Countries with Gun Control 2023

Gun control is defined as laws and policies that regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, and use of firearms. In most nations, including the United States, some level of gun control already exists. However, different nations around the world have very different stances on gun control, ranging from countries where guns are illegal and countries where the police don't carry guns to countries which have no gun control laws at all.

Gun control is a hotly debated issue in many countries around the world. This is particularly true in the United States, one of only three countries (along with Mexico and Guatemala) in which the right to bear arms is written into the constitution. Guns are deeply ingrained in American culture, which leads the world in gun ownership—a 2018 study determined the US was home to only 5% of the world's population but a full 40% of the world's civilian-owned guns. But the US also experiences the highest rate of firearm deaths, gun violence, and mass shootings of any developed country.

Countries with Permissive Gun Control Laws:

Several nations have what are known as permissive laws, which dictate that gun licenses are distributed on a "shall-issue" basis to anyone that meets the legal requirements of the country.

Countries with Restrictive Gun Control Laws:

In nations with restrictive gun control laws, authorities give out permits on a "may-issue" basis. This typically means that a person applying for a permit or license to own a gun must demonstrate a need for owning the gun.

Countries with Strict Gun Control Laws:

In the strictest countries, it is extremely difficult or even impossible for the average citizen to legally possess a gun. In many such "no-issue" countries, only the police and military are allowed to possess guns.

Gun control laws by country

United States

Gun laws in the United States are quite complex. The right to "keep and bear arms" is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the US constitution, and is generally interpreted as granting individuals the right to own firearms. However, because gun laws are issued on not only the federal level, but also the state and local levels, the specifics of precisely which guns one can own and the manner in which they can be purchased and used varies from place to place and state to state.

Gun laws in the US are generally regarded as permissive. Gun ownership is open to any person over the age of 18 so long as they are not "prohibited" individuals, which the US legal codes defines as follows:

People who are prohibited to own guns in the US:

  • Individuals who are under indictment for crimes they have committed
  • Individuals who are currently fugitives from justice
  • Individuals who have been convicted of a felony or any other crime punishable by a year or more in prison
  • Individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence, even as a misdemeanor
  • Individuals who have been diagnosed as mentally unfit to own firearms
  • Individuals who are under a restraining order
  • Individuals who have been dishonorably discharged from military service
  • Individuals who are residing in the United States illegally

Firearms in the US fall into two categories. First are Title I, GCA firearms. This category includes all handguns and most long guns with standard-length barrels. The second class is Title II, NFA firearms. This category includes guns with full-auto firing capability (machine guns), short-barreled rifles and shotguns, very large caliber weapons, detachable sound suppressors (silencers), and other less typical weapons.

Federal vs state gun laws in the United States

On a federal level, non-prohibited individuals seeking to purchase a gun are not required to obtain a gun license (though some states may require one) or prove a need for the firearm. Individuals may possess handguns at age 18 and purchase them from a federally licensed dealer at age 21, while "long guns" (rifles and shotguns, essentially) have no age limit for possession and may be purchased by those aged 18 or higher. New firearms must be purchased from a licensed dealer (FFL) and require a background check. Used firearms must be purchased through an FFL if the weapon will be shipped across state lines. Used sales in which the buyer and seller are located in the same state are regulated by state-level guidelines.

Federal law in the United States places no limits on the number of firearms an individual may own. Moreover, while the amount of ammo an individual can purchase at one time may be limited in some scenarios, the total amount of ammunition an individual can own is also unlimited. Whether one may carry weapons in public, either openly or concealed, is regulated at the state and local level.

In all aspects of gun law, state regulations are often more strict than national laws. For example, while the federal government has no national registry of gun owners (and is in fact prohibited by law from establishing one), many states do have a registry. Also, NFA weapons are more tightly regulated in most states (and prohibited in some), with stricter requirements for purchase, registration, and ownership. Machine guns manufactured after 1985 are particularly restricted. This has caused a massive increase in the aftermarket price of machine guns manufactured in 1985 or earlier, which are subject to fewer ownership restrictions.


Guns are tightly regulated in Australia, where the government passed the 1996 National Firearms Agreement in response to a number of high-profile mass shootings and followed up with additional gun controls in subsequent years. State and territory laws also come into play. Gun owners in Australia must hold a firearms license and demonstrate legitimate need for the weapon, and each gun is registered to the owner via its serial number. Firearms in Australia fall into six categories:

  • Category A — Basic rifles, shotguns, and air rifles (including semi-auto air rifles)
  • Category B — Bolt-action, pump-action and lever-action rifles, muzzle-loaders made after 1900, and lever-action shotguns that hold up to five rounds.
  • Category C(Restricted to specific use cases) Semi-auto rifles that hold up to 10 rounds, pump-action and self-loading shotguns that hold up to five rounds.
  • Category D(Restricted to government agencies, primary producers, and professional shooters) All shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds, all semi-auto rifles that hold more than 10 rounds.
  • Category H(Additional requirements, including 6-month probationary period and mandatory fingerprint record) Handguns up to .45 caliber.
  • Category R/E(Largely prohibited) Fully automatic machine guns and self-loading rifles, rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and other military-style weapons.
  • Additionally, any weapon of any category that visually resembles an assault rifle may be reclassified as Category D or R/E.

A 2016 research poll determined that 6% of Australians felt the country's gun control laws were too strict, with 44% feeling the laws were adequate and 45% feeling they were not restrictive enough (5% had no opinion). These ratios held largely true across both liberal and conservative political affiliations.


Gun laws in Canada are notably more restrictive than those in the United States, though not nearly as restrictive as those in Japan or Australia. Potential gun owners are required to obtain a license (PAL), for which they must pass a firearms safety course (and, if applicable, a hunting-specific course), a background check, and a personal interview. The license must be renewed every five years. Only non-restricted firearms may be used to hunt.

Most rifles and shotguns may be purchased with a PAL, and an upgraded "Restricted PAL" (RPAL) with more stringent requirements can be obtained by individuals wishing to purchase restricted firearms. Permits for handguns are difficult to obtain and are generally issued only to police and security personnel or individuals whose professions may cause them to encounter dangerous wild animals. Guns in Canada are divided into four main categories:

  • Non-RestrictedPAL required — Long guns at least 660 mm (26 in) in length and semi-automatic rifles at least 470 mm (18.5 in).
  • RestrictedRPAL and authorization to transport (ATT) required — Most handguns, most semi-automatics, and any firearms manufactured to have barrels shorter than 470 mm (18.5 in) or an overall length of less than 660 mm (26 in). Also, multiple variations of the High Standard Model 10 (HS10) semi-automatic shotgun.
  • Prohibited — Handguns with barrels shorter than 105 millimeters (4.1 in) or which fire .25- or .32-caliber ammunition, any rifle or shotgun with a sawn-off barrel and most with a "bullpup" design, full-auto firearms, sound suppressors, most military firearms such as the AK-47 and the FN-FAL, tasers and other handheld firearms, and several additional specific models of firearm such as the ArmaLite AR-10, the SIG SG 550, and the CZ Scorpion EVO 3.
  • AntiqueNo license required — Most long guns manufactured before 1898.


While most Israeli citizens are required to serve 24-32 months in the military (typically age 18-20), once a person finishes their military service, gun ownership is somewhat restricted. Firearm ownership and operation requires a license, which can only be obtained through a detailed application process. Applicants must have lived in Israel for at least three years; must undergo a background check of their medical health, mental health, and criminal record; must give a legitimate reason why they need to own a firearm; and must pass a firearms proficiency training course. All requirements must be repeated every three years to maintain the license.

Once obtained, firearms must be stored in a locked gun safe. Ammunition sales are rationed, with individuals allowed to purchase 50 cartridges annually (though cartridges used at a shooting range can be replenished). Individuals who can prove a need to do so and are members in good standing of shooting clubs can gain permission to own more and additional types of firearm. Those with a license to own a handgun are allowed to carry them openly or concealed.


Guns are very tightly regulated in Japan. Even police in Japan rarely carry guns, and are instead trained in judo and kendo. Civilians who wish to possess a gun may only do so for the purpose of hunting or sport shooting and must undergo an exhaustive series of aptitude tests, ranging from a marksmanship test in which one must score 95% or better to a mental health evaluation and background checks that include interviews with friends and family members. Moreover, the gun license expires after three years, requiring the gun owner to complete the entire process from scratch again.

Once a person in Japan has obtained a gun license, they may legally purchase a shotgun—handguns are prohibited and a license-holder cannot purchase a rifle until they have maintained their gun license for ten years. Guns and ammunition must be stored in two separate locked containers, and may only be transported to and from locations where they will be used for their legally defined purpose (such as a shooting range or hunting site). Ammunition sales operate on a one-for-one model, with the buyer required to turn in old cartridges or shells in order to purchase new ones.

While the degree of gun control present in Japan may strike citizens of more gun-friendly countries as strange, proponents point to the fact that in 2014, only six gun deaths occurred in all of Japan (2014 population 127.3 million). The United States (2014 population 318.4 million) recorded 33,599 during that same time.


Norway requires prospective firearm owners to provide a justification for the weapon, but as in many countries, hunting and sport-shooting are acceptable reasons. Rifles and shotguns can be purchased by individuals aged 16 or older, and handguns may be purchased by those aged 21 or older. Firearms must be stored in a gun safe, and the police can inspect the safe with 48 hours' notice. Most firearms owned in Norway are used for hunting purposes and so are shotguns or semi-automatic or bolt-action rifles.

Automatic weapons are banned in Norway except for collectors (who may not fire the weapons without specific permission). High-caliber handguns are also prohibited, though handguns of more modest calibers used in shooting competitions are legal. The overall number of guns a person may own is also limited, typically to one gun per caliber for non-professional shooters. In contrast to US law, sound suppressors are unregulated in Norway, the reason being that they help reduce the environmental impact of gun use and result in a more pleasant shooting experience.

United Kingdom

Automatic firearms and many semi-automatic firearms are banned in the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland, which has its own gun laws). Handguns of the breech-loading variety are also strictly regulated. As in many countries, firearms in the UK are classified into different types, each requiring a different gun license, which must be renewed every five years.

  • Section 1Firearms certificate (FAC) required — Bolt-action rifles, some semi-automatic rifles, any shotguns too robust to meet Section 2 classifications.
  • Section 2Shotgun certificate (SGC) required — Shotguns with barrels at least 61 cm (24 in) long, a bore of less than 5.1 cm (2 in), and a maximum magazine size of two shells (plus one in the chamber).
  • Section 5Prohibited except with a Section 5 license from the governmental Home Office — Any firearms that cannot fit into Sections 1 or 2, including fully automatic firearms, center-fire semi-auto and pump-action rifles, rockets and mortars, any handguns that use ammunition cartridges, tasers and other electric shock devices, tear gas and pepper spray, and any firearm camouflaged as a mundane item such as a cane or cell phone.
Notes: 1.) Handguns: Countries marked "specific uses" allow handguns for hunting, protection, and/or security use only. 2.) Registration: Countries marked "firearm-dependent" have different regulations for different types of firearm (pistol, sport rifle, semi-automatic rifle, automatic rifle, etc.) 3.) Concealed carry: Ireland legally allows concealed carry for those with a valid permit, but no evidence exists that any such permits have been issued.

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Which countries have the most gun control?

The most restrictive gun control requires applying to authorities to show a need for a gun. Argentina, Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Germany, Canada, and the Czech Republic have this law.

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