The first holiday of the Zurich, Switzerland, school year is Knabenschiessen-Montag.
“What?” I look up from the calendar, recalling too many American school tragedies. “Boy Shooting Monday?”
My translation is correct, they tell me, but the term is misleading; for the past thirty years, Zurich’s annual teen event has also involved girls. For boys, the shooting contest goes back at least to 1656 and was formalized in the late 1800s. Normally it’s preceded by a public festival the second weekend of September. This year the festival is cancelled for Covid, but Monday’s shooting will go ahead. Schools close for the day. Many workers get a half day off.
Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership but very little gun violence, with no mass shootings since 2001. Privately held guns are strictly regulated. Mandatory military service for men ensures training. Switzerland shows a healthy gun culture is possible. Whether it is possible in the United States, I am not so sure.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.