United Nations Conference to Review Progress
Made in the Implementation of the
Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in
Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects
30 June 2006
Statement by Herman Suter
PROTELL (Switzerland) Mr President, distinguished delegates,
I am Hermann Suter and I speak for the lawful firearms owners of Switzerland
through the Swiss organization Pro Tell. It is my task to comment on some
implications in the President's Non-Paper.
In it, Mr President, we learn that enforcement of the Programme of Action is to
involve pressure on those States which do not actively participate in the
implementation process. It should be said that our organization has no argument
with reasonable means being agreed to reduce the illicit transfers of military
arms, and the application of marking and tracing regulations.
However, the lobbying that has been done by NGOs relies heavily on the premise
that in order to fight global poverty and hardship (especially in developing
countries), it is first necessary to register, prohibit, cease production of and
to destroy small and light weapons wherever they are found. They believe that,
lacking such a measure, development aid for long- term stability and acceptable
living conditions is fruitless, and hence real progress towards world peace
cannot be achieved. We Swiss would assert, Mr. President, that it is precisely
because of our civilian armaments that in World War II our country went
unplundered and we survived a terrible time in history in exactly that peace.
Unfortunately, according to some influential lobby groups, it suffices to
prohibit and destroy small arms and light weapons in order to ensure the chances
of lasting foreign aid in the battle against hunger and poverty and the progress
to peace. The premise is well-meant. Any valid effort to stop or reduce
injustice and violence deserves our support. This formula, however, Mr.
President, amounts to no more than over-simplification and public relations
These issues are not resolved or even assisted by the blanket prohibition of
privately- owned firearms. Such prohibition is the wrong answer to the real
causes. It is surface polishing and fighting symptoms. The anti-gun NGO approach
offers no solution. Quite the contrary: it invests precious human and financial
resources in the wrong places and hinders people from shaping an informed
opinion on the real problems.
Indeed, Mr. President, after more than a decade of increasingly restrictive
legislation against lawfully-held guns, country by country, a change is taking
place as policymakers realize the pendulum has swung too far. Accordingly, the
Swiss people have recently joined a number of other countries – Canada, New
Zealand, Brazil – in rejecting measures such as the mandatory registration of
longarms, in the growing awareness that these approaches are not cost-effective
and do not reduce crime. Indeed, Switzerland has had very few restrictions on
private, lawful gun ownership. There are shooting ranges attached to cities and
towns the length and breadth of the country, with children encouraged to
participate, and our crime rates are among the lowest in the developed world.
Prohibitions and ever-increasing restrictions on small arms as demanded by the
International Action Network on Small Arms punish the wrong people. We Swiss
Switzerland reject their demands, and say that those who profit from them are
rogue governments. In its well- known history of neutrality, Mr. President, the
well-armed people of Switzerland have seen their country suffer no attack,
unlike many of their neighbours, and they have possessed their arms in peace.
Attempts at wholesale disarmament criminalize the innocent and open the door to
If the general assembly should accept the drive towards blanket prohibitive
demands, Mr. President, it will be contrary to a growing body of study showing
that in stable countries, arms prohibition does not work to lower criminal
There is a danger the UN will lose further trust and credibility around the
globe, and ultimately take part in the prolongation of poverty, misery and the
lack of prospect of entire peoples, by mistakenly directing its attention
towards private gun ownership.