We did it! According to a decade-long survey of gun ownership around the world, the United States now has more firearms than people, about 1.2 guns for every man, woman and child. It’s always appalled civilian disarmament types and their media stenographers that Americans love their guns so much, so expect this news – that America accounts for almost half the one billion civilian-owned firearms globally — to induce plenty of spittle-spraying cries of horror and think pieces lamenting the depravity of a nation so in love with guns.
The report, which draws on official data, survey data and other measures for 230 countries, finds that global firearm ownership is heavily concentrated in the United States. In 2017, for instance, Americans made up 4 percent of the world’s population but owned about 46 percent of the entire global stock of 857 million civilian firearms.
With an estimated 120.5 guns for every 100 residents, the firearm ownership rate in the United States is twice that of the next-highest nation, Yemen, with just 52.8 guns per 100 residents. In raw number terms, the closest country to the United States is India, with 71.1 million firearms in circulation. These numbers do not include firearms owned by law enforcement agencies or militaries.
Of course our almost 400 million guns aren’t distributed evenly.
If global gun ownership is concentrated in American hands, American gun ownership is concentrated even more narrowly in the country’s gun-owning households. As of 2017, Gallup found that 42 percent of American households reported owning guns. With an estimated 118 million households in the United States, per the U.S. Census, that would mean that the country’s 393 million guns are distributed among 50 million households. The implication is that the average gun-owning household owns nearly eight guns.
The researchers ran into something of a problem in compiling their data. It seems only about 12% of the world’s non-military small arms are registered. Oh no!
The survey’s authors acknowledge the difficulty of accounting for every gun in the world: Patchy gun registration systems are in place in many countries (including the U.S., which only requires federal registration of certain kinds of weapons). Of all the guns owned by civilians, the survey estimates that only 12 percent were registered with governments.
Survey author Aaron Karp, senior consultant at the Small Arms Survey, told VICE News that because of the difficulty of counting all the guns in the world, they relied on a variety of data sources. “The basic method is eclectic,” he said. “We take data where we can find it.”
So even the Small Arms Survey’s best guess is just that. A guess.
When the authors couldn’t find registration data, they compiled their own and used estimates from law enforcement officials and academics only as a last resort.
In fact, we’d be willing to bet an entire Franklin Barbecue brisket that the actual number of firearms in the US is north of 400 million. And that well over half of the households here have at least one gun.
But for now, we’d like congratulate the People of the Gun out there who understand, appreciate and exercise their right to keep and bear arms. The people who buy and own firearms despite (because of?) the anti-gunners’ never-ending efforts to put up roadblocks to our Second Amendment rights.
If we keep it up and work really hard, we bet we can top the survey’s 50 percent mark, both in households with guns and percent of the global total. Let’s do this.