The Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has once again reminded the world how easily people can acquire firearms and ammunition in the United States. This time, an 18-year-old was able to legally and easily purchase enough firepower to murder 19 children and two teachers. (There have been more mass shootings than days this year.)
In many countries civilians are legally allowed to own guns, and just like in the U.S., there are many illegally-held guns too. There were an estimated 857 million civilian-held guns in the world as of 2017. By far, the country where people own the most guns is the U.S. (Gun sales plunged, here’s each state’s figure.)
The types of mass shootings such as the ones in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde — especially elementary school mass shootings — rarely if ever happen outside of the United States, even in conflict-ravaged countries. Data from the most recent Small Arms Survey, a project from the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, sheds some light on the issue.
To identify the countries where people own the most guns, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the estimated firearms in civilian possession for every 100 residents in 230 countries from the Small Arms Survey‘s Global Firearms Holdings database. The study was done using surveys, expert estimates, as well as analogous comparison. This data was updated in March 2020 and reflects conditions in 2017.
Countries like Indonesia, Japan, Malawi, and several Pacific island states have fewer than 1 firearm per 100 residents. Countries like Denmark, Spain, Brazil, Syria, Romania, Poland, Haiti, Ireland, and Egypt have fewer than 10 firearms per 100 residents.
In countries wreaked with harsh civil conflicts like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, civilian gun ownership is estimated at fewer than 25 per 100 residents. In war-ravaged Yemen, that rate is 53 per 100 civilians own firearms. In Canada, it is 35 per 100. In Mexico 13 per 100.
But the United States is a global outlier in civilian gun ownership at a staggering 121 firearms per 100 civilians, about double second place Falkland Island. Considering the U.S. is also an outlier in mass shootings — the U.S. accounted for 31% of all public mass shootings globally between 1966 and 2012, according to a 2015 study from the University of Alabama — more guns do not appear to be a panacea for gun violence.
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