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National Field Shooting Matches

Members of the shooting clubs of Seengen, Wiliberg, Staffelbach and Schlossrued during the 2007 National Feldschiessen.

Every year some 150,000 people take part in the three-day national target-shooting competition - advertised as "the biggest shooting festival in the world" - at 650 shooting clubs and open-air events like the ones in Seengen or Staffelbach, the two small towns featured in this essay. The tradition, which dates back to the 19th century and which was initially seen as a way of fostering national solidarity, now attracts a mixture of hardcore shooting fans and those just there to party.

"The pillar of the festival is shooting, but people also come to discuss and to be together" explains the president of the local shooting association Wiliberg, Hans Schärer.

Shooting clubs remain popular in Switzerland, especially among the older generation, with around 74,000 licensed members. But with debate raging over gun ownership, they constantly have to reaffirm shooting's role as a popular national sportSo what about the current gun debate over keeping army guns in the barracks rather than at home?

Thomas Kern,

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