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Homicide-Suicide Cases in Switzerland and Their Impact on the Swiss Weapon Law

Grabherr, Silke MD*†; Johner, Stephan MSc; Dilitz, Carine MSc; Buck, Ursula BSc; Killias, Martin PhD§; Mangin, Patrice PhD*; Plattner, Thomas MD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: December 2010 - Volume 31 - Issue 4 - p 335-349
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181ce9f3e
Original Articles

Homicide followed by the suicide of the offender is a well-known phenomenon. In most cases, it takes place in the context of the so-called "family tragedies." A recent series of such family tragedies in Switzerland prompted an intensive debate in the media and the Swiss government concerning the Swiss Weapon Law, in particular the requirement to keep personal army weapons at home.

The present study of Homicide-Suicide cases in Switzerland, thus focuses on the role played by guns, especially military weapons, in such crimes.

We investigated retrospectively 75 cases of Homicide-Suicide, comprising 172 individuals and spanning a period of 23 years in western and central Switzerland.

Our results show that if guns were used in 76% of the cases, army weapons were the cause of death in 25% of the total. In 28% of the deaths caused by a gunshot, the exact type of the gun and its origin could not be determined.

Thus, the majority of Homicide-Suicide cases in Switzerland involve the use of guns. The exact percentage of cases were military weapons were involved could not be defined. In our opinion, a stricter weapons law, restricting access to firearms, would be a factor of prevention of Homicide- Suicide cases in Switzerland.

From the *Department of Medicine Lausanne, University Center of Legal Medicine, Geneva and Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland; †Department of Forensic Medicine, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland; ‡Institute of Criminology, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland; and §Institute of Criminology Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.

Manuscript received March 7, 2009; accepted July 5, 2009.

Reprints: Silke Grabherr, MD, University Center of Legal Medicine, Geneva and Lausanne, Rue du Bugnon 21, CH-1011 Lausanne, Switzerland. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.