Countries with the most guns in civilian hands

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While the exact number of firearms in civilian hands worldwide is nearly impossible to determine, Small Arms Survey, an independent research project based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, in 2017 discovered there are roughly one billion guns in the world, of which, a staggering  857 million are owned by private citizens.

Firearm ownership is a contentious issue that varies widely across the globe. In some countries, such as the United States, gun ownership is protected by the constitution and considered a fundamental right. In others, such as Japan and the United Kingdom, strict laws and regulations make it difficult for citizens to obtain firearms.

According to Small Arms Survey’s data here are the countries with the most guns in civilian hands

Philippines
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24. Philippines

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 3,800,000

 

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With an estimated 12-13 firearms for every 100 people, the Philippines has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in Southeast Asia and the highest rate of gun-related deaths in the region.

Cairo, Egypt
Anton Aleksenko/iStock

23. Egypt

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017:  3,900,000

Gun ownership in Egypt is tightly controlled and regulated by the government. Egypt has been making efforts to reduce the number of firearms in circulation through buyback programs and campaigns to encourage citizens to turn in illegal guns to authorities.

Kabul, Afghanistan
Sigit Setiyo Pramono / iStock

22. Afghanistan

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017:  4,300,000

Afghanistan has a long history of armed conflict, and as a result, many Afghan citizens own firearms, often illegally. The possession and carrying of firearms is generally unrestricted, and there are few laws in place to regulate the ownership or use of firearms.

Cartagena, Colombia
garytog/istockphoto

21. Colombia

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 5,000,000

Colombia has a long history of armed conflict and violence, which has led to an abundance of firearms in circulation. Despite the government’s attempt to address this issue by implementing buyback programs, disarmament, and demobilizing illegal armed groups, the number of guns remains high.

Cape Town, South Africa
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20. South Africa

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017:  5,400,000

South Africa has a high crime rate, which has led to a high number of firearms in civilian hands. The government has attempted to address this issue by implementing buyback programs and stricter regulations for firearm ownership. However, the number of guns remains high and illegal firearms are still circulating in the country.

Saudi Arabia
MOHAMED HUSSAIN YOUNIS / iStock

19. Saudi Arabia

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 5, 500,000

In Saudi Arabia, the possession and carrying of firearms is regulated by the government. The law allows citizens to own firearms, but the ownership and carrying of firearms is restricted, and it is primarily limited to individuals who can demonstrate a need for them, such as hunters, sportsmen, and security personnel.

Iran
BornaMir / iStock

18. Iran

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 5,900,000

The esimated number of firearms in Iran by Small Arms Survet is relatively low compared to other countries in the region. That’s mostly because the Iranian government has implemented strict regulations and laws on firearms ownership to ensure the safety of citizens and reduce the number of illegal firearms in circulation.

Los Roques, Venezuela
DmitriyBurlakov

17. Venezuela

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 5,900,000

The high crime rate and the economic and political crisis in the country have been contributing factors to the high number of firearms in circulation. In 2011, more than 18,000 murders were recorded in the country and the capital, Caracas, is thought to be one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America.

While the government has attempted to address this issue by implementing stricter regulations for firearm ownership, the number of civilian-held guns remains high and illegal firearms are still circulating in the country.

Lagos, Nigeria
Kehinde Temitope Odutayo / iStock

16. Nigeria

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 6,200,000

Gun violence is a significant issue in Nigeria. The country has a high rate of gun ownership.  The number of civil-held guns estimated by the Small Arms Survey doesn’t include firearms are unregistered and in the hands of criminal gangs, militants, and other non-state actors. This has led to a high level of gun-related crime and violence, including armed robbery, kidnapping, and sectarian conflict. The Nigerian government has made efforts to curb illegal firearms trafficking and possession, but these efforts have had limited success.

Iraq
Phototreat / iStock

15. Iraq

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 7,600,000

The availability of firearms in Iraq is a significant issue that has contributed to ongoing violence and instability in the country. The country has a long history of armed conflict and political turmoil, which has led to widespread proliferation of firearms. Many of these firearms were supplied to various armed groups by foreign governments during the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War. Additionally, many weapons have been looted from military stockpiles during times of conflict. As a result, there is a large number of unsecured and unregistered firearms in the country, which are easily accessible to criminal groups, militias, and other non-state actors.

Milan, Italy
Xantana / istockphoto

14. Italy

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 8,600,000

The possession of firearms is relatively common in Italy. Many of these firearms are legally owned by hunters, sport shooters, and collectors. However, there are also illegal firearms in circulation, primarily those smuggled from other countries or stolen from legal owners.

There have been some instances of gun-related crime and violence in Italy, but it is relatively low compared to other countries.

Bangkok, Thailand
ake1150sb / iStock

13. Thailand

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017:  10,300,000

Gun ownership and possession in Thailand is regulated by the Arms Control Act of 1971. The law requires individuals to obtain a license to purchase or own a firearm, which is issued by the Ministry of Interior. The process of obtaining a license includes background checks, psychological evaluations, and training in firearms safety.

Vancouver, Canada
danbreckwoldt / istockphoto

12. Canada

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017:  12,700,000

While Canada has stricter gun laws than its neighbor the U.S.the country has been seeing a rise in gun crimes in recent years, leading to a renewed push to strengthen current laws.

Paris, France
DepositPhotos.com

11. France

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 12,700,000

Despite’s France strict gun control laws, the country still ranks high on the list of the countries with the most civilian-held guns, according to the Small Arms Survey. Many experts believe that there are almost twice as many illegal guns in France as there are legal ones.

Istanbul Province, Turkey
Photosensia / istockphoto

10. Turkey

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017:  13,200,000

Despite Turkey’s many gun laws, such as age restrictions and medical documentation requirements, the country has been plagued by reckless gun use for many years. According to reports approximately 3,000 people per year are involved in gunfights, while 10,000 people are injured by stray gunfire.

Yemen
javarman3 / iStock

9. Yemen

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 14,900,000

Yemen considers firearm ownership a right, not a privilege, and permits and licenses are not required, and carry is unrestricted in the country. With 300 guns for every 100 residents, Yemen is one of the most armed countries in the world.

Lubeck, Germany
DepositPhotos.com

8. Germany

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 15,800,000

While gun ownership is widespread in Germany, and associations and ranges for shooting sports are allowed, the use of guns for private self-defense is restricted.

Mexico City
DepositPhotos.com

7. Mexico

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 16,800,000

While Mexico has strict gun laws, acquiring and owning certain firearms and ammunition remains a constitutional right to all Mexican citizens and foreign legal residents.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
marchello74/iStock

6. Brazil

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 17,500,000

Brazil has an estimated 17.5 million firearms, 9 million of which are unregistered.  There were 39,000 gun-related deaths nationwide in 2003.

Red Square, Moscow, Russia
DepositPhotos.com

5. Russia

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 17,600,000

 

 

 

With 17.6 million firearms in civilian hands, Russia rounds off the top-five. Russian citizens over the age of 18 can get a firearms license after completing a gun safety course and passing a federal test and background check.

Karachi, Pakistan
Umar Kashif Thanvi/iStock

4. Pakistan

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 43,900,000

With 43.9 million civilian-owned guns, Pakistan is in fourth place. As one of the world’s largest open firearms markets, Pakistan is also known for its indigenous gunsmith tradition. While firearms are widely owned, heavy weaponry is only permitted in tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Great Wall of China
Deposit Photos

3. China

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 49,700,000

The world’s most populous country, China comes third with 49.7 million firearms owned by civilians.

Hyderabad, India
Denis Vostrikov / iStock

2. India

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 71,100,000

 

With a population of 1.35 billion, India ranks second in the number of firearms owned by civilians, with an estimated 71.1 million weapons, which translates to five civilian firearms per 100 people.

American flag
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1. United States

Estimated number of civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in 2017: 393,300,000

According to the research, there are more guns than people in the United States. In 2017, there were 393,300,000 civilian-owned firearms, translating to 120.5 firearms for every 100 residents.

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