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Police patrolled in Daillon after a man shot and killed three people and wounded two in the Swiss village.

Olivier Maire, Associated Press

Shootings unlikely to disarm Swiss

  • Article by: STEVEN ERLANGER
  • New York Times
  • January 3, 2013 - 10:31 PM

PARIS - As much as many Americans, the Swiss love their guns, seeing them as integral to their national traditions of self-reliance, independence and international neutrality, with a trained and equipped citizen-army capable of deterring any foolish invader.

Many Swiss, after serving in the army, keep their service weapons at home, and the country has no national register for firearms.

Only two years ago, the Swiss handily rejected restrictions on gun ownership in a national referendum.

Those views are unlikely to change soon, even after a mentally imbalanced man shot and killed three women and wounded two men in the southern Swiss village of Daillon on Wednesday evening. The gunman, who was known to the authorities but not thought to be dangerous, was wounded by the police as they arrested him.

The gunman, 33, who was not named, had been placed in a psychiatric ward in 2005, when guns he then owned were taken from him and destroyed, according to Swiss police in the canton of Valais, about 60 miles east of Geneva. It is not known how he got the firearms he used in the killings -- including a hunting gun and a Swiss army carbine in use in the first half of the last century, a regional public prosecutor told a news conference -- but guns are easily available in Switzerland.

According to villagers who spoke to local news agencies, the gunman was unemployed, on welfare, getting psychiatric care and a ward of the court.

Around 9 p.m. Wednesday, he began firing from his apartment toward passersby in the street and neighboring buildings before coming outside and continuing to fire as many as 20 shots. He had been drinking heavily, some villagers told the Swiss website 20minutes.ch.

The gunman killed three Daillon women, ages 72, 54 and 32. All were shot at least twice, in the head and chest. The two injured men were 63 and 33; one is in critical condition.

The youngest woman killed was married to the younger wounded man, and they had young children, the prosecutor said.

There are said to be at least 2.3 million weapons among a Swiss population of less than 8 million people. Gun clubs and hunting are popular.

Swiss men required to do national service often take their army rifles, now semiautomatic assault rifles, home with them, to be ready for some future invader.

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