NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Firearms Ownership Widespread in Europe

July 10, 2003

The British are being disarmed of potentially lethal knives, and, perhaps next, forks, following the government's ban on most firearms. However, Europeans are more heavily armed than is commonly believed. That is according to a study released this week at a United Nations conference on small arms, or guns.

According to the survey conducted by researchers at the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies:

  • There are an estimated 67 million privately owned firearms in the 15 countries of the European Union, or roughly 17 guns per 100 people.
  • In France and Germany, the figure jumps to about 30 guns per 100 people.
  • In the United States there are 83 to 96 guns per 100 people, according to the study.

The United States and European Union are the world's largest small arms exporters, by value, and 80 percent of the small firearms manufactured each year are purchased by civilians. At least 1,134 companies in 98 countries worldwide are involved in some aspect of the production of small arms and/or ammunition.

Worldwide, there are at least 639 million firearms, of which 59 percent are legally held by civilians.

Source: Daniel B. Schneider, "Firearms in Europe," World Briefing, New York Times, June 10, 2003; based on "Small Arms Survey 2003," Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva).


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