The normally tranquil Swiss village of Daillon was in shock today after an unemployed man with a history of drug abuse went on the rampage with a shot gun and army rifle, killing three women and seriously wounding two men.
Police said the 33-year-old gunman, a former mental health patient identified only as FB, started firing from the window of his apartment late on Wednesday evening. He then went on to the street outside where he gunned down his victims.
Marksmen eventually immobilised him with a shot to the chest. “If the police hadn’t intervened, he would have gone on killing people,” said the Swiss general prosecutor, Catherine Seppey. She said police had previously confiscated firearms from the gunman in 2005, when he was placed in a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
The three women victims – aged 32, 54, and 79 – died where they fell from wounds to the head and chest. The two men, aged 33 and 63, and the gunman were in hospital today receiving treatment for their injuries.
Neighbours in Daillon, a village about 60 miles east of Geneva with only 360 inhabitants, said the killer had wanted to become an instructor in the Swiss army and started taking drugs after failing to get the job.
The incident seems certain to reopen domestic debate about Switzerland’s gun laws, which are among the most liberal in Europe. Male citizens – who must all complete military service – are allowed to keep their guns at home rather than in supervised public arsenals.
Swiss soldiers have been encouraged to keep their rifles at home after leaving the armed forces under defence policies introduced during the Second World War. The practice is upheld as a symbol of the degree of trust the state invests in Switzerland’s largely conscript army.
The Alpine country has the highest rate of gun suicides in Europe with some 300 self-inflicted deaths each year involving a firearm. Between two and three million guns are estimated to be held in Swiss households. There is no national firearms register so no precise figure is available.
In a 2011 referendum, called for by doctors, churches and anti-suicide groups, voters overwhelmingly rejected proposals to make gun owners keep their weapons in public arsenals.
Shooting club owners had argued that the law would have led to the closure of many of the country’s 3,000 gun clubs, which function as social centres in many rural communities. Conservative MPs said the decision to oppose greater gun control upheld the traditions of Switzerland’s folk hero, William Tell.