Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 30 November 2020

How America outstrips the rest of the world on gun ownership

The US boasts ownership of 120 guns per 100 people, more than twice as high as next ranked Yemen with 52

A young girl looks on as she attends a vigil for the victims of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in Grand Army Plaza on August 5, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Getty Images/AFP 
A young girl looks on as she attends a vigil for the victims of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in Grand Army Plaza on August 5, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Getty Images/AFP 

As debate rages in the US over lax gun ownership laws on the back of two mass shootings this week, a comparison between it and the rest of the world best illustrates the vast stockpile of civilian firearms in the country.

Ranked first for civilian gun ownership, America has an estimated 393.3 million firearms, both legal and illegal. That’s 322 million more than second-placed India which has 71.1 million civilian firearms.

China (49.7 million), Pakistan (43.9 million) and Russia (17.6 million) make up the rest of the top five countries ranked for total civilian firearms held. Combining all three, including India, would still fail to eclipse America’s total number of guns owned.

According to the Small Arms Survey, more people in the US own guns compared to war-struck Yemen, where 14.9 million firearms are in the hands of civilians.

However, the picture changes when guns per 100 residents is taken into consideration.

Yemen falls in second place by this measure with 52.8 guns per 100 people, behind America’s 120.5 guns per 100 people.

Only one other Middle Eastern country ranked in the top 25 countries for gun ownership per capita; Iraq has 19.6 guns for every 100 people, on a par with Germany and less than Finland’s 32.4, surprisingly for a country often held in high regard.

Former US President Barack Obama on Monday spoke of his frustration of being unable to pass gun law restrictions during his tenure in the Oval Office.

"No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do," he said.

Since US President Donald Trump’s election to the Oval Office in 2016, anti-immigrant rhetoric has fuelled divisions across the country while he remains silent on pressing gun law reforms.

American policymakers could look to the Middle East, where private gun ownership rules prove to be extensively rigorous and stringent.

In Turkey, only licensed gun owners may lawfully acquire, possess or transfer a firearm. Applicants for a gun owner’s licence in Turkey are required to establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm, must be over the age of 21 and go through background checks including mental health checks. Anyone with a history of domestic violence or criminal activity will see their application rejected.

On the Arabian Peninsula, Oman also restricts sales of firearms through rigorous checks on mental health and criminal history. Guns in Oman are regulated by the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations, who impose a minimum age of 25 for applications. On average, Oman sees a rate of just one death per year from gun misuse.

International firearms prevention database Gunpolicy.org categorises Egypt and the UAE as having severely restrictive gun policies.

US President Trump condemned “bigotry and hatred” following last weekend's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that killed 31 people.

He blamed video games and mental illness for violence but made no mention of more limits on the sales of actual firearms.

Updated: August 6, 2019 06:18 PM

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