Then there’s the question of what Swiss guns are meant to defend against. The Swiss trust their government more than citizens of other rich countries trust theirs. So the tradition of gun ownership arose more from the historic need to protect Switzerland from invaders than from the hypothetical need to overthrow a tyrannical government. And as Time pointed out in 2012, “the culture of responsibility and safety … is anchored in society and passed from generation to generation.”
The fundamental difference between Switzerland and the U.S. when it comes to buying guns is not the ease of purchase—it’s easy in both countries—but the regulations that are associated with gun ownership in Switzerland. Most firearms, with the exception of fully automatic weapons, are legal. But background checks are mandated, which is not always the case in the U.S. Heavy machine guns and military weapons such as grenade launchers are banned in Switzerland; under some circumstances they can be purchased in the U.S. Public-carrying permits are issued rarely. Guns can be transported, but must remain unloaded at all times when they’re not in use.