More Murdered in Chicago in 2016 Than Live in 33 Smallest NH Towns

More people have been murdered in Chicago in 2016 than live in the New Hampshire’s smallest 33 towns.

According to Chicago PD, 762 murders occurred in the city last year, from among 4,331 victims of shootings. This number more than doubles the reported murder total of New York City, a city several times the population size. According to Chicago PD’s superintendent Eddie Johnson, while no one cause can be cited for the high number of deaths, increased gang activity and boldness shares a large portion of the blame. [Read more…]

Geneva Shaken

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Geneva: the very heart of Switzerland, an idyllic country where guns and ammo flow freely from the mountains themselves, where fountains of neutrality and sound finances spring forth, enveloping the land in a permanent paradisical state of peace. Never before has a place existed that has so completely succeeded in accomplishing everything that a society could yearn for.

Not so fast. As we have previously made abundantly clear, Switzerland is far from free of violence and crime. Indeed, as yet another aggravated assault rocks fair Genève, we are reminded of the recent crime spike plaguing the region. Why is this? Why is the Swiss homeland slipping away from the peace that once enveloped its mountainous landscape?

To answer that question, there are two dimensions to the recent crime spike: desperation and hate crimes.

Central to the first issue are immigrants. They come to Switzerland with high hopes and expectations; some as refugees, some simply seeking a better life, some as criminals escaping persecution in their countries of origin. Those with high hopes often find themselves disappointed and disgruntled by the reality of life in Switzerland. As a result, the once-hopeful peaceful immigrants become involved with the former criminals with whom they arrived. Without the moral support of their families left behind in pursuit of a better life, they can easily fall into criminality out of desperation.

Now to address the second point, that of hate crimes. The Swiss can tend to be a rather reserved and insular people, not exactly a cultural attitude that’s conducive to acceptance of foreigners. Immigrants, therefore, are often rather ill-received in Swiss society unless they fall on a really nice group of folk. Locals are frustrated with the onset of violence and burglary brought by foreigners and those from just across the border, especially in the French regions. In their frustration, their tendencies turn fascist. Local Swiss also become vexed by the competitiveness of the job market, and subsequently blame part of it, if not all of it, on immigration. As a result, there’s resentment on both sides. This sometimes leads to clashes whose instigators are rarely, if ever, discernable.

Finally, Switzerland’s legal framework is not properly developed for adequately dealing with personal defense against crime and violence. Contrary to popular myth, Switzerland’s restrictions regarding firearms possession, while progressive by European standards, still have room for improvement. Former members of the military may purchase their service weapons for personal use, and average citizens are able to possess firearms, but only after surmounting a considerable tangle of paperwork in order to obtain a permit. This includes supplying an up to date extract of their criminal record, which must be ordered from the archives in the capital. Private possession of ammunition off the firing range, other than for hunting purposes, is strictly forbidden, and the bearing of arms in public is only permissible for security personnel, either on-duty or en-route to their occupation. For all practical purposes private citizens are not able to bear arms, and an armed-and-ready citizenry, outside of military service, is purely a myth.

What does this last point have to do with Swiss violence and crime? Actually a whole lot, especially considering changing circumstances. An unarmed and defenseless law-abiding people can do nothing for its own protection. The responsibility for the defense of the people from criminals and killers, therefore, falls entirely upon law enforcement. This wasn’t a problem in years past. However, growing economic insecurity coupled with immigration-based societal tensions have taxed law enforcement’s ability to keep up with the upsurge in violence. Seeing as there isn’t a mechanism in place for the Swiss people to rise to the challenge and provide for their own defense, we can probably expect this increasing trend in violence to continue.

Far from a crime-free paradise, Switzerland, while better off than many European nations, still faces some of the same criminal problems stemming from economic uncertainty coupled with social tension from immigrants. The current Swiss legal system is unable to adequately counter the upsurge in violence by allowing the people to more take greater charge of their own defense, the grand result being that the safety and tranquility of Geneva has taken a blow.

Alon Starkman is a former Sergeant in the Swiss Army and a contributor to The Desert Lynx. Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx

Beyond The Iron Sights

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It has been recently brought to my attention that a myth regarding my current country of residence, Switzerland, has been on the rise as of late; namely that it is an exemplary paradise of a country where gun ownership is abundant and yet gun crime rates are low.

Now, as flattering as the accolade may be, it’s a bit of a narrow-sighted and incomplete presentation of the reality. Switzerland’s crime rate may be relatively low, but it’s also at an all time high, and has been rising for the past three years. To the point where Geneva, my hometown, has become the most dangerous city in the country, and arguably one of the most dangerous in Europe.

In 2011, the crime rates rose by 6%; more specifically +16% theft and robbery, +4% carjacking, +281% data theft, +20% cyber fraud, and +9% brigandry. More specifically regarding theft in my city: +17% for break-ins, +29% for robbery, +43% pickpocketing, +45% carjacking, +28% hit and run robbery. To this, add the 51% increase in the use of knives or cutting weapons in robbery cases.

Enough statistics though, let’s talk reality. As a resident of the rather respected and prestigious city of Geneva for the past 15 years, I can state with authority that it’s no longer as safe as one would think. In the past 8 years alone, my apartment has been broken into twice, my building has been broken into at least half a dozen times that I’m aware of, I’ve been pickpocketed twice that I know of, I’ve been accosted by violent individuals a handful of times, I’ve been assaulted with an improvised and sharp weapon (from whence the scar on my left eye), and I’ve found myself having to duck for cover at the sound of a gunshot just outside my favorite club. Add to this the high rates of unwarranted murders, hate crimes, vandalism and embezzlement, and even semi-confirmed rumors of amateur bounty hunters and hired guns, and you have a rather rough city indeed. As for sexual delinquency, I personally know four girls who have been sexually assaulted in this city in the past 3 years, and those are the brave few who are willing to say so.

Now let’s zero in on gun control and gun safety. Let me cite a couple of recent cases for you: 2nd of January 2013: a man of 33 murders three women and wounds two men in the hamlet of Daillon in Valais. 15th of December 2012: at least four delinquents hold up a jewelry store in Neuchatel armed with an assault rifle. 14th of April 2012: an man in St. Galen opens fire with his service rifle on his neighbor from across the hall following a verbal dispute. 7th of September 2012: a gas station is held up with a pump action shotgun. 2001: a crazed gunman breaks into the Parliament building in Zug and kills 14. 2006: former ski champion Corinne Rey-Bellet and her brother are murdered by her husband. 2009: a soldier murders a teenaged girl at a bus stop using his assault rifle. And I recall an incident in 2008 where a barmaid was killed by a drunk and violent customer who pulled out his service pistol on her (i.e. this was no regular rank and file soldier or Sergeant, but an upper rank NCO or even Officer).

Those who present Switzerland as a shining example of why having more guns around makes for a safer country are missing the point entirely. Having guns more or less available has relatively little to no impact on the crime rates, whether gun related or not. Even if guns weren’t readily available, the black market is easily capable of filling that gap in, both for the criminals and the victims who want to defend themselves. Teaching gun control and safety, even at a school level (as many seem to mistakenly believe is done in Switzerland), can only go so far.

The real solution to gun crime is a more deep seated one: it’s to teach people the value of the lives of their fellow men. That is what the Swiss army is all about. It’s not about running around playing commando with our guns and pretending we’re GI Joes; It’s about bringing the people from the various regions, cultures, and languages together, teaching them that life is tough and that if they’re to survive, they need to rely on each other and learn to trust and support each other. The Swiss army teaches solidarity, pride in our collective identity, and camaraderie first and foremost; and this teaches people to respect and value the lives of their fellow men. After all, for all they know, when the chips are down, that person sitting across the tram or next to them on the park bench may very well stand beside them on the battlefield one day. Still, people here are about as thick as in any other country, and sometimes these deep and meaningful lessons just don’t sink in. There’s sadly little anyone can do about that other than arrest them when they fly off the handle, and provide damage control in the wake of their stupidity.

That’s not to say it’s not worth the effort though, on the contrary! It’s not more guns we need, but rather more people willing to take the initiative to protect their comrades. We don’t need more warriors, but rather more heroes who know the value of life and are willing to defend it, and use guns in a cautious, respectful, and socially responsible manner.

Alon Starkman is a contributor to The Desert Lynx

Photo credit: Jeffrey Fairchild