Gun control around the world

After two mosque shootings in New Zealand, the country drafted new legislation to change gun control laws within two weeks. However, not all countries around the world are so quick to implement change; some have not changed their laws for decades despite rising gun-related crimes, while others do not enforce the laws they do have.

Below is a collection of seven countries from a variety of regions around the world, each with their own approach to gun control. Despite some similarities in legislation, or lack thereof, each country’s gun-related crime statistics vary. Some countries have the lowest crime-rates in the world comparatively,  while others, like Yemen, have some of the highest.

New Zealand

After 50 people were killed in the mosque shootings on March 15, New Zealand quickly drafted new legislation which will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles. Similar bills have failed to pass through the country’s parliament four times in the last 20 years.

At a press conference on March 21, Prime Minister Jacina Arden announced, “What we’re banning today are the things used in last Friday’s attack. It’s about all of us; it’s in national interest, and it’s about safety.”

In order to own a gun in New Zealand, a person must go through a criminal background check, which takes into account any history of mental illness, addiction or domestic violence. A person will not receive their gun license if they cite personal protection as their reason for wanting to own a gun. The applicant must also go through a firearms safety course, and licenses must be renewed every 10 years. Police may revoke a license if they believe a person may pose a threat or is no longer fit to own a firearm.

There were nine gun-related murders in 2016, according to Radio NewZealand.

Argentina

In order to legally purchase a gun in this South American country, a person must be 21 years old and have no criminal record. Argentinians have to prove they have a space to responsibly store the weapon they wish to purchase. They are required to go through physical and mental health checks, official firearm training and provide proof of income. After a year, legal gun owners in Argentina are required to resubmit all necessary documents in order to renew their permit.

The government has installed an anonymous program which allows citizens to sell their guns back to the government. The program, known as PEVAF, resulted in the collection and destruction of over 300,000 guns from 2007 to 2015.

According to PBS, in 2016 the gun-related death rate was seven deaths per every 100,000 people.

Israel

Israel does not recognize a person’s right to bear arms. They consider gun ownership a highly regulated privilege. A person must fulfill many requirements and have a justifiable reason to carry a firearm.

The country allows each person to own no more than one gun at any time, and they must ask the government before they sell their gun to another individual. If an individual does obtain a gun license, they are only allowed to have 50 bullets in their possession at any time.

Israel rejects approximately 40% of all gun permit requests, more than any Western country according to the National Center for Biotechnology Industry. The country automatically rejects a permit request if the applicant has any history of drug or domestic violence charges. In order to own a gun, a person must be able to pass a Hebrew fluency test and be 21 years of age.

In 2014, Israel was ranked 78 in the world for gun-related crime rates. There were approximately seven gun-related crimes per 100,000 people the same year.

Japan

According to NPR, Japan has one of the lowest gun violence rates in the world. It is rare for the country to have more than 10 gun-related deaths a year, despite their population of 127 million people.  

Under Japan’s Firearm and Sword Possession Control Law, the only firearms permitted in the nation are shotguns, air rifles or guns with specific research or industrial purposes. Before citizens are allowed to own a gun, they must attend a full-day class, understand the mechanics of the weapon, as well as have a 95% accuracy at a shooting range.

Japan also requires extremely thorough background checks and mental-health evaluations for every individual who requests a gun ownership permit. At times, friends and family will be interviewed regarding a permit request. The entire process must be repeated every three years in order to maintain gun ownership eligibility.

Lesotho

Lesotho is a small kingdom in Southern Africa. In 1984, the kingdom passed the Internal Security (General) Act or IHL. The act outlines specific weapons that are considered illegal in the country and what the exceptions are. The act states any person who instructs or receives instruction on how to operate any firearm will face consequences. The maximum sentence if a person is charged is ten years in prison as well as a fine of 10,000 Maloti, the equivalent of approximately $710. The only exception to this law is if the training is for government-approved purposes. The act does not specify what falls into this category.

Lesotho has recently experienced an increase in gun-related crimes. It is believed the guns are being smuggled across the border between South Africa and Lesotho. While there is limited data available, the United States State Department reports there seems to be a rise in violent crime in the kingdom.

Yemen

Despite Yemen having legal restrictions on the possession of firearms, the laws are not implemented. Yemeni gun buyers are technically required to buy from licensed arms dealers, and register any and all firearms with the authorities. The New York Times reports “the law is largely unenforced.”

Many Yemeni citizens argue they need a gun for self-defense purposes if they are going to live in the country, regardless of their socioeconomic status. “In Yemen, no matter if you’re rich or poor, you must have guns. Even if it’s just one piece,” tribal sheikh Abdul Wahab al-Ammari told The Atlantic. “I have maybe 14 high-powered weapons, and three handguns [at home].”

According to a 2007 Small Arms Survey, there is more than one firearm per two citizens in Yemen.

United States

It is estimated that roughly 48% of the world’s civilian-owned guns are in the U.S. The total number of firearms in the country is about 310 million. In comparison, India is home to the second-largest number of civilian-owned guns; estimates place India’s final number at 46 million civilian-owned firearms.

The “right to bear arms” is written in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, giving all American citizens the freedom to own a gun at the government’s discretion. In 1968, the Gun Control Act was passed, requiring the minimum age to purchase and own shotguns, rifles and ammunition be set at 18 years of age. In order to purchase any other form of firearm, a person must be 21 years old.

No matter the weapon, anyone who has been convicted of a felony or is considered a danger to society is prohibited from owning a gun. Fugitives, those who were involuntarily committed to a mental hospital and anyone who has been found guilty of possessing or using controlled substances within the last year are also not allowed to purchase a firearm in the U.S.

While state and local governments are capable of regulating some aspects of gun control, it is the federal government’s responsibility to regulate who can purchase a gun, as well as what types of guns are legal in the U.S. The National Firearms Act of 1934 allows automatic weapons made before 1986 and all semi-automatic weapons to be legal. It is up to the states’ discretion to limit these within their jurisdiction.

According to PBS, in 2016, there were 37,200 gun-related deaths in the U.S. That is a rate of 10.6 deaths per every 100,000 people.


Data was acquired from PBS and Journal of the American Medical Association Network.