Gun utopias? Firearm access and ownership in Israel and Switzerland

J Public Health Policy. 2012 Feb;33(1):46-58. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2011.56. Epub 2011 Nov 17.


The 2011 attempted assassination of a US representative renewed the national gun control debate. Gun advocates claim mass-casualty events are mitigated and deterred with three policies: (a) permissive gun laws, (b) widespread gun ownership, (c) and encouragement of armed civilians who can intercept shooters. They cite Switzerland and Israel as exemplars. We evaluate these claims with analysis of International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS) data and translation of laws and original source material. Swiss and Israeli laws limit firearm ownership and require permit renewal one to four times annually. ICVS analysis finds the United States has more firearms per capita and per household than either country. Switzerland and Israel curtail off-duty soldiers' firearm access to prevent firearm deaths. Suicide among soldiers decreased by 40 per cent after the Israeli army's 2006 reforms. Compared with the United States, Switzerland and Israel have lower gun ownership and stricter gun laws, and their policies discourage personal gun ownership.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Firearms / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Ownership / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Ownership / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot / epidemiology*