Last year, a total of 107 military weapons – assault rifles and pistols – were reported lost, the Swiss defence ministry said on Tuesday.
The number of missing weapons has steadily increased each year from 69 in 2016 to 85 in 2017, the ministry declared, confirming an earlier report by the Blick newspaper.
That brings to 776 the total number of army weapons reported missing since 2009, most of which were stolen either from militia soldiers’ homes or when they were moving around. The rest were either lost when people moved house, during military service or were destroyed in a fire. Last year, the army recovered 36 weapons that had been reported missing, including three assault rifles found abroad.
Between 1969 and 2015, army officials reported 5,155 weapons missing – but later recovered 317 of them.
All able-bodied Swiss men must do military service and have the option of storing their army rifle or other weapons at home. This is a long-standing tradition for the Swiss army, which is supposed to be ready for a call to arms in times of crisis.
The army rifle must be kept in a burglar-proof location and any theft must be reported immediately, but missing weapons are usually only reported when the soldier goes on military exercise or when he leaves the army and can’t find his gun.
Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world because of its militia army. The defence ministry estimates that over two million guns are in private hands in a population of 8.4 million.
The defence ministry said on Tuesday that last year fewer soldiers took up the option of keeping their military weapons (in exchange for a payment) after completing their service. In 2017, around 10% of servicemen took home 2,513 guns, compared to 43% in 2004.