Gun ownership varies significantly around the world. More than 175 of the world's countries allow their citizens to own firearms—though most have specific regulations on ownership, such as banning certain types of firearms. Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States have gone one step further and made gun ownership a constitutional right. That said, even those countries may place limits on certain types of firearms, such as when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a temporary ban on certain assault rifles and high-capacity magazines from 1994-2004. On the other hand, civilian ownership of firearms is banned outright in North Korea and Eritrea.
The most recent comprehensive survey of gun ownership worldwide was released in 2017 by the Small Arms Survey, which tallied the number of firearms (registered and unregistered) owned by civilians, the military, and law enforcement agencies for each country in the survey. The results were illuminating, though not entirely surprising for many experts on firearms policy:
Top 10 Countries with Highest Gun Ownership (Civilian guns owned per 100 people):
With 120.5 civilian-owned firearms per 100 people, the United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world—nearly double that of the second-place country, in fact. Civilians owned an estimated 393,347,000 total firearms in the United States in 2017 (measured against a 2017 population of 326,474,000). While many U.S. residents own no guns at all, many others own multiple guns—the end result of which is that the U.S. is home to more guns than people. An ABC News article about the survey pointed out that the U.S. has "less than 5% of the world's population, but 40% of the world's civilian-owned guns." Given the ongoing frequency of gun violence in the United States, particularly gun-enabled suicides and mass shootings in schools, places of worship, and businesses, many people believe that gun laws should be revised and tightened. However, gun control is a highly politicized issue in the U.S., which makes nationwide reforms difficult to pass.
Some of the countries with the most restrictive firearm laws are China, India, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam. Taiwan and Indonesia have the lowest gun ownership rates possible, with zero civilian firearms per 100 people. Guns, however, are not banned in either of these countries. Taiwan only allows shotguns, handguns, and regular rifles, and a background check and license are required for all guns. In Indonesia, firearms are sold and handled by the Weapons Officers of the Indonesian National Police. Indonesian law requires a background check, no ties or connections to radical groups, and a completed firearms safety class on top of other necessary qualifications.