A total of 102 Swiss army firearms went AWOL last year. Among them were 81 assault rifles. The other missing weapons were pistols.
According to a report in the newspaper Blick on Tuesday, 69 weapons were stolen and one was destroyed in a house fire. The remaining 32 weapons could no longer be found. Army spokesman Daniel Reist confirmed the report to the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA.
On the other hand, 26 lost weapons reappeared last year, with the vast majority being returned to the army by the police, who found them during police operations. The rest were handed in to the army by civilians.
In 2018, 107 weapons were reported missing. In 2017, the army launched an awareness-raising campaign on the subject of lost weapons. Since then, although more lost weapons have resurfaced, more losses have been reported.
The loss of a weapon has consequences of varying severity for members of the army, according to Blick. These can range from disciplinary punishment to three years imprisonment.
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 8.6 million.