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Civilians own almost one billion guns


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Civilian ownership up 32 per cent in ten years.

West Midlands police

West Midlands police


“When we speak of firearms, increasingly we speak of the people,” a researcher told a press conference.

The Small Arms Survey global firearms study, which studied more than 230 countries, released in June estimates civilians own 85 per cent of the world’s 1.013 billion guns (a 17 per cent increase over the last ten years), augmented by the USA’s permissive gun culture.

Civilian ownership has swelled 32 per cent over the same time period.

The research papers estimate just 2.2 per cent of guns are owned by law enforcement agencies, despite increasing militarisation of the police in response to heightened terror threats.  

The United States has four per of the world’s population, but its civilians hold almost 40 per cent of the world’s firearms

Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, Small Arms Survey senior researcher Aaron Karp said: “The biggest force pushing up gun ownership around the world is civilian ownership in the United States. It’s unusual in that ordinary people can buy very powerful guns that aren’t available in a lot of other countries.

“Above all they’re buying them probably because they can.

“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.”

But he pointed out the US is not dominant in the military or law enforcement categories.

Anna Alvazzi del Frate, Small Arms Survey director of programmes added in general wealthier countries outstrip developing countries in gun ownership, although this may suggest a different distribution in the kinds of guns civilians own.  

“What we see is that the countries with the highest level of firearm violence, they don’t rank high in terms of ownership per person. There is no direct correlation between the firearm ownership and levels of violence.

“But the correlation exists with firearms suicides and it is strong. Actually it can be used at least in western countries as a proxy measurement.”  

Civilian firearm ownership rates vary greatly across the world, with about 121 firearms for every 100 residents in the United States, 53 in Yemen, 39 in Montenegro and Serbia alike, and 35 in Canada and Uruguay, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, residents in countries such as Indonesia and Japan hold less than one firearm per 100 people.

The numbers include guns owner by private security firms, paramilitaries and gangs- but the report says these groups hold just a tiny fraction of the total.

Although the estimate for law enforcement firearms is lower than for 2006 (22.7 million down from 25 million), researchers say they believe this is because governments are becoming less transparent and also because previous studies included smaller agencies such as wildlife management and customs.

But the types of firearms used by law enforcement agencies appear to be changing more rapidly than those of military services, also becoming more alike to military armament.

“Law enforcement small arms present a contradiction of visibility and obscurity. In most parts of the world, law enforcement weapons are the most commonly seen of all small arms. But what is easily observed individually can be opaque collectively,” the report said.

“Unarmed policing appears to be becoming rarer, apparently in response to the need to match more powerful firearms in criminal hands and to counter terrorism.

“For example, the Solomon Islands and American Samoa began to acquire police firearms in 2013 and 2014, respectively China is the largest example of a country where police, most of whom previously kept firearms stored for emergencies, have begun to patrol with them as well.

“With types of firearms in police service changing in many countries, law enforcement fire power also appears to be escalating.

“Assault rifles and sub-machine guns are no longer exceptional police armament; instead they are part of a global trend of police militarization.

“The process is partially documented in the United States, where the US Department of Defense transferred 90,365 weapons—mostly assault rifles—to local police forces in recent years. In Germany city police forces are replacing sub-machine guns (which use pistol ammunition) with higher-calibre semi-automatic assault rifles.”

The Small Arms Survey estimate for England and Wales is 0.23 per police officer, although it notes authorised firearms officers carry about five firearms each.

The researchers believe the results of the study are an underestimate

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The figures are coming from "Estimates" That is very scientific and could never be replied upon.

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"What we see is that the countries with the highest level of firearm violence, they don’t rank high in terms of ownership per person. There is no direct correlation between the firearm ownership and levels of violence."


This supports many US Gun Rights activists in their claim that when a population is disarmed by a government the law abiding majority are the ones that follow such legislation with the criminals and organised gangs not taking a blind bit of notice leaving effectively a disarmed majority unable to protect themselves.

With our own firearm rates I remember reading statistics that we have seen a rise in firearm related crime since the various bans were introduced- this has been especially true for Australia which has seen a large rise in 'home invasions' (aggravated burglaries) the owners being unable to effectively protect themselves or their families from attack.

I'm not some gun nut who would push for a second amendment in the UK but licencing is the key, many other societies operate less stringent firearms legislation with many more people owning firearms, sport shooting, hunting etc that have far less rates of murder and violent crime. 

Our suicide rate in the UK at the moment is high, speaking as a BTP Cop I've never attended as many fatalities or as many mental health incidents where suicide has been the key factor as I have these past three years or so.

Assault rifles and sub-machine guns are no longer exceptional police armament; instead they are part of a global trend of police militarization.


This I fear is an issue we face in the UK in our 'All or nothing' approach to counter terrorism and AFO style of policing. Why do we need what in any other western jurisdiction would equate to a SWAT Officer guarding key locations with long arm, black combat uniform, baseball cap/helmet? It isn't necessary and frankly is alarming to see- why can't we have standard uniformed beat officers carrying side arms as seen in every other jurisdiction world wide? Travel to Hong Kong and you see beat officers on foot patrol carrying a revolver. In Spain you'll find local policia employed by the mayor in smart patrol uniforms with a pistol on their hips and from what I can tell their primary job equates to what we would give to a council/traffic warden. 

Edited by Radman
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