US citizens own 40% of all guns in world - more than next 25 top-ranked countries combined, study suggests

Carol Schaeffer
Semi-automatic AR-15's are for sale in Orem, Utah: Getty

American citizens now own 40 per cent of all guns in the world - more than the next 25 top-ranked gun ownership countries combined - with the number only set to grow, according to new research.

According to a decade-long survey released by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, not only do Americans own the highest number of guns per capita, but also between 2006 and 2017, US gun owners acquired some 122 million new guns. That represented more than half of the 207 million new civilian-owned firearms around the world during that time.

“The biggest force pushing up gun ownership around the world is civilian ownership in the United States,” said Aaron Karp, one of the authors of the report.

Of the more than one billion firearms in the world, American citizens hold 393 million, for a population of roughly 326 million. According to the report, that is a gun ownership of 121 firearms per 100 civilians. The next highest rates are 53 in Yemen, 39 in Montenegro and Serbia, and 35 in Canada.

Japan and Indonesia on the other hand have reported rates of less than one firearm per 100 civilians.

“Ordinary American people buy approximately 14 million new and imported guns every year,” Mr Karp told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York.

Mr Karp identified lenient gun ownership laws as the culprit.

“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,” he said.

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Karp said that "most Americans guns are not registered" but that his team are confident in their figures. He added that the data shows a "significant increase" in gun purchases "from 10, 20, 30 years ago."

But Mr Karp stresses that registration requirements in the United States are very low and vary from state to state, so many kinds of firearms in the United States go unregistered.

”If you own a genuine machine gun, that has to be registered. New York State and Connecticut for example requires handguns and semi-automatic rifles to be registered. [Those states are] the exception. In most places in America you just walk into a store and buy a gun.”

Getting data on unregistered firearms can therefore be challenging, but Mr Karp said his team "worked hard" to arrive at the figure of 393 million firearms both registered and unregistered. “Some figures were higher, some were lower, but we feel confident in that number.”

Civilian firearms registration data was available for 133 countries and territories, and surveys conducted in 56 countries also contributed to the report.

Only 28 countries released information on their military stockpiles while 28 nations offered information the firearms owned by law enforcement agencies.