If you believe that the military and law enforcement groups are the ones holding the most firearms, you might want to rethink.

According to the latest statistics, by the end of 2017 there were over one billion firearms in circulation in over 230 countries across the globe. And as you might have guessed by now, most of them belong to civilians.

To be more precise, 84.6 percent of guns were owned by civilians, 13.1 percent belonged to the military, while only 2.2 percent were held by law enforcement agencies.

Americans are by far the biggest firearm owners on the planet with a whooping 393.3 million units from a total of 857 million belonging to civilians. That’s more than what civilians in the other top 25 countries hold combined.

To put this in perspective, there are more civilian-owned guns in the U.S. than there are residents.

“The key to the United States, of course, is its unique gun culture. Ordinary American people buy approximately 14 million new and imported guns every year,” said Aaron Karp, lead author of the gun study.

We don’t find this overwhelming numbers when we look at the charts about a decade ago. So what lead to this overwhelming stockpiling of lethal weapons you might ask?

Table with estimate of civilian-owned guns, both legal and illicit.

  1. The U.S. Constitution empowers its citizens through the Second Amendment to purchase and stockpile arms. This favors Americans greatly, as there are very few states across the globe with such permissive laws and therefore such affordable (and sophisticated) firearms.

Why are they buying them? That’s another debate. Above all, they are buying them probably because they can. The American market is extraordinarily permissive,” Aaron Karp added.

  1.  About a decade ago, several events have contributed to the desire of Americans (and probably others across the globe) to stockpile weapons.

Before the 2008 economic crisis, only 650 million guns were owned by civilians. Following this event, the number spiked exponentially.

The numbers also correlate with the interventions in the Middle East at that point in time, events which caused security concerns which led to more firearm accumulation in the ranks of civilians. Just how the graph shows, there was a notable rise between 2007 and 2017.

How about the rest of the world? Well, recent data reveals that, besides the U.S. which has 120.5 firearms for every 100 citizens, other states have militarized their residents as well.

The table below shows this in detail.

If you look at the report, the military actually falls far behind (at least on paper) with only 133 firearms held by military forces, and 22.7 million attributed to police units.

This ranks the U.S. fifth on the military-owned small arms list, with Russia above it, then China, North Korea, and Ukraine.

The U.S. also holds the fifth position for law enforcement owned guns, falling short behind Russia, China, India, and Egypt.

The Small Arms Survey group doesn’t advocate for weaponization, but rather for a fair distribution of arms and reducing or preventing arms incidents.

We don’t advocate disarmament. We are not against guns,” said Eric Berman, director of Small Arms Survey. “What we want to do, and what we have done successfully for the last 19 years, is to be able to provide authoritative information and analysis for governments so that they can work to address illicit proliferation and reduce it – and to reduce also the incidents of armed violence.”

And their research is bringing valuable information to the table. One example is the fact that those countries with peak firearm violence don’t rank high on the list of guns owned per person.

Indeed, you would expect that where there’s a growing and permissive gun culture, felonies committed would tightly correlate to gun use. In reality it’s not like that.

So what we see is that there is no direct correlation at the global level between firearm ownership and violence,” said Anna Alvazzi del Frate, Program Director at the Small Arms Survey group. “A correlation does exist with firearm suicides, and it is so strong that it can be used, at least in Western countries, as a proxy for measurement,” she added.

What this statement implies is that, where there are many guns owned by civilians, there’s more likely that they will commit suicide using those guns than starting to commit crimes using them.

This proves that where guns are allowed into public circulation, there is also a robust culture surrounding its users, thus mitigating atrocities that could be committed.

With the steep decline in government confidence worldwide, it’s likely that more civilians will purchase firearms to secure their homesteads and families.

Guns do make you feel safer, and we as Americans are privileged to have access to sophisticated weapons at reasonable price, not to mention the relative ease of purchasing them.

What about you? Do you own any guns? If so, does it help you put your bed on the pillow more relaxed? Do you agree with weaponization? Or rather enjoy a country where guns aren’t for everybody?

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1 Comment

  1. There are 24 other countries on your table, not 25, and those 24 hold 463.7 million; the U.S. has 393.3 million, yet you make the inflammatory remark that the U.S. holds more than the others combined. Is the rest of your article that accurate?

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