The topic of civilian gun ownership is hotly debated in the United States and many other countries. The recent terrorist attack in New Zealand has once again put gun control laws in focus. While some justify gun ownership by pointing out that people have the right to protect themselves, there is credible proof that strict gun control laws could dramatically reduce the number of firearm-related deaths.
For instance, Australia reformed its gun laws in 1996 following the Tasmania massacre. Firearm deaths declined dramatically when the country removed rifles, semi-automatic weapons, and pump-action shotguns from civilian possession. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern followed Australia’s blueprint to ban semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following the Christchurch attack.
Another example is Japan, where there is less than one gun per 100 people. The country witnesses almost no shootings, with close to zero firearm deaths per 100,000 people. Japan has a strict process that acts as a barrier to gun ownership. The country allows only air rifles and shotguns. If you want to own a gun, you have to attend lessons, undergo mental health and background checks, pass a written test and a shooting-rate test.
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Countries with the highest civilian gun ownership
According to the Small Arms Survey, a research project by a Swiss university, there were a little over one billion firearms in the world at the end of 2017. And 857 million of them were owned by civilians. Militaries around the world own 133 million firearms while the law enforcement organizations have 22.7 million guns.
Here we take a look at the top 10 countries with the highest civilian gun ownership. The Small Arms Survey estimated the total number of civilian-owned guns in a country, and then reached the number of guns per 100 people. So, the ranking below is based on the number of firearms per 100 people in a country.
10- Iceland (31.7 firearms per 100 people)
Iceland has a population of 334,000. The northern European country has about 106,000 firearms in civilian possession, which gives an average of 31.7 firearms per 100 people. Though every third person in the country owns a gun, firearm-related deaths are extremely rare. Iceland has not seen shooting murders in more than a decade.
9- Lebanon (31.9 firearms per 100 people)
The West Asian country has 1,927,000 guns in civilian possession. That’s a lot for a country with six million population. The country has witnessed several firearm-related deaths over the years. Last year, a 2-year-old toddler shot and critically wounded a 4-year-old in the country.
8- Finland (32.4 firearms per 100 people)
Finland ranks among the highest in the world in terms of civilian gun ownership. But it is one of the world’s safest and most peaceful countries. Firearm-related crime is among the lowest in the world. Finland has 1,793,000 firearms in civilian possession.
7- Cyprus (34.0 firearms per 100 people)
The Mediterranean island nation has a population of 839,000. According to the Small Arms Survey, it has an estimated 285,000 guns in civilian possession. Cyprus has had a violent and tumultuous history, which might have encouraged gun sales in the country.
6- Uruguay (34.7 firearms per 100 people)
5- Canada (34.7 firearms per 100 people)
Canada is considered one of the safest places in the world, but gun violence is not uncommon. Last year, a 29-year-old gunman shot 14 people (3 of whom died) in Greektown of Toronto. In 2017, a gunman killed 6 people and wounded 18 others in Quebec City. There are 12.7 million firearms in public possession in Canada. Surprisingly, only less than 20% of guns are registered with the government.
4- Serbia (39.1 firearms per 100 people)
This southern European nation has an average of 39.1 firearms per 100 people. It has 2.7 million firearms in civilian possession, and only 1.2 million of them are registered with the government. The country’s gun laws are considered pretty liberal by European standards. Firearms ownership in Serbia has been rising since the 1990s after the break-up of Yugoslavia.
3- Montenegro (39.1 firearms per 100 people)
Montenegro has the highest civilian gun ownership in Europe. This country with a population of 626,000 has 245,000 firearms in civilian possession. An estimated 141,464 guns in civilian possession are not registered with the government.
2- Yemen (52.8 firearms per 100 people)
War-torn Yemen has the second highest civilian gun ownership in the world. The Middle-Eastern nation has 52.8 guns per 100 people. The Saudi-led coalition is fighting against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Amid the war, terror groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are taking advantage of the chaos to strengthen themselves in the country. Yemen has an estimated 14,859,000 firearms in civilian possession.
1- United States of America (120.5 firearms per 100 people)
The US has more firearms in civilian hands than all other countries in this list combined. Firearms-related deaths are at their highest in more than four decades. There have been dozens of mass shootings in the US in the last few years as politicians continue to debate gun control laws. According to the Small Arms Survey, the US has 393.3 million guns in civilian possession. Shockingly, only one million guns are registered with the government in the US. It means 392.3 million firearms in civilian hands are unregistered.