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Survey: Americans own 46 percent of world’s 1 billion guns

A handgun being placed in a lock box. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Thomas Dow)
July 09, 2018

There are more than 1 billion firearms in the world today, of which 46 percent are owned by Americans, according to a recent survey.

And, 857 million guns are owned by civilians, the survey says.

A survey conducted by the Small Arms Survey in June reports that American civilians own “more than those held by civilians in the other top 25 countries combined.”

The study’s author, Aaron Karp, said: “The key to the United States, of course, is its unique gun culture. American civilians buy an average of 14 million new firearms every year, and that means the United States is an overwhelming presence on civilian markets.”

The report said the numbers include legal and illegal firearms in civilian hands, ranging from improvised craft weapons to factory-made handguns, rifles, shotguns and, in some countries, even machine guns, TIME reported.

The estimate of more than 1 billion firearms worldwide at the end of 2017 also includes 133 million such weapons held by government military forces and 22.7 million by law enforcement agencies.

The study report said that while the United States was dominant in civilian ownership in 2007 and 2017, the report said the U.S. is only fifth today in military firearms holdings, behind Russia, China, North Korea and Ukraine. It is also fifth in law enforcement holdings, behind Russia, China, India and Egypt.

“We don’t advocate disarmament. We are not against guns. 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,” Small Arms Survey Director Eric Berman explained.

According to the report, the countries with the largest estimated number of civilian-held legal and illegal firearms at the end of 2017 were the United States with 393.3 million, India with 71.1 million, China with 49.7 million, Pakistan with 43.9 million and Russia with 17.6 million.

Karp said the more important number is the estimated rate of civilian firearms holdings per 100 residents — and in that table, India, China and Russia rank much lower than the U.S. and outside the top 25, while Pakistan ranks 20th.

At the top of the ranking are Americans, who own 121 firearms for every 100 residents. They are followed by Yemenis at 53, Montenegro and Serbia with 39, Canada and Uruguay at about 35; and Finland, Lebanon and Iceland at around 32.