There are over 1 billion firearms in the world today, including 857 million in civilian hands — with American men and women the dominant owners, according to a firearm study released Monday.
The Small Arms Survey says 393 million of the civilian-held firearms, 46 percent, are in the United States, which is “more than those held by civilians in the other top 25 countries combined.”
“The key to the United States, of course, is its unique gun culture,” the report’s author, Aaron Karp, said at a news conference. “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.
Karp said the new global estimate is significantly higher than the 875 million firearms estimated in the last survey in 2007, and the 650 million civilian-held firearms at that time — mostly due to increasing civilian ownership.
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.
The Small Arms Survey released its study to coincide with the third U.N. conference to assess progress on implementing a 2001 program known as Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms, which includes marking weapons so they can be traced. The conference opened Monday and ends June 29.