Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland
By Denis Balibouse
I have quite a simple relationship with firearms. I don’t like them: their power scares me.
Unlike most Swiss men of my age I did not take part in compulsory military service in the Swiss Army (thanks to a torn knee ligament that saved me from a possibly awkward session with the Army psychologist during the recruitment process).
When I was starting out as a photographer in my late teens I did some work for the French-language section of the Swiss Shooters newspaper. I had never felt so out of place in my life, what with everyone from teenagers to grandfathers wearing special outfits resembling some kind of Robocop get-up and armed to the teeth. Even with the hearing protection I would flinch with every one of their shots. It wasn’t the best environment in which to concentrate on getting my shot (pun intended), with hundreds taking part in the competition.
Firearms are everywhere in Switzerland, but go largely un-noticed by the general population.
A few years ago my wife-to-be was visiting Switzerland for the summer from Australia. We were having a BBQ by the lake with a couple of friends when I saw her expression change as she glanced over my shoulder. She was looking at two young men, one wearing casual clothes, the other in his army fatigues and carrying his SIG-550 assault rifle in one hand, an open can of beer in the other. As they went to sit down on the grass he casually tossed his weapon to the ground.