He Didn’t Know it was Loaded!

From the land of chocolate, cuckoo clocks, and lots of guns, comes a heartbreaking gun mishap story. At first glance at the headline, it looked like a new story. But, reading it, we had a sinking feeling: it’s just new people having the same old stupid accident.

The facts are simple: On 2 August 2015, a 23-year-old man was goofing around with a friend who was visiting from Brazil. The 23-year-old’s roommate was a qualified soldier, recently returned from basic training, who had hung his service rifle on the wall. The 23-year-old pointed the gun at his visiting friend’s chest and pulled the trigger.

The gun did what guns do.

“I didn’t know it was loaded!”

That’s what the accused told the court, and expressed his deepest regret  “for using the weapon as a toy.” It was too late for the friend, who was mortally wounded and died in minutes.

Both the shooter and the gun owner were found guilty of negligent homicide and sentenced to “conditional imprisonment,” a peculiarly Swiss penalty for major misdemeanors and minor felonies, that allows the convict to pay a fine in lieu of incarceration. (The fine is adjusted to the individual’s finances and the nature of the crime). The shooter’s “conditional” sentence was 18 months and the gun owner’s 360 days; if you don’t pay the fine, as we understand it, you do do the time.

Somewhat more ominously for Swiss in general, the prosecuting and defense attorneys in this case have found something to agree on: they are trying to end the century-plus-old practice of Swiss soldiers keeping their weapons at home. Accidents and crimes with these guys are very rare, but their consequences and rarity give them tremendous resonance in the Swiss media. Being neither Swiss nor resident there, we can’t gauge the likelihood of such an initiative succeeding in the Alpine nation.

What are all guns, always, people?

Story in The Awful German Language (mandatory Mark Twain reference). Story in the Even More Awful Google translation.  Thanks to the tipster in this case, who prefers to remain anonymous.

16 thoughts on “He Didn’t Know it was Loaded!

  1. Simon

    one of them has a ‘bedingte Haftstrafe’, which is simply probation. The full sentence is on his record, but he stays out of pokey, assuming he does nothing else during during the time of the probation (https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedingte_Strafe_(Schweiz)).
    The 360 Tagessaettze is either fine or prisontime, but it was also on probation. All they had to pay immediately was th 2 x 20000 chf to the parents.

      1. Hognose Post author

        No sweat, Simon. Legal language is a language all its own, and it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. American law is loosely and historically derived from English Common Law as well as the US Constitution, Legislation, judicial opinions, jury instructions and administrative regulations… except in Louisana, where it’s based on that stuff plus the Code Napoleon.

  2. tom

    The swiss law says that the gun has to be locked away to prevent access of third parties. That can be a cupboard, or house or apartment if you live alone, but it has to be always locked if you’re absent.
    If you have a full auto (that includes the military guns) the bolt carrier has to be taken out and be locked away separately.
    Gun and ammo have to be stored separately. The separation is done when the ammo isn’t in the gun (at home). When transporting to range or whatever, the ammo must not be in the mag.

    The gun owner was sentenced to pay a fine, but on parole. So if he does another misdemeanor within a certain period (for how long was not disclosed in the original article) he has to cough up the dough or serve time instead.

    And yes, in Switzerland there are as many lefties in the justice system as in all other “developed” countries worldwide. Seems like the way of indoctrination is similar everywhere: Via university. You just have to stay there long enough. Like for jurisprudence…
    But the common swiss man strongly holds up the flag of freedom to own firearms. Even the “seven legates from the EU” (that’s the Bundesrat, the top council of Switzerland – instead of a president) won’t be able to change that.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      So far all attempts to discontinue the practice have failed luckily. There are of course the total and absolute and totally naive pacifists in Switzerland that want to stop conscription, the militia system and swiss army as a whole. Another avenue is that they want to store all weapons in local armouries. Which is great for thieves. They would have to go into only one house to fetch a truck load, if the armoury happens to be outside a military base.

      The practice of having state supplied ammunition on hand at home comes from World War 2 and the fear of Hitler invading. Switzerland wanted to be always ready. They kept the practice through the cold war (I guess expecting soviet desantnik divisions), but IMHO they could do away with it. Costs lots of money to buy the home stored ammunition and the threat level does not warrant the practice.

      But this probably would not have stopped this accident happening, because the Taschenmunition (pocket ammunition) at home is not used for training. Normally you get ammo at the firing range. So the rifle has not been properly unloaded at the range and he must have put it away “wet”. that is, he did not clean it after use.

      Oh well.

      ALWAYS LOADED!

  3. Docduracoat

    I still don’t get these stories
    I don’t get the joke
    Why does anyone think it is funny to point a gun at their friend and pull the trigger?
    Even if it does not go off, it is not funny
    If it goes off, the joke is on you.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      They do not take weapons seriously. I grew up around hunters and have seen at age four,six maybe (? don’t know, long ago) what the effect is of a rifle bullet on game. Afterwards I have treated all firearms with caution hence.

      When you are joe evreyman from big city, the lethal capability is not real. abstract. The experience is lacking. IMHO. You know that a bullet is deadly, but that is theory not practice.

    2. LSWCHP

      My thoughts exactly Doc. It seems beyond insane to knowingly point an unloaded firearm at someone and press the trigger. What kind of joke is that?

      It also seems crazy to me that a trained soldier could bring a weapon into his house for storage and have a round up the spout.

      So much stupidity in one place.

  4. Aesop

    The moral of the story is to lock up your guns, instead of trusting your @$$wipe roommate to be intelligent or responsible.

    Experience is always a harsh schoolmistress.

  5. Tennessee Budd

    I feel blessed & fortunate that none of my friends (who are few to begin with) think this kind of behavior is humorous. I really don’t know what I’d do if someone I liked and, up to that point, trusted were to point a firearm at me. I suspect that if I could I’d draw my carry piece while issuing a warning, & I wouldn’t be joking at all. I’d rather not contemplate it. An attacker is one thing; this is another. I’ll continue to select my friends with care, & keep the number lower & the intelligence higher.
    I would imagine that these incidents occur quickly, & that the victim has little to no time to react. The perpetrator would be counting on the surprise (“ha ha, bang, you’re dead!”) to be the funny part, or so it would seem.
    It’s tragic & stupid, but then that describes most of what Twain called “the damned human race”. I’ve long agreed with his assessment.

  6. Keith

    My first and always personal rule of firearms handling: there is no such thing as an unloaded gun.

    All else follows from that.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

  7. pkoning

    Just remember that Col. Jeff Cooper’s 3 laws are an American invention. Heck, in much of Europe the police are trained to fire “warning shots” which means to aim just above the heads of the perps. It never occurs in their dim heads to consider where those bullets might land.

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