If you drive through the municipality of Erlenbach im Simmental in Switzerland, along the main road, you’ll pass right underneath a shooting range with bullets whizzing over your head. The Brünnlisau gun range is located just near the east entrance of Erlenbach im Simmental, which is located in the district of Niedersimmental, in the canton of Bern. The shooting house is situated on elevated grounds by the side of the road, while the targets are perched on the side of a hill across an active road. The distance between the two is 300 meters.
While this arrangement appears to be extremely dangerous, the shooting range is actually quite safe. There is a thick concrete wall near the shooting house that obstructs the view of the road, preventing shooters from accidentally putting rounds into the main road.
Shooting ranges such as this are not at all unusual in Switzerland. There is another one near the border with Germany, with a road and a cattle grazing field between the shooters and the targets. There are probably many more.
Switzerland has a pretty liberal pro-gun culture with one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, but surprisingly little gun-related street crime.
“One of the reasons the crime rate in Switzerland is low despite the prevalence of weapons is the culture of responsibility and safety that is anchored in society and passed from generation to generation,” writes Helena Bachmann for Time.com.
Target shooting is a popular national sport. The Swiss Shooting Sports Association runs about 3,000 clubs and has 150,000 members, including a youth section. Kids as young as 12 years of age belong to gun groups in their local communities, where they learn sharpshooting.
A large number of guns civilians own are actually military weapons issued to them when they undergo compulsory military service. Every male citizen between 18 and 34 years is a reserve soldier, and they are allowed to take all personally assigned weapons to home.
Helena Bachmann writes: “Unlike some other heavily armed nations, Switzerland’s gun ownership is deeply rooted in a sense of patriotic duty and national identity. Weapons are kept at home because of the long-held belief that enemies could invade tiny Switzerland quickly, so every soldier had to be able to fight his way to his regiment’s assembly point.”
Switzerland’s powerful militia army had kept Hitler away during World War II, and continues to keep neighboring countries from invading Swiss territory.
“In America, gun ownership is about self-defense whereas in Switzerland it is seen more in terms of national security,” writes Emma Jane Kirby for the BBC. “To many traditionalists, a gun in the home has become a metaphor for an independent, well-fortified Switzerland which has helped to keep the country out of two world wars.”
The targets on the hill across the road. Photo credit: Google Street View
Photo credit: Google Street View
The gun house as seen from the road. Photo credit: Google Street View
Photo credit: Bloke on the Range/Youtube
Another gun range in Switzerland. Photo credit: Reddit
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