being the world's foremost bankers.
many are regular shooters and presumably better able to protect
stashes can't hurt their reputation for protecting
In Switzerland, firearms in the hands of the citizenry are considered
wholesome and a civic
duty. Newspapers and cosmetics are advertised in
programs I picked up at the rifle range. Can one imagine
the New York
an advertisement in a program for a U.S. pistol shooting event?
The backbone of Swiss defense and independence is the individual
rifle, which he keeps at home and with which he stays
entering matches such as today's Historisches St.
The St. Jacob's historical shoot exemplifies aspects of Swiss culture
why none of the belligerent countries invaded Switzerland in
I or II. This country has a centuries-old tradition
of bloody and stout
resistance to the most powerful European armies. Its people have
century to be an armed citizenry whose members regularly
in weapon handling and practice.
My friends listened in disbelief as I explained that the then pending
in America would make it a five-year felony to possess a firearm
holding over ten cartridges if the magazine
had been made after 1994.
laughed contemptuously at the anti-gun claim that "assault rifles" have
purpose: to kill as many people as quickly as possible. To these
Swiss, a fucile d'assalto (assault rifle)
has only one purpose in
shoot as many bullseyes as quickly as possible.
These Swiss saw this disarming of the American people, denying them
assault rifles, as contrary to the rights of the citizen.
the rifles to be banned by the Crime Bill were not
were semi-automatic sporters. The Swiss pointed out that for centuries,
power has dared aggress against Switzerland, a nation in arms.
armed citizenry in Alpine terrain has never been
very inviting. If
were to be invaded, the invaders would face assault rifles in the hands
shooters -- the Swiss citizenry.
After shooting, we sat in the festival tent drinking Ticino Merlot
a clear Sprite-like soda, a regional favorite for a hot day.
excitedly told me the history of the Mesocco region,
and explained the
Swiss ideal of freedom.
Swiss Freedom & Liberty
The idea, but not the reality, of liberta (liberty) existed in
abroad, including to the Mesocco valley. The people were
uneducated, but yearned for freedom. Mesocco freed
itself from Milan in
but economics and political power continued to make it difficult for
own weapons. The three independent communities of Mesocco in that
are represented today by the blue, white,
and gray on the ribbons on
shooters' medals are pinned.
Machiavelli's 16th Century political writings called Switzerland
free." Within parts of what is now the Italian-speaking part
Switzerland, however, there was an everpresent struggle
classes and the peasants. The commoners were allowed to have "hunting
Articles of 1524, issued from Llanz by powerful lords in
Italy. However, it would be naive to suppose that
peasants did not own
before that date, or that their arms would not be used for the
security and liberty, if not for rebellion against the elite.
The Swiss Confederation began in 1291 when three cantons united.
family, the Hapsburgs, had tried to send a judge to rule the
cantons, but the Swiss promptly killed the
would-be foreign ruler,
have remained unmolested ever since). The Confederation grew over the
include more cantons -- it had 13 when the United States was founded
Switzerland did not, however, remain unaffected by the European
1848. Elsewhere, the forces of progress were crushed. In
Switzerland, the populace won. The Confederation, among other
any cantonal prohibitions on possession of arms by requiring every man
The country had no firearms regulations until after World War II,
when a few
passed some gun control regulations. The voters rejected giving
Confederation power to legislate on firearms until
1993, when the claim
made that "something had to be done about foreigners buying firearms"
Yet no law would be passed until 1997.
To the surprise of the citizens, in early 1996 stringent gun control
regulations over law-abiding
citizens were proposed in the Swiss
These did not pass, largely due to the resistance of the Swiss shooting
had they passed, the shooting societies immediately would
mounted a referendum campaign to repeal them. I published
an article in
Zuercher Zeitung, Switzerland's largest newspaper, entitled "Avoiding
Mistakes of the
United States" in opposition of the proposed law.
As it turned out, in 1997 the Confederation passed a relatively
law that requires a permit to carry a handgun in some
instances but exempts carrying to shooting ranges. However, the law
all Swiss citizens, male and female, to purchase surplus Sturmgewehr 57
to semi-automatic only) for about $50 each.
The Swiss have, through referenda, consistently rejected membership
and the European Community. The majority of the Swiss
membership was inconsistent with independence, and
that the EC would
German-style gun controls.
Lawyers, judges, bankers, cheesemakers, and watchmakers -- all seem
Armed and disciplined, the Swiss people have what Machiavelli
civic virtue. In a world seemingly manipulated
by the goddess fortuna
banking cartels), the tradition of having a heavily-armed civilian
this small nation's guarantee of freedom and self-determination.
Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D., is the Fairfax, Virginia attorney
argued the Brady case, Printz v. U.S. in the U.S. Supreme
Author of That Every Man Be Armed, Halbrook's latest
book is Target
Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality In World War II (1998, Sarpedon
Dept. AG, 49 Front
St., Rockville Centre, NY 11570).
An aid to your understanding of the reasons for the Second Article of
Amendment to the
Constitution for the United States.
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