Gun politics

Gun politics
A pyre of confiscated smuggled weapons about to be set ablaze in Nairobi, Kenya

Gun politics addresses safety issues and ideologies related to firearms through criminal and noncriminal use. Gun politics deals with rules, regulations, and restrictions on the use, ownership, and distribution of firearms.



National sovereignty

Most nations hold the power to protect themselves, others, and police their own territory as a fundamental power vested by sovereignty. However, this power can be lost under certain circumstances: some Countries have been forced to disarm by other Countries, upon losing a war, or by having arms embargos or sanctions placed on them. Likewise, nations that violate international arms control agreements, even if claiming to be acting within the scope of their national sovereignty, may find themselves with a range of penalties or sanctions regarding firearms placed on them by other nations.


National and regional police and security services enforce their own gun regulations. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) supports the United States' International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) program "to aggressively enforce this mission and reduce the number of weapons that are illegally trafficked worldwide from the United States and used to commit acts of international terrorism, to subvert restrictions imposed by other nations on their residents, and to organized crime and narcotics-related activities.[1]

Worldwide politics and legislation

There are many areas of debate into what kinds of firearms should be allowed to be privately owned, if any, and how, where and when they may be used.


Firearm laws in Australia are enforced at a Federal and State level. Gun ownership is accessible only for those persons with 'genuine reasons' who can obtain a Permit to Acquire from local Police stations. 'Genuine Reasons' focus on primary production, licenced sport, animal control or employment requirements, and do not include 'personal protection.' In New South Wales (and similar in other States), firearm ownership is widely prohibited for convicted offenders. Gun ownership is low in metropolitan areas whose residents would generally not fulfill 'Genuine Reasons' requirements. Gun licences must be renewed frequently and expire automatically.

Firearm controls have been in place following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre. Gun ownership in Australia is not a wide social issue, and major political parties are generally supportive of pro-control legislation (Although parties such as the New South Wales Shooters Party, which represent pro-deregulation, have a small number of seats in State Parliaments).


All firearms in Brazil are required to be registered with the state. The minimum age for ownership is 25[2] and it is generally illegal to carry a gun outside a residence.[3] The total number of firearms in Brazil is thought to be around 17 million[3] with 9 million of those being unregistered.[2] Some 39,000 people died in 2003 due to gun-related injuries nationwide.[3] In 2004, the number was 36,000.[2] Although Brazil has 100 million fewer citizens than the United States, and more restrictive gun laws, there are 25 percent more gun deaths;[4] other sources indicate that homicide rates due to guns are approximately four times higher than the rate in the United States.[5] Brazil has the second largest arms industry in the Western Hemisphere.[5] Approximately 80 percent of the weapons manufactured in Brazil are exported, mostly to neighboring countries; many of these weapons are then smuggled back into Brazil.[5] Some firearms in Brazil come from police and military arsenals, having either been "stolen or sold by corrupt soldiers and officers."[5]

In 2005, a referendum was held in Brazil on the sale of firearms and ammunition to attempt to lower the number of deaths due to guns. Material focused on gun rights in opposition to the gun ban was translated from information from the National Rifle Association, much of which focused on US Constitutional discussions focused around the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.[4] Although the Brazilian Government, the Catholic Church, and the United Nations, among others, fought for the gun ban, the referendum failed at the polls, with 64% of the voters voting no.[2]


The stated intent of Canadian firearms laws are to control firearms so as to improve public safety. The various pieces of legislation and Rights bills since the Magna Carta and the 1689 English Bill of Rights provide Canadians with limited access to firearms.

Currently, every firearm is required by law to be registered in Canada. Licensing provisions of the Fireams Act ensure proper training and safe storage.

Users must possess a licence, called a "possession and acquisition licence (PAL)". A firearms safety course must be passed prior to applying for a PAL. A non-resident (i.e., non-Canadian) can have a "non-resident firearms declaration" confirmed by a customs officer, which provides for a temporary 60-day authorization to have a firearm in Canada.[6] There are three categories of firearms for purposes of Canadian law: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Restricted and prohibited weapons may actually be owned and used in limited circumstances.[7]


Gun ownership in the People's Republic of China is heavily regulated by law. Generally, private citizens are not allowed to possess guns. Guns can be used by law enforcement, the military and paramilitary, and security personnel protecting property of state importance (including the arms industry, financial institutions, storage of resources, and scientific research institutions). Civilian ownership of guns is largely restricted to authorised, non-individual entities, including sporting organisations, authorised hunting reserves and wild life protection, management and research organizations. The chief exception to the general ban for individual gun ownership is for the purpose of hunting.[8] Individuals who hold hunting permits can apply to purchase and hold firearms for the purpose of hunting.[9] Illegal possession or sale of firearms may result in a minimum punishment of 3 years in prison, with the maximum being the death penalty.[10]

Gun ownership in Hong Kong is tightly controlled and possession are mainly in the hands of law enforcement, military and private security firms (providing protection for jewelers and banks). Firearms control was inherited during British rule and more or less retained today. Under the Section 13 of Cap 238 Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance, unrestricted firearms and ammunition requires a license.[11] Those found in possession without a license could be fined HKD$100,000 and imprisonment for up to 14 years.[12]

East Timor

Under East Timorese law, only the military and police forces may legally possess, carry and use firearms. However, despite these laws, East Timor has many problems with illegally armed militias, including widespread violence in 2006 which resulted in over 100,000 people being forced from their homes, as well as two separate assassination attempts on the Prime Minister and President in early 2008.

However, in late June 2008, the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmão, introduced a proposed gun law to Parliament for "urgent debate", pushing back scheduled budgetary discussions. The new law, which would allow civilians to own guns, sparked heated scenes in the East Timorese parliament between the parliamentarians who support the new law and those who oppose it. The United Nations, which has a peacekeeping force deployed in the nation, also expressed concern over the new law.[13]


Gun laws in Honduras took official form under the Act on the Control of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Material of 2000, which sets limitations on what firearms and calibers are permitted and which are prohibited for civilian use.[14] In April of 2002, the National Arms Registry was formed, requiring all citizens to register their firearms with the Ministry of Defense.[15] In 2003, a ban on certain assault weapons was passed restricting citizens from possessing high-powered weapons such as the AK-47 and the M-16, among other assault rifles.[16] In 2007, an additional decree suspended the right to openly carry a firearm in public as well as limiting the amount of firearms allowed per person.[17]


Gun ownership in India is a privilege under the Arms Act of 1959.[18] The Arms Act of 1959 and the Arms Rules of 1962 were derived from the text of the Indian Arms Act of 1876 created by the British Rulers in view of the 1857 rebellion against the East India company.[19]

To obtain a license to own a firearm, a person has to prove that there exists "threat to life."[citation needed] Once a license is obtained, there are several restrictions on caliber (9mm, .303 British .45 ACP are prohibited along with several other calibers) and types of firearms (semiautomatic rifles, short barrel shotguns, and automatic weapons are not allowed for civilians).[citation needed] A license is limited to three firearms under section 3 of the Arms Act 1959.[19] Under the wake of terror the government is considering making the rules even more stringent.[citation needed] In response to increased governmental regulations, Indians on the online forum Indians for Guns organized to form the National Association for Gun Rights India (NAGRI) to protect and increase their ability to obtain and use firearms for self-defense against street crime and terrorism.[18]

India has won an Olympic Gold medal in the 10m air gun category.[citation needed] It also has several good shooters in the trap and skeet shooting areas like Maharaja Dr. Karni Singh, Raja Randhir Singh, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. However, only "renowned shots" as defined under the Arms Act are allowed to import firearms, that too after painstaking permissions from the authorities.


It is forbidden in Israel to own any kind of firearm, including air pistols and rifles, without a firearms license. Israel Defense Forces officers honorably discharged with the rank of non-commissioned officer, reservists honorably discharged with the rank of regimental commander, ex-special forces enlisted men, retired police officers with the rank of sergeant, retired prison guards with the rank of squadron commander, licensed public transportation drivers transporting a minimum of five people, and full-time dealers of jewelery or large sums of cash or valuables, Civil Guard volunteers, and residents of militarily strategic buffer zones considered essential to state security are eligible for licenses allowing them to possess one handgun. Reservists honorably discharged with the rank of regimental commander are also eligible for licences allowing them to possess one rifle. Licensed hunters may possess one shotgun, and licensed animal-control officers are allowed to possess two rifles. Civil Guard snipers may posess one rifle. To legally own a gun as a souvenir, prize, inheritance, or award of appreciation from the military, an individual must first present proper documentation that they are about to receive it. Permits for gun collectors are extremely rare, and typically only given to ex-high ranking officers. To obtain a gun license, an applicant must be at least 21 years old and a resident of Israel for at least three consecutive years, have no criminal record, be in good health, have no history of mental illness, pass a weapons-training course, and demonstrate a basic knowledge of spoken and written Hebrew. Gun licenses must be renewed every three years. Firearms permits are given only for personal use, not for business in the firearms sale. Gun owners may purchase a maximum of fifty rounds a year, except for those shot at firing ranges.

Residents of Israeli settlements in the West Bank are issued assault rifles and ammunition by the army, and are given civil defense training. However, the rifles and munitions are property of the army, and may be confiscated at any time.

Members of officially recognized shooting clubs (practical shooting, Olympic shooting) are eligible for personal licenses allowing them to possess additional firearms (small bore rifles, handguns, air rifles and air pistols) after demonstrating a need and fulfilling minimum membership time and activity requirements. Unlicensed individuals are allowed supervised use of pistols at firing ranges. Following a number of cases of firearm-related suicides at firing ranges, private individuals who do not own firearms are required to present a certificate of good conduct and a physician's health declaration in order to shoot at commercial firing ranges.

Self-defense firearms may be carried in public, concealed or openly. Israel is notable for being a country with few places where firearms are off limits to licensed individuals (private premises, some government offices and institutions, courts).

In addition to private licenses of firearms, organizations can issue carry licenses to their members for activity related to that organization (e.g. security companies, shooting clubs, other workplaces).

Soldiers are allowed to carry their personal weapons and ammunition while on furlough during active service, uniformed or in civilian clothing.

There are about 200,000 private citizens and 154,000 security guards licensed to carry firearms. Another 34,000 Israelis who were previously licensed own guns illegally due to their failure to renew their gun license.[20][21]

The regulation for gun ownership became stricter following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Gun ownership in Israel is considered a privilege and not a right.

European Union

The 1991 Council Directive 91/477/EEC started the process of creating a new common legal system for gun owners in the EU, and introduced the European Firearms Pass for owners carrying firearms from one member state to another. In late 2007 the European Parliament and Council adopted a legislative report to tighten gun control laws and establish an extensive firearms database.[22] Passed with overwhelming backing, the tough new gun control rules were "hoped to prevent Europe from becoming a gun-friendly culture like the United States," in the words of the International Herald Tribune.[23] Certain countries such as the United Kingdom are unaffected as they maintain more stringent gun control laws than those effectively set as a minimum by the European Union.

In 2008 the resulting EU Directive 2008/51/EC provided the current common basis for national laws affecting hunters, target shooters and collectors, and member states were to have complied with it by 28 July 2010.[24]


Guns are divided into four categories:

  • Category A - Forbidden weapons: Pump action shotguns, fully automatic weapons, semi automatic and other rifles when considered military weapons as well as disguised weapons.
  • Category B - Weapons requiring permission: Semi automatic long weapons for sporting and hunting, repeating (non-pump action) and semi automatic shotguns and weapons shorter than 60 cm in overall length (i.e. pistols and revolvers). Semi automatic long weapon models are required to be verified as civilian-legal before this category applies to them, otherwise they are considered category A. A permission can either be a hunting license, gun ownership license ("Waffenbesitzkarte", for sporting, collecting and self-defense at home or work) or a carry permit ("Waffenpass", for carrying a loaded weapon outside of the owner's home or workplace), with the ownership license being the most common way to category B gun ownership.
  • Category C - Weapons requiring registration: Break action guns and all repeating rifles (i.e. bolt-, lever- or pump action). All Austrian citizens aged 18 or over can freely buy and own this type of weapon, but ownership has to be registered at a licensed dealer or gunsmith within 6 weeks of purchase.
  • Category D - Weapons free from registration: Non-repeating shotguns. Again, every Austrian or EEA citizen at the age of 18+ can buy and own this type of weapon without further registration or permission.

Czech Republic

Gun ownership in the Czech Republic is regulated by liberal gun laws compared to the rest of Europe. The last Gun Act was passed in 2001 and replaced the old law tightening the legislation slightly. Generally, handguns in the Czech Republic are available to anybody above 21 years of age (18 or 16 years in some cases) with a clean criminal history who passes tests about gun law and weapon knowledge and a medical inspection (which may optionally include psychological test). Gun ownership is also acceptable for self-defense purposes. Unlike most European countries the Czech gun law allow its citizens to carry a concealed weapon without having any specific reason. Sport shooting is the third most widespread sport in the country (after football (soccer) and ice hockey).


The ownership and use of firearms in Finland is regulated by the country's Firearms Act of 1998. Weapons are individually licensed by local police forces, however there is no limit on the number of licenses an individual may hold. Licenses are granted for recreational uses, exhibition or (under certain circumstances) professional use.

Outside of law enforcement, only specially trained security guards may carry loaded weapons in public. There is almost no regulation of air rifles or crossbows, except that it is illegal to carry or fire them in public. Guns are divided into 13 firearms categories and four action categories; some of which are limited. Automatic weapons, rockets and cannons (so called "destructive" weapons), for example, are generally not permitted.

The most recent update to gun law in Finland occurred in November 2007 when the government pre-empted a new EU directive prohibiting the carrying of firearms by under-18's by removing the ability of 15–18-year-olds to carry hunting rifles under parental guidance. In 2010, after controversial high school shootings in 2008 prompted government review, a constitutional law committee concluded that people over the age of 20 can receive a permit for semiautomatic handguns. Though individuals have to show a continuous activity in a handguns sporting for last two years before they can have a license for their own gun. Thus people wishing to have a handgun first have to shoot two years with someone else's gun or on commercial gun ranges that loan guns for use at their range.


In France, to buy a weapon, a hunting licence or a shooting sport licence is necessary.

Since 1939, guns are divided into eight categories :

  • Category 1 : Military firearms ; According to French law, a military firearm is a weapon which has a gauge used by the army since 1880. Some of them are prohibited, for example, full automatic weapons, but semi automatic assault weapons or handguns are authorised. Examples of military gauges into category 1 : 9mm, 5.56 NATO, 7.62x39, 7.62 NATO, .45 ACP, .50 BMG, .50 AE.
  • Category 2 : Military material
  • Category 3 : Protections against military gas
  • Category 4 : Civil firearms ; According to French law, a civil firearm is a semi automatic long gun with more of 2 rounds in magazine which don't use a military gauge, or a handgun (pistol or revolver, including all magazine capacities) which doesn't have a gauge used by the army. Examples of civil gauges into category 4 : .22 LR, .357 magnum, .44 magnum, .500 S&W.
  • Category 5 : Hunt firearms ; All long guns which doesn't use a military gauge, the manually operated long guns have a maximum magazine capacity of 10 rounds and the semi automatic long guns a maximum of 2 rounds.
  • Category 6 : Knives
  • Category 7 : Shooting firearms ; BB guns, etc...
  • Category 8 : Historic firearms ; firearms which have been designed before 1880 and black powder guns. (Excepted the firearms using black powder metallic cartridges).


Gun ownership in Germany is currently regulated by Federal Weapons Act (German: Waffengesetz), 1972; it extends previous gun legislation.

In 1945 the Allies commanded full disarmament of the country, private ownership of firearms was not allowed until after 1956 when restrictions effectively returned to 1928 policy. In 1972 the Federal Weapons Act revised much of the regulations.

Under this act Germany maintains a two-tier policy to firearm ownership. A firearms ownership license allows for the purchasing of weapons by those over the age of 18 who meet various competency/trustworthiness guidelines. Convicted felons, those with a mental disability or those deemed unreliable are denied licenses. The second tier is a firearms carry permit which allows concealed or open carry in public. The permits are usually only issued to individuals with a particular need; such as persons at risk, money couriers, etc. The laws apply to any weapons with a fire energy exceeding 7.5 Joule.


Gun usage is restricted to people 18 years old and up. The number of guns in their homes is not restricted (apart from handguns) however, an individual can not buy ammunition unless they have the Fire Arm Collector licence. Citizens may only have 3 common handguns at their homes. There are 3 licenses that allow individuals to carry guns in public: Hunting license; Shooting Sports license and Concealed Carry license.


Gun ownership in Poland is regulated by the Weapons and Munitions Act. A licence is required to keep and purchase firearms. As a result of very stringent controls, gun ownership in Poland is the lowest in the European Union, at one firearm per 100 citizens.[23] In order to get a gun license, one must:

  • Prove he/she is not a danger to himself nor to the general public by passing a psychological evaluation;
  • Submit an autobiography or curriculum vitae to the police;
  • Display that he/she has a clean criminal record;
  • Give a valid reason for wanting to own a gun, such as sport shooting or hunting. If the reason is self-defence, one must demonstrate why he/she believes his/her life is in danger;
  • Pass an exam in proper weapon handling (not required for members of PZSS and PZŁ).

The psychological evaluation must be repeated every 5 years. Some other weapons, such as crossbows, require the same license as is required for firearms.


Gun ownership in Slovakia is regulated by gun laws. Gun ownership is not fully acceptable for self-defense purposes because it is required to have specific reason. Generally guns in the Slovakia are available to anybody with a gun license and purchase permission above 21 with a clean criminal history. Air guns with muzzle energy up to 15 J, gas pistols and muzzle-loaded guns are available to anybody above 18 without permission. There is restriction in muzzle energy output - handguns up to 1000 J, rifles up to 6000 J. Fully automatic guns, silencers and (hollow-point bullet for self-defense purposes) are forbidden. A gun licence can be issued for 6 categories (A - gun-toting, B - gun-holding, C - gun-holding for work purposes, D - long guns for hunting, E - sporting guns, F - guns collecting)


In Slovenia gun ownership is regulated under the "Weapons Law" (Zakon o orožju). The ownership and purchase of firearms requires a specific reason: if one wants to have a gun for hunting or target shooting, a person must obtain a proof of their membership in a shooting sports organization. If one needs a weapon for self-defense one must "prove that his personal safety at risk to such an extent that in order to ensure the needed a weapon for security". Regardless of the reason, before applying for a gun permit one must receive a medical exam and a test on the knowledge of weapons. When keeping weapons at home the gun must be stored in a locked cabinet with ammunition stored in a separate location[25]



Gun ownership requires license and is regulated by the weapon law (Vapenlagen 1996:67) further regulations are found in in weapon decree (Vapenförordningen 1996:70). The law doesn't ban any specific firearms or weapons, it merely states the requirements to own one. Everything from pepperspray to full-automatic machine guns are technically legal, and license to civilians can be given in 'special' cases. Like the other Nordic countries Sweden has a high rate of gun ownership, due to the popularity of hunting. The weapons law doesn't apply to air guns and similar with a projectile energy less than 10 joules at the end of barrel. These require no license and may be bought by any person over 18 years. Breech-loading rifles manufactured before 1890 are exempt as well. The gun license is obtained from the Police, and one must be in good standing and at least 18 years old, but exceptions regarding age can be made. To apply one must either be a member in an approved shooting club for at least six months or pass a hunting examination (jägarexamen). The former is mostly used to legally acquire pistols for sport shooting and the latter for hunting rifles. A hunting examination must be passed to actually use a firearm for hunting. One can for instance acquire a shotgun license through a skeet shooting club but may only use it for clay pigeon shooting until an actual hunting examination have been passed. The minimum age for taking an hunting exam is 15 years. A person under 18 years may not own a firearm him- or herself, unless an exception have been made. A person with a gun license may legally under supervision lend his or her gun to a person at least 15 years and older. A person may be granted license to own up to six hunting rifles, ten pistols or a mix of eight rifles and pistols. Owning more firearms than this requires a valid reason. Firearms must be stored in an approved gun safe. Carry-permits are usually only given to armed guards, for civilians it's illegal to carry an firearm around unless between the home and shooting range. Self-defence-needs can in special circumstances permit a person to acquire a license. Another reason for gun ownership is collecting. A collector must have a clearly stated demarcation of the interest of the collection. To be a valid interest of collection it must be possible to obtain a complete collection, for example -British handheld weapons from before second world war-. A collector may start a second (or more) collection if he or she has collected for several years and shown a great interest in gun history. If the collection holds guns of criminal interest, such as pistols or sub machine-guns the police may demand a very high safety level on the keeping of the guns (such as security windows and vault doors). Guns can also be owned for affection value or as decoration. If ammunition for the guns are easy available they have to be made useless for shooting. Owning firearms is seen more of a privilege than a right.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) has low levels of gun ownership. However, this is only in mainland Great Britain. Firearms ownership is still very high in Northern Ireland. Private ownership of firearms is far more common and largely accepted in rural areas.[26] The gun crime rate rose between 1997 and 2004 but has since slightly receded,[27] while the number of murders from gun crime has largely remained static over the past decade.[28] Over the course of the 20th century, the UK gradually implemented tighter regulation of the civilian ownership of firearms through the enactment of the 1968, 1988, 1994 and 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Acts[29] leading to the current outright ban on the ownership of all automatic, and most self-loading, firearms in the UK. The ownership of breech-loading handguns is, in particular, also very tightly controlled and effectively limited (other than in Northern Ireland)[30] to those persons who may require such a handgun for the non routine humane killing of injured or dangerous animals. Each firearm must be registered on a Firearms Certificate (FAC) or shotgun certificate. These are issued by local police after the buyer demonstrates good reason for each firearm (e.g. hunting, pest control, or target shooting). Police may restrict the type and amount of ammunition held, and where and how the firearms are used.[31] Historically, most certificates approved for handguns listed "self-defence" as a reason. Since 1968 in mainland Britain, self-defense alone is not considered an acceptable "good reason" for firearm ownership (however use of a licensed firearm in self defense is often justified provided that the victim can prove they used necessary reasonable force or acted in fear of their life). Only in Northern Ireland is self-defense still accepted as a reason. The police should not amend, revoke (even partially) or refuse an FAC without stating a valid reason. (Section 29(1) of the 1968 Act gives the chief officer power to vary, by a notice in writing, any such condition not prescribed by the rules made by the Secretary of State. The notice may require the holder to deliver the certificate to the chief officer within twenty one days for the purpose of amending the conditions. The certificate may be revoked if the holder fails to comply with such a requirement.)

There are no major gun rights lobbyists in the United Kingdom and little debate exists about gun-control laws. The UK has a largely urbanised population and 'gun sports' are uncommon and in some cases illegal (for instance, Great Britain's pistol shooting team are banned from practising in Britain and instead practice in Switzerland).

Air rifles under 12 ft·lbf (16 J) and air pistols under 6 ft·lbf (8.1 J) can be purchased legally by anyone over the age of 18, and do not require a licence.[32]


It is illegal in Kenya to own any type of firearm without a valid gun ownership license as spelled out under the Firearms Act (Cap. 114) Laws of Kenya. Technically, anyone who is 12 years or older can apply to privately own a gun. However, such persons must provide in writing to the Chief Licensing Officer (CLO) stating genuine reason(s) for their need to privately own and carry a firearm. It remains at the discretion of the CLO to make a decision to award, deny or revoke a gun ownership license based on the reason(s) given. However, most importantly, anyone seeking to hold a gun license must pass the most stringent of background checks that probes into their past and present criminal, mental health and well as domestic violence records. Failure to pass one of these checks automatically bars one from being permitted to own a firearm. These checks are regularly repeated and must be continually passed for anyone to continue holding the gun license. Failure to pass any of these checks at any stage, means an automatic and immediate revocation of the issued license. Once licensed to own a gun, no permit is required in order to carry around a concealed firearm. In the last decade, Kenya has seen a huge influx of illegal firearms – mainly pistols and AK47 assault rifles – from the neighbouring war-torn nations in the Horn of Africa, notably Somalia and Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as from the conflict in Sudan and Northern Uganda. Some small arms from the conflict in the Great Lakes region have also found their way illegally into the major Kenyan cities.


During the Tokugawa period in Japan, starting in the 17th century, the government imposed very restrictive controls on the small number of gunsmiths in the nation, thereby ensuring the almost total prohibition of firearms.[33]

Japan, in the postwar period, has had gun regulation which is strict in principle, but the application and enforcement has been inefficient. Gun licensing is required, but is generally treated as only a formality. There are background check requirements, but these requirements are typically not enforced unless a specific complaint has been filed, and then background checks are made after the fact. As is common in Japan, "regulations are treated more as road maps than as rules subject to active enforcement. Japan is still a very safe country when it comes to guns, a reality that has less to do with laws than with prevailing attitudes".[34][35]

The weapons law begins by stating "No-one shall possess a fire-arm or fire-arms or a sword or swords", and very few exceptions are allowed.[34] The only types of firearms which a Japanese citizen may acquire is a rifle or shotgun. Sportsmen are permitted to possess rifles or shotguns for hunting and for skeet and trap shooting, but only after submitting to a lengthy licensing procedure.[36] Without a licence, a Japanese citizen may not even hold a gun in his or her hands.

The former ruling Liberal Democratic Party, in response to violent crimes by minors and gangsters, has called for rewriting the constitution to include new more stringent firearms control measures.[37] In January 2008 Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in a policy speech called for tighter regulations on firearms.[38]


Mexico has strict gun laws. Mexican citizens and legal residents may purchase new non-military firearms for self-protection or hunting only after receiving approval of a petition to the Defense Ministry, which performs extensive background checks. The allowed weapons are restricted to relatively low-caliber and can be purchased from the Defense Ministry only. "Military" firearms, including pistols with bores exceeding .38 caliber, and bb guns (but not pellet guns) require federal licenses and are regulated in a manner similar to that dictated by the U.S. National Firearms Act (NFA). The private sale of "non-military" firearms, however, is unregulated, and while these firearms are supposed to be registered with the government, in practice this is widely ignored. Laws dealing with the possession of "non-military" firearms are left to the states. Generally, "non-military" firearms may be kept in the home, but a license is required to carry them outside the home. President Felipe Calderón has recently called attention to the alleged problem of the smuggling of guns from the United States into Mexico, guns which are easily available both legally and illegally in the United States, and has called for increased cooperation from the United States to stop this illegal weapons trafficking.[39][40] Some dispute the assertion that a significant portion of illicit guns in Mexico actually come from the United States.[41]

New Zealand

New Zealand's gun laws are notably more liberal than other countries in the Pacific, focusing mainly on vetting firearm owners, rather than registering firearms or banning certain types of firearms. Firearms legislation is provided for in the Arms Act and its associated regulations, though stricter unofficial police and government policies also apply[citation needed].

Firearms in New Zealand fall into one of four categories:

Registration is not required for "A Category" firearms, but firearms in any other category require both registration and a "permit to procure" before they are transferred.

Except under supervision of a licence holder, owning or using firearms requires a firearms licence from the police. The licence is normally issued, under the conditions that the applicant has secure storage for firearms, attends a safety lecture and passes a written test. The police will also interview the applicant and two references (one must be a close relative and the other not related) to determine whether the applicant is "fit and proper" to have a firearm. The applicants residence is also visited to check that they have appropriate storage for firearms and ammunition. Having criminal associations or a history of domestic violence almost always lead to a licence being declined.

A standard firearms licence allows the use of "A Category" firearms. To possess firearms of another category they are required to get an endorsement to their licence. There are different endorsements for different classes of firearm but they all require a higher level of storage security, stricter vetting requirements and the applicant must have a 'special reason' for wanting the endorsement.

Air guns can be purchased by anybody over 16 (with a license) and unlicensed and unrestricted to persons over 18.

Firearms are not allowed to be carried outside of private property unless one is a hunter, a farmer, or a member of the military or police. Even officers of the New Zealand Police force rarely carry a pistol on their person. Instead, firearms, usually one or two pistols and a shotgun, are carried in squad cars, and in a highly secure mount. When firearms are discharged in public, the police often come under intense scrutiny from both media and public but are seldom dealt with, whereas an ordinary citizen excising their right to use 'reasonable force' (see Crimes Act 1961) to stop a home invasion are usually prosecuted.


While having a large number of civilian owned guns, Norway has a low rate of crimes which involve firearms.[citation needed] A large number of unregistered shotguns are still in private homes (est. 500.000)[citation needed], as shotguns were an "over the counter" product earlier until 1989, and no registration was required.


Serbia has relatively liberal weapon laws compared to the rest of the Europe. Serbia ranks on 2nd place on the List of countries by gun ownership. Weapons are regulated by "Weapons and Ammunition Law" (Zakon o oružju i municiji). In essence, people over 18 are allowed to own guns, but must be issued a permit. People with criminal history cannot be issued a permit. When at home, the guns must be kept in a locked box. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons are forbidden by Law.[42]

South Africa


Switzerland practices universal conscription, which requires that all able-bodied male citizens keep fully automatic firearms at home in case of a call-up. Every male between the ages of 20 and 34 is considered a candidate for conscription into the military, and following a brief period of active duty will commonly be enrolled in the militia until age or an inability to serve ends his service obligation.[43] During their enrollment in the armed forces, these men are required to keep their government-issued selective fire combat rifles and semi-automatic handguns in their homes.[44] Up until September 2007, soldiers also received 50 rounds of government-issued ammunition in a sealed box for storage at home.[45] In addition to these official weapons, Swiss citizens are allowed to purchase surplus-to-inventory combat rifles, and shooting is a popular sport in all the Swiss cantons. These facts aside, some Swiss gun laws are more restrictive than those in the US. Unlicensed persons are not permitted to carry weapons except under special certain circumstances such as travel to military training. Owners are legally responsible for third party access and usage of their weapons. Licensure is similar to other Germanic countries.[46] In a referendum in February 2011 voters rejected stricter gun control.[47]


Gun laws in Vietnam are generally referred to as restrictive. Citizens of Vietnam are restricted to owning a shotgun only, and this is only after a license has been issued. The individual applying for the license must provide valid reasoning for wanting the shotgun such as hunting, and must be at least 18 years of age. Handguns and automatic weapons are prohibited.[48]

United States

The issue of firearms has, at times, taken a high-profile position in United States culture and politics.[49] Michael Bouchard, Assistant Director/Field Operations of ATF, estimates that 5,000 gun shows take place each year in the United States.[50] Incidents of gun violence in 'gun-free' school zones have ignited debate[51] involving gun politics in the United States.

Support for gun control in America has been steadily dropping. Currently, the American public strongly opposes attempts to ban gun ownership, and is divided on attempts to limit gun ownership. A 2011 Gallup poll revealed that 26% of the population supported a total ban on handguns — the lowest level since the poll was first taken in 1959 (when support for a total ban was 60% of the population). This same poll revealed that 43% of Americans in 2011 preferred more restrictive gun laws, compared to 78% when the question was first asked in the 1990 version of the poll.[52] A 2009 CNN poll found even lower levels of support for gun laws: in this poll, only 39% favored more restrictive laws. The poll indicates that the drop in support (compared to 2001 polls) came from self-identified Independents, with levels of opposition among Democrats and Republicans remaining consistent.[53]

There is a sharp divide between gun-rights proponents[54] and gun-control proponents.[55] This leads to intense political debate over the effectiveness of firearm regulation.[56]

On the whole, Democrats are far more likely to support "stricter" gun control than are Republicans. According to a 2010 Harris Interactive survey, a 70% to 7% majority of Democrats favors "stricter" rather than "less strict" gun control, whereas Republicans are split 22% "stricter" to 42% "less strict" with 27% of Republicans and 14% of Democrats opting for "neither".[57]

The division of beliefs may be attributable to the fact that Republicans are more likely to own guns, according to General Social Surveys conducted during the last 35 years. The graphs, below, show that gun ownership has generally declined; however, Republicans — especially men — are far more likely to own guns.[58]

More recently in a 2008 survey completed by Gallup, there are large differences between Republicans and Democrats on the issues of gun ownership and control:[59]

  • More than half of Republicans report having a gun in their homes, while only about a third of Democrats report this.
  • Two in three Republicans say they are satisfied with the nation's laws or policies on guns. This percentage is much lower among Democrats, at 37%.
  • The strong majority of Democrats feel that gun laws in the United States should be stricter, while only about 4 in 10 Republicans feel this way. Forty-eight percent of Republicans feel gun laws should remain as they are at the present time.
Fig 44 - Do you have guns in your home - Men.JPG
Fig 45 - Do you have guns in your home - Women.JPG

Incidents of gun violence and self-defense have routinely ignited bitter debate. 12,632 murders were committed using firearms and 613 persons were killed unintentionally in 2007.[60] Surveys have suggested that guns are used in crime deterrence or prevention around 2.5 million times a year in the United States.[61][62][63][64] The American Journal of Public Health conducted a study that concluded "the United States has higher rates of firearm ownership than do other developed nations, and higher rates of homicide. Of the 233,251 people who were homicide victims in the United States between 1988 and 1997, 68% were killed with guns, of which the large majority were handguns."[65] The ATF estimated in 1995 that the number of firearms available in the US was 223 million.[66]

Some perceive that firearms registration– by making it easier for Federal agents to target gun owners for harassment and confiscation– constitutes an easily exploited encroachment upon individual personal privacy and property rights.[67][68][69][70]

In contrast, in a 2008 brief submitted to the United State Supreme Court, the Department of Justice advocated that reasonable regulation of weaponry has always been allowed by the Second Amendment in the interests of public safety.[71] In District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment secures an individual right to own and possess handguns in a home for self-defense. See below.

Fully automatic firearms are legal in most states, but have requirements for registration and restriction under federal law. The National Firearms Act of 1934 required approval of the local police chief, federally registered fingerprints, federal background check and the payment of a $200 tax for initial registration and for each transfer.[72] The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibited imports of all nonsporting firearms and created several new categories of restricted firearms. A provision of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 prohibited further registry of machine guns manufactured after it took effect.[73]

The result has been a massive rise in the price of machine-guns available for private ownership, as an increased demand chases the fixed, pre-1986 supply. For example, the Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine-gun, which may be sold to law enforcement for about $1,000,[74] costs a private citizen about $20,000.[75] This price difference dwarfs the $200 tax stamp.

Political scientist Earl R. Kruschke states, regarding the fully automatic firearms owned by private citizens in the United States, that "approximately 175,000 automatic firearms have been licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (the federal agency responsible for administration of the law) and evidence suggests that none of these weapons has ever been used to commit a violent crime. With the exception of two, which were used by law enforcement officers."[76]

District of Columbia v Heller

On June 26, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court held that American citizens have an individual right to own guns, as defined by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. In District of Columbia v. Heller,[77] the Court stated that an absolute firearm ban was unconstitutional.[78] The Court further determined that its decision in Heller does not impinge upon all existing statutes and regulations, such as those that prohibit felons and the mentally ill from owning or possessing firearms.[79]


Several studies have examined the correlations between rates of gun ownership and gun-related as well as overall homicide and suicide rates within various jurisdictions around the world.[80][81] Martin Killias, in a 1993 study covering 21 countries, found that there were substantial correlations between gun ownership and gun-related suicide and homicide rates. There was also a substantial though lesser correlation between gun ownership and total homicide rates.[82] A later 2001 Killias study however, reported that while there was a strong correlation between gun-related homicide of women and gun-related assaults against women; however, this was not the case for similar crimes against men and that " Interestingly, no significant correlations with total suicide or homicide rates were found, leaving open the question of possible substitution effects."[83] This study indicates correlation, but no causality. That is to say it could mean that the easier access to guns lead to more violence, or it could mean that larger amounts of violence lead to a higher level of gun ownership for self defense, or any other independent cause.

A study by Rich et al. on suicide rates in Toronto and Ontario and psychiatric patients from San Diego reached the conclusion that increased gun restrictions, while reducing suicide-by-gun, resulted in no net decline in suicides, because of substitution of another method — namely leaping.[84] Killias argues against the theory of complete substitution, citing a number of studies that have indicated, in his view "rather convincingly", that suicidal candidates far from always turn to another means of suicide if their preferred means is not at hand.[83]

Gun ownership as a means of resisting tyranny

Advocates for gun rights often claim that past totalitarian regimes passed gun control legislation, which was later followed by confiscation, with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during World War II, as well as some communist states being cited as examples.[85][86][87] Location and capture of firearms registration records has also long been a standard doctrine taught to military intelligence officers, and was widely practiced by German and Soviet troops during World War II in the countries they invaded.[88][89][90]

The Battles of Lexington and Concord, sometimes known as the Shot heard 'round the world, in 1775, were started in part because General Gage sought to carry out an order by the British government to disarm the populace.[91]

Gun control opponents often cite the example of the Nazi regime, claiming that once the Nazis had taken and consolidated their power, they proceeded to implement gun control laws to disarm the population and wipe out the opposition, and the genocide of disarmed Jews, gypsies, and other "undesirables" followed.[88][89][92] Historians have pointed out that before the preceding democratic Weimar Republic already had restrictive gun laws, which were actually liberalised by the Nazis when they came to power. According to the Weimar Republic 1928 Law on Firearms & Ammunition, firearms acquisition or carrying permits were “only to be granted to persons of undoubted reliability, and — in the case of a firearms carry permit — only if a demonstration of need is set forth.” The Nazis replaced this law with the Weapons Law of March 18, 1938, which was very similar in structure and wording, but relaxed gun control requirements for the general population. This relaxation included the exemption from regulation of all weapons and ammunition except handguns, the extension of the range of persons exempt from the permit requirement, and the lowering of the age for acquisition of firearms from 20 to 18. It did, however, prohibit manufacturing of firearms and ammunition by Jews.[93] Shortly thereafter, in the additional Regulations Against Jews' Possession of Weapons of November 11, 1938, Jews were forbidden from possession of any weapons at all.[92][93]

Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union did not abolish personal gun ownership during the initial period from 1918 to 1929, and the introduction of gun control in 1929 coincided with the beginning of the repressive Stalinist regime as part of Resolutions, 1918 Decree, July 12, 1920 Art. 59 & 182, Pen. code, 1926.

Widespread gun ownership in Iraq was a cause of concern to American military planners prior to the invasion of the country.[94]


In an extensive series of studies of large, nationally representative samples of crime incidents, criminologist Gary Kleck found that crime victims who defend themselves with guns are less likely to be injured or lose property than victims who either did not resist, or resisted without guns. This was so, even though the victims using guns typically faced more dangerous circumstances than other victims. The findings applied to both robberies and assaults.[95] Other research on rape indicated that although victims rarely resisted with guns, those using other weapons were less likely to be raped, and no more likely to suffer other injuries besides rape itself, than victims who did not resist, or resisted without weapons.[96] There is no evidence that victim use of a gun for self-protection provokes offenders into attacking the defending victim or results in the offender taking the gun away and using it against the victim.[97]

Kleck has also shown, in his own national survey, and in other surveys with smaller sample sizes, that the numbers of defensive uses of guns by crime victims each year are probably substantially larger than the largest estimates of the number of crimes committed of offenders using guns.[98] Thus, defensive gun use by victims is both effective and, relative to criminal uses, frequent. In a largely approving review of Kleck's book Point Blank (1991) in the journal Political Psychology, Joseph F. Sheley argues that Kleck sidesteps the larger political problem of the role of gun culture in contributing to the spread and effect of violence in the United States.[99]

The economist John Lott, in his book More Guns, Less Crime, states that laws which make it easier for law-abiding citizens to get a permit to carry a gun in public places, cause reductions in crime. Lott's results suggest that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms deters crime because potential criminals do not know who may or may not be carrying a firearm. Lott's data came from the FBI's crime statistics from all 3,054 US counties.[100]

Critics have asserted that Lott's county-based crime data were largely meaningless because they did not reflect actual rates of crime in all the counties that Lott studied, but rather the number of crimes occurring in whatever local jurisdictions (towns and cities) that happened to report their crime statistics to state authorities. Thus, some of the supposed crime drops that Lott attributed to the new carry laws could merely have been the result of fewer local police forces reporting crime statistics. Lott answered their assertions by publishing his study and noting that this fact was taken into account by using the same police agencies that reported their statistics both before and after the new concealed carry laws took effect.

The efficacy of gun control legislation at reducing the availability of guns has been challenged by, among others, the testimony of criminals that they do not obey gun control laws, and by the lack of evidence of any efficacy of such laws in reducing violent crime. The most thorough analysis of the impact of gun control laws, by Kleck, covered 18 major types of gun control and every major type of violent crime or violence (including suicide), and found that gun laws generally had no significant effect on violent crime rates or suicide rates.[101] In his paper, Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do not,[102] Although guns are frequently used in the U.S. in committing suicide, the overwhelming evidence compiled from the psychiatric literature is that the real culprit is untreated or poorly managed depression. In other countries, other methods of suicide are used at even higher rates than the U.S., so gun availability affects the method used but not overall suicide rates.[103][104] University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt argues that available data indicate that neither stricter gun control laws nor more liberal concealed carry laws have had any significant effect on the decline in crime in the 1990s. While the debate remains hotly disputed, it is therefore not surprising that a comprehensive review of published studies of gun control, released in November 2004 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was unable to determine any reliable statistically significant effect resulting from such laws, although the authors suggest that further study may provide more conclusive information.

Forty U.S. states have passed "shall issue" concealed carry legislation of one form or another. In these states, law-abiding citizens (usually after giving evidence of completing a training course) may carry handguns on their person for self-protection. Other states and some cities such as New York may issue permits. Only Illinois and the District of Columbia have explicit legislation forbidding personal carry. Vermont, Arizona, and Alaska do not require permits to carry concealed weapons, although Alaska retains a shall-issue permit process for reciprocity purposes with other states. Similarly, Arizona retains a shall-issue permit process,[105] both for reciprocity purposes and because permit holders are allowed to carry concealed handguns in certain places (such as bars and restaurants that serve alcohol) that non-permit holders are not.[106]

Many supporters of gun-rights consider self-defense to be a fundamental and inalienable human right and believe that firearms are an important tool in the exercise of this right. They consider the prohibition of an effective means of self defense to be unethical. For instance, in Thomas Jefferson’s "Commonplace Book," a quote from Cesare Beccaria reads, "laws that forbid the carrying of arms ... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes ... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."[68][107][108]

Domestic violence

Gun control advocates argue that the strongest evidence linking availability of guns to injury and mortality rates comes in studies of domestic violence, most often referring to the series of studies by Arthur Kellermann. In response to public suggestions by some advocates of firearms for home defense, that homeowners were at high risk of injury from home invasions and would be wise to acquire a firearm for purposes of protection, Kellermann investigated the circumstances surrounding all in-home homicides in three cities of about half a million population each over five years, and found that the risk of a homicide was in fact slightly higher in homes where a handgun was present, rather than lower. From the details of the homicides he concluded that the risk of a crime of passion or other domestic dispute ending in a fatal injury was much higher when a gun was readily available (essentially all the increased risk being in homes where a handgun was kept loaded and unlocked), compared to a lower rate of fatality in domestic violence not involving a firearm. This increase in mortality, he postulated, was large enough to overwhelm any protective effect the presence of a gun might have by deterring or defending against burglaries or home invasions, which occurred much less frequently. The increased risk averaged over all homes containing guns was similar in size to that correlated with an individual with a criminal record living in the home, but substantially less than that associated with demographic factors known to be risks for violence, such as renting a home versus ownership, or living alone versus with others.[109]

Critics of Kellermann's work and its use by advocates of gun control point out that since it deliberately ignores crimes of violence occurring outside the home (Kellermann states at the outset that the characteristics of such homicides are much more complex and ambiguous, and would be virtually impossible to classify rigorously enough), it is more directly a study of domestic violence than of gun ownership. Kellermann does in fact include in the conclusion of his 1993 paper several paragraphs referring to the need for further study of domestic violence and its causes and prevention. Researchers John Lott, Gary Kleck and many others dispute Kellermann's work.[110][111][112][113]

Kleck showed that no more than a handful of the homicides that Kellermann studied were committed with guns belonging to the victim or members of his or her household, and thus it was implausible that victim household gun ownership contributed to their homicide. Instead, the association that Kellermann found between gun ownership and victimization merely reflected the widely accepted notion that people who live in more dangerous circumstances are more likely to be murdered, but also were more likely to have acquired guns for self-protection prior to their death[114] Kleck and others argue that guns being used to protect property, save lives, and deter crime without killing the criminal accounts for the large majority of defensive gun uses.[115][116][117][118][119]

Armed forces' reserves and reservist training

In several countries, such as in Finland, firearm politics and gun control are directly linked on the armed forces' reserves and reservist training. This is especially true in countries which base their armies on conscription; since every able-bodied citizen is basically a soldier, they are expected to be able to handle the gun reasonably, and be able to practice for the time of need.

Switzerland is a noted example of a country in which, due to the country's conscription and militia traditions, firearm possession is widespread. Owing to Switzerland's history, all able-bodied male Swiss citizens aged between 21 and 50 (55 for officers) are issued assault rifles and ammunition in order to perform their annual military obligations. Because of this, Switzerland is one of the few nations in the world with a higher rate of firearm possession than the United States.[120] Also, Switzerland has a relatively low rate of gun crime.[120] The comparatively low level of violent crime, despite the liberal gun laws, is demonstrated by the fact that Swiss politicians rarely have the same level of police protection as their counterparts in the United States and other countries, as was noted following the fatal shooting of several government officials in the Swiss canton of Zug in September 2001.[121] Some authors argue that Switzerland's militia tradition of "every man a soldier" contributed to the preservation of its neutrality during the Second World War, when it was not invaded by Nazi Germany because the military cost to the Nazis would have been too high.[122][123][124] However, this claim has been disputed by historians who cite the existence of detailed invasion plans, which rated the overall Swiss defense capacity as low.[125][126]

Civil rights

Jeff Snyder is a spokesman for the view that gun possession is a civil right, and that therefore arguments about whether gun restrictions reduce or increase violent crime are beside the point: "I am not here engaged in...recommending...policy prescriptions on the basis of the promised or probable results [on crime]...Thus these essays are not fundamentally about guns at all. They are, foremost, about...the kind of people we intend to be...and the ethical and political consequences of decisions [to control firearms]."[127] He terms the main principle behind gun control "the instrumental theory of salvation:" that, lacking the ability to change the violent intent in criminals, we often shift focus to the instrument in an attempt to "limit our ability to hurt ourselves, and one another."[128] His work discusses the consequences that flow from conditioning the liberties of all citizens upon the behavior of criminals.

Some of the earliest gun-control legislation at the state level were the "black codes" that replaced the "slave codes" after the Civil War, attempting to prevent blacks' having access to the full rights of citizens, including the right to keep and bear arms.[129] Laws of this type later used racially neutral language to survive legal challenge, but were expected to be enforced against blacks rather than whites.[130]

A favorite target of gun control is so-called "junk guns," which are generally cheaper and therefore more accessible to the poor. However, some civil rights organizations favor tighter gun regulations. In 2003, the NAACP filed suit against 45 gun manufacturers for creating what it called a "public nuisance" through the "negligent marketing" of handguns, which included models commonly described as Saturday night specials. The suit alleged that handgun manufacturers and distributors were guilty of marketing guns in a way that encouraged violence in black and Hispanic neighborhoods. "The gun industry has refused to take even basic measures to keep criminals and prohibited persons from obtaining firearms," NAACP President/CEO Kweisi Mfume said. "The industry must be as responsible as any other and it must stop dumping firearms in over-saturated markets. The obvious result of dumping guns is that they will increasingly find their way into the hands of criminals."[131]

The NAACP lawsuit was dismissed in 2003.[132] It, and several similar suits—some brought by municipalities seeking re-imbursement for medical costs associated with criminal shootings—were portrayed by gun-rights groups as "nuisance suits," aimed at driving gun manufacturers (especially smaller firms) out of business through court costs alone, as damage awards were not expected.[133] These suits prompted the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in October, 2005.

Martin Luther King said, "By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim... we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes."[134]

Inversely, the Dalai Lama said "If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun." (May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times) speaking at the "Educating Heart Summit" in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate.

Civic duty

Some proponents of private gun ownership argue that an armed citizens' militia can help deter crime and tyranny, as police are primarily a reactive force whose main loyalty is to the government which pays their wages. The Militia Information Service (MIS) contends that gun ownership is a civic duty in the context of membership in the militia, much like voting, neither of which they believe should be restricted to government officials in a true democracy.[135] MIS also states that the people need to maintain the power of the sword so they can fulfil their duty, implicit in the social contract, to protect the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens, much as individual citizens have a legal and ethical duty to protect dependents under their care, such as a child, elderly parent, or disabled spouse.[136]


Private ownership of guns

According to statistics available from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, of nearly 31,000 firearm-related deaths in 2005, suicides account for 55 percent of deaths in the United States whereas homicides account for 40 percent of deaths, accidents account for three percent, and the remaining two percent were legal killings.

While many shootings occur in the course of a mutual argument of passion, others occur where a partner or family member of a "romantic" or familial relationship, who is an ongoing victim of domestic physical abuse or sexual abuse, uses the force of a firearm in self-defense action against a perpetrator who also happens to be known to or related to the victim. As a corollary, in such policy advertising campaigns, the comparison of "domestic" gun casualties is usually not accompanied by murder and assault prosecution numbers stemming from the shootings occurring in that context. In many of the latter cases, the victim firing in self-defense is frequently a woman or youth victim of a more physically powerful abuser. In those situations gun rights advocates argue that the firearm arguably becomes an equalizer against the lethal and disabling force frequently exercised by the abusers.[137]

Many gun control opponents point to statistics in advertising campaigns purporting that "approximately 9 or so children are killed by people discharging firearms every day across the US,"[138] and argue that this statistic is seldom accompanied by a differentiation of those children killed by individuals from unintentional discharges and stray bullets, and of those "children," under the age of majority—which is 18-21 in the U.S.—who are killed while acting as aggressors in street gang related mutual combat or while committing crimes,[139][140] many of which are seen as arising from the War on Drugs. There is further controversy regarding courts, trials, and the resulting sentences of these mostly "young men" as adults despite them not having reached the age of consent. A significant number of gun related deaths occur through suicide.

Gun safety and gun laws

The importance of gun safety education has a mitigating effect on the occurrence of accidental discharges involving children. So much importance is not placed upon the vicarious liability case law assigning strict liability to the gun owner for firearms casualties occurring when a careless gun owner loses proper custody and control of a firearm.

In an argument against gun control, the National Center for Policy Analysis, a non-profit conservative think tank, reported the following statistics:[141]

  • New Jersey adopted what sponsors described as "the most stringent gun law" in the nation in 1966; two years later the murder rate was up 46% and the reported robbery rate had nearly doubled.
  • In 1968, Hawaii imposed a series of increasingly harsh measures and its murder rate tripled from a low of 2.4 per 100,000 in 1968 to 7.2 by 1977.
  • In 1976, Washington, D.C. enacted one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation. Since then, the city's murder rate has risen 134% while the national murder rate has dropped 2%.

In addition:

  • As of 2006, approximately 35% of American households have a gun in them. About 22% of Americans actually own a gun.[142]
  • Evanston, Illinois, a Chicago suburb of 75,000 residents, became the largest town to ban handgun ownership in September 1982 but experienced no decline in violent crime. It has subsequently ended its ban as a result of the District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court case, upon a federal lawsuit by the National Rifle Association being filed the day after Heller was entered.
  • Among the 15 states with the highest homicide rates, 10 have restrictive or very restrictive gun laws.[143]
  • Twenty percent of U.S. homicides occur in four cities with just 6% of the population—New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C.—and each has or, in the cases of Detroit (until 2001) and D.C. (2008) had, a requirement for a licence on private handguns or an effective outright ban (in the case of Chicago).[144]
  • In England, Wales and Scotland, the private ownership of most handguns was banned in 1997 following a gun massacre at a school in Dunblane and an earlier gun massacre in Hungerford in which the combined deaths was 35 and injured 30. Gun ownership and gun crime was already at a low level, which made these slaughters particularly concerning. Only an estimated 57,000 people —0.1% of the population owned such weapons prior to the ban.[145] In the UK, only 8 per cent of all criminal homicides are committed with a firearm of any kind.[146] In 2005/6 the number of such deaths in England and Wales (population 53.3 million) was just 50, a reduction of 36 per cent on the year before and lower than at any time since 1998/9. The lowest rate of gun crime was in 2004/4 whilst the highest was in 1994.[citation needed] There was, however, a noticeable temporary increase in gun crime in the years immediately after the ban, though this has since fallen back. The reason for the increase has not been investigated thoroughly but it is thought that 3 factors may have raised the number of guns in circulation. These are, the reduction in gun crime in Northern Ireland (which led to guns coming from there to the criminal black market in England); guns (official issue or confiscated) acquired by military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan; and guns coming from Eastern Europe after the fall of the iron curtain.[citation needed] Firearm injuries in England and Wales also noticeably increased in this time.[147] In 2005-06, of 5,001 such injuries, 3,474 (69%) were defined as "slight," and a further 965 (19%) involved the "firearm" being used as a blunt instrument. Twenty-four percent of injuries were caused with air guns, and 32% with "imitation firearms" (including airsoft guns).[148] Since 1998, the number of fatal shootings has varied between 49 and 97, and was 50 in 2005. In Scotland the picture has been more varied with no pattern of rise or fall appearing.[citation needed]
  • Violent crime accelerated in Jamaica after handguns were heavily restricted and a special Gun Court established.[149] However a high proportion of the illegal guns in Jamaica can be attributed to guns smuggled in from the United states where they are more freely available.[150]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report ranking of cities over 40,000 in population by violent crime rates (per 100,000 population) finds that the ten cities with the highest violent crime rates for 2003 include three cities in the very strict state of New Jersey, one in the fairly restrictive state of Massachusetts.

# City State
1 Saginaw MI
2 Irvington NJ
3 Camden NJ
4 Alexandria LA
5 Detroit MI
6 East Orange NJ
7 Atlanta GA
8 Springfield MA
9 Fort Myers FL
10 Miami FL

See also

Gun political groups


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