September 27, 2001: The Zug Massacre (Mass Shooting at the Canton’s Parliament in Switzerland)

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A Brief History

On September 27, 2001, the chilling reality that a mass shooting could happen anywhere, at any time, became apparent when a deranged Swiss citizen walked into the Zug Canton Parliament building and started shooting Swiss legislators.  By the time the massacre was over, 15 were dead (including the gunman) and 18 were injured.

Digging Deeper

Switzerland is a relatively peaceful country that has been neutral on the world stage since the Reformation, jealously guarding their neutrality and independence by armed vigilance.  The last major conflicts in Switzerland were the invasion by Napoleon’s French Army and the Civil War of 1847.  Since that time, the country has not been invaded, including both World Wars.  A law abiding population of 8 million ethnic German, French and Italians, the landlocked country is totally unfamiliar with mass murder on such a scale.

Linguistic map of Switzerland in 2010

Fredrich Leibacher was a 57 year old unemployed loser that had gone through several marriages to women from the Dominican Republic, been convicted of incest, theft and forgery, and was an alcoholic.  Diagnosed with a personality disorder, Leibacher was declared an invalid and was on a government relief pension.  Leibacher had a series of business failures and an episode where he threatened a bus driver.  He became paranoid and convinced the government was out to get him, especially a Cantonal Minister named Robert Bisig.  Frustrated by his failed lawsuits, Leibacher sought revenge against the government.

Armed with 2 pistols, a semi-automatic rifle and a pump-action shot gun, Leibacher simply walked into the Zug Parliament dressed as a police officer and wearing a home-made bullet proof vest and started shooting, firing 90 shots before detonating a home-made bomb and taking his own life.  All the victims that were killed were government members of Parliament, though the wounded included politicians and journalists.  Despite being present at the shooting, Robert Bisig escaped injury.  Leibacher’s suicide note described his attack as a “Day of rage for the Zug mafia.”

Photograph of mass murderer Friedrich Leibacher.

Needless to say, the Swiss were shocked by the bloody assault, as were neighboring countries.  The massacre spurred the Swiss to institute security measures at government locations, develop a security police apparatus, and create a manifest of malcontents.  (“Nigglers, Grumblers, Haters of the Administration”)  A practice of searching the houses of people making threats or insinuating threats against the government or government officials was instituted, and increased scrutiny of  a person’s mental history for permission to buy guns was started.  (Leibacher was legally able to buy his guns despite his criminal history and mental instability!  He was also a known “grumbler.”)

It is relevant to mention that in Switzerland, male citizens physically able to serve are required to serve in the military reserve from age 20 to age 34, and for some up to 50 years, during which time they are required to keep their equipment and Army issued weapons at home!  This means there are a couple hundred thousand automatic weapons all over Switzerland, and yet the incidence of gun violence is ridiculously low, pretty much proving that it is not the presence of guns (even machine guns) that is the problem, but rather sick, twisted people with murderous intent.  The Zug Massacre also highlights the pressing need to identify mentally ill, dangerous people and for society to take appropriate medical and social action to protect the mentally ill person and innocent citizens.

A Swiss Army exercise near Glarus

Question for students (and subscribers): Please tell us what you think of the practice in Switzerland of keeping military weapons at home, and what the successful result of such a practice implies for other (the USA) countries in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Haab, Armin.  Zug (German Edition).  Buchhandlung zur Schmidgasse, 1981.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Schulerst of the place of the massacre, the Parliament of Canton Zug, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  You are free:

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About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.