New Study: Civilians Hold 84.6% of World’s Small Arms (Americans Own 40%!!!)

A new study has found that civilians worldwide hold more firearms than military and law enforcement combined. (Photo: Small Arms Survey Facebook)

A new study has revealed that of the estimated 1.013 billion smalls arms worldwide, civilians hold 857 million of them, a 32 percent increase since 2006. The study’s authors attribute the rise both to better reporting data and to rising gun ownership in the United States, whose citizens hold 40 percent of the world’s civilian firearms.

“With acquisition averaging around 14 million guns annually during the last five years, growth of civilian holdings in the United States contributes disproportionately to the increase of the global firearms stockpile,” the study’s author, Aaron Karp, said in a press release.

The study was conducted by the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss think tank that provides international data on small arms and armed violence.

The 2018 Briefing Paper considered pistols, revolvers, rifles, carbines, “assault rifles” and sub- and light-machine guns held by civilian, military and law enforcement entities. They found that the vast majority (84.6%) of these firearms are held both lawfully and illicitly by civilians. Law enforcement organizations hold approximately 22.7 million (2.2%) and military forces hold 133 million (13.1%).

“We’ve known for a long time that the majority of firearms in the world are civilian held,” Karp told GunsAmerica. “But what I think is surprising to a lot of people is, unless you’re a gun owner, the firearms that you see tend to be those of the security services, especially law enforcement agencies. The most surprising finding is how relatively few the law enforcement category makes up.”

SEE ALSO: Study Targets Obama “Super Gun Owner” – We Own 50% of the Guns!

The United States claims the largest piece of the civvy firearm pie, accounting for 393,300,000 small arms. India is a distant second with 71,100,000 firearms, and China trails behind with 49,700,000 firearms in civilian hands.

The U.S. also leads the world in firearms per 100 residents with 120.5. The next highest concentration of small arms is in Yemen, where there are 52.8 firearms per 100 residents.

Good or Bad?

Whether the study’s findings should be considered positive or negative depends on whom you ask—and where you live. In the United States at least, many gun owners believe that the more firearms in civilians’ hands, the better. In this way, they echo the sentiments of the men who supported the Constitution at the country’s founding.

Noah Webster put it like this:

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops.

The Small Arms Survey, on the other hand, has a different take:

The proliferation of small arms and light weapons represents a grave threat to human security. The unchecked spread of these weapons has exacerbated inter- and intra-state conflicts, contributed to human rights violations, undermined political and economic development, destabilized communities, and devastated the lives of millions of people.

SEE ALSO: UK Gun Ban Not Working, Gun Crime is on the Rise

Context is key, of course, and weapons in the hands of terrorists are an entirely different matter than an American gun owner’s 10-rifle collection. Karp emphasized these regional differences in his interview with GunsAmerica.

“Everything depends on the nature of the local debate,” he said. “Priorities differ dramatically from country to country, so the way these numbers get used, that’ll change dramatically too, depending on where you are.”

The study’s authors drew their data from four sources: (a) national firearms registration statistics; (b) general population surveys about firearm ownership (available for 56 countries/territories); (c) experts’ estimates of civilian holdings; and, (d) where none of these was available, analogous comparisons based on estimates for comparable countries.

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Salty Dog June 22, 2018, 3:06 pm

    Kinda funny to think that we are literally uninvadeable, militarily. Any attempt by a foreign state to place invading troops on our shores would be stifled before it ever got off the ground. In my rural neighborhood I’ve got retired Army, Navy, Marines, hunters, ranchers, loggers, construction guys, city/county/state Cops and a huge variety of patriotic redneck (this term is a compliment) types, all of which have firearms, ammo and heavy duty vehicles and machinery. Might take a few days to organize resources, but damn, you’d be in tough shape if you tried to invade our mountain. Even Commiefornians could probably get it together, once they swapped out their bullet buttons and pulled their out their stashes of over-ten-round magazines.

  • Em June 22, 2018, 2:32 pm

    Noah Webster’s quote in contrast to the Small Arms Survey quote reminds me of one major benefit and blessing of living in the US, especially after having lived in a socialist leaning country for 14 years. It also shows how utterly stupid the anti gun crowd is. Giving up an essential right because of your feelings truly demonstrates that liberal leftism is indeed a mental disease.

  • Alan June 22, 2018, 2:06 pm

    I found the comment that the Authors were ‘surprised’ at how relatively “few” guns were owned by Law Enforcement agencies to be quite telling.
    Why would Police have most of the guns except of course, in a ‘Police State’?
    One thing that truly tells us is that MOST people are just regular people, not criminals.
    The problem of crime is often by a small number of career criminals, and here in the U.S. we turn them back onto the street, to pick up where they left off.

  • Johnei June 22, 2018, 2:01 pm

    The study’s authors drew their data from four sources: (a) national firearms registration statistics; (b) general population surveys about firearm ownership (available for 56 countries/territories); (c) experts’ estimates of civilian holdings; and, (d) where none of these was available, analogous comparisons based on estimates for comparable countries.

    The US doesn’t have a national Registration so thats out.
    No one would ever answer a survery on firearm ownership so thats out.
    Wild ass guesses by clueless people. This must be how they guessed the number in the US…

    • I Love Liberty June 24, 2018, 11:57 pm

      Law states that form 4473 (required to be filled out to purchase a gun) is the following: Licensees shall retain each Alcohol Tobacco Firearm Form 4473 for a period of not less than 20 years after the date of sale or disposition. Where a licensee has initiated a National Instant Background Check System (NICS) check for a proposed firearms transaction, but the sale, delivery, or transfer of the firearm is not made, the licensee shall record any transaction number on the Form 4473, and retain the Form 4473 for a period of not less than 5 years after the date of the National Instant Background Check inquiry.

      If the Federal Firearm License Dealer goes out of business he must turn over all his 4473 forms to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms. There was a documentary that showed this government agency illegally scanning the 4473 documents into a database. Some authorities are trying to register all the guns but there are a lot of of firearms that cannot be registered especially if you buy a gun with a private party transfer in the free States.

  • bbbs53 June 22, 2018, 12:29 pm

    Like most people that live in a free state, I have several dozen that I have had for years and before computers. They were bought from private sales or a couple of hundred just left behind after being repaired. The older stuff was sold pre 4473 and has never been on anyone’s books, these European “guesses” are under estimating the numbers by a factor of at least a third. A lot of people have war relics as well that were never counted and stuff that was bought through the mail from SARCO and Numrich. If they were to come and ask, what guns?, would be the answer. Glad to see May was another record month for sales, keep making the libtards wrong!

  • Bob Stewart June 22, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Please note the picture has a couple looking at a rifle while in the background there are pistols, in fact, the pistols are not firearms but air guns as can be seen by the ornage tips.

    • Gopher June 23, 2018, 12:33 pm

      Your comment made me look twice at the photo — and notice the couple are a picture pasted on top of the background of air pistols.

  • RGE June 22, 2018, 12:20 pm

    According to statistics gathered between 1776 and 1819, the direct correlation between tyranny and liberty was dependent on two factors (1) how well armed the citizens were and (2) how hungry their stomachs were. Thus a tyrant to rule must disarm the populace and at the same time control their food. The statistician is well known: Napoleon Bonaparte who accurately predicted that good revolutions are started on hungry stomachs, bearing arms, torches and pitchforks, crying out, “Liberte’, Egalite, Fraternite”. Whereas those who remarked, “Let them eat cake” lost their heads swimming punch drunk in power.

    Short answer to a hard dilemma — power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is why an armed populace is the best insurance against tyranny.

  • Handgunner June 22, 2018, 12:01 pm

    I can’t afford anymore. Have over 50 and need some of you to KETCHUP. LOL

  • Henry June 22, 2018, 11:02 am

    I bet those numbers for the US is on the low side, I would guess we are closer to 60%. Anyway, I suppose I will have to help up that toward north of 60%. 😉

  • Merlin June 22, 2018, 9:39 am

    Yeah! So don’t tread on US!

  • Bad Penguin June 22, 2018, 9:33 am

    Guesses presented as fact. In Europe where civilian own guns are highly controlled they do not account for all of the illegally owned and hidden guns. In the 3rd world they have absolutely no idea who owns weapons or how many. These countries have had many wars and there are also a lot of RPGs out there not counted either.

  • Johnny Raygun June 22, 2018, 8:30 am

    We are the champions, we are the champions,,, of the WORLD. No time for losin’…………. Sing it and buy every chance you get..

  • Jay June 22, 2018, 7:19 am

    The data is flawed because it is strictly an educated guess, as the real life numbers do not exist unless all guns sold are in a data base some where we don’t know about! If the US is only 40% like someone said we need to improve on that number!

  • Mike June 22, 2018, 6:47 am

    I agree with Jeffery. Just 40 %? We need to improve on that percentage

  • David Bradford June 22, 2018, 5:11 am

    I commented on this survey on another website already but I would like to reiterate what I said before regarding this.

    Referencing probably the best publicly available unbiased global statistics that have verifiable numbers backed up by documented research.

    In 2016 the total firearm deaths in the USA per 100,000 people was 11.96 (that include a firearm suicide rate of 7.1 per 100,000 and 4.62 per 100,000 being homicides). The US rate for all homicides from any cause is 5.35per 100,000. The global average of homicides is 6.2 per 100,000. You are safer than the world average living in the US. The US only accounts for less than 4% of all homicides in the entire world. We rank 87th out of 219 countries in the world for homicides of any kind and 10th in gun deaths from any cause(murder, suicide, accidents and other) overall. This just goes to show that mental health is the major part of the problem, not guns. If guns were the problem that the anti-gun proponents claim, the US would have to be responsible for 46% of the murders in the world, not less than 4%. Just more proof that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

    • joefoam June 22, 2018, 8:50 am

      David Bradford, if you eliminate the democrat controlled cities with the strictest gun control laws ie: NYC, Chicago, Detroit, LA our rate really plummets in world rankings. So much for gun control actually working.

      • David Bradford June 23, 2018, 12:42 am

        I wish I knew where to find the article read a few days ago that stated that only a small fraction of 0.1% of the population in 1 Chicago area was responsible for more than 50% of all the murders in the area. I will try to come up with some documented number in the future to try and show the correlation between total gun violence with and without gang-related occurrence. I really think we all need to get informed with the facts and be prepared to counter any anti gunner’s arguments with those facts. It is up to us to put a stop to the lies, half-truths and cherry-picked statistics that are threatening our rights to protect ourselves and others in need. I’m just a simple guy with no political affiliation. I’m not a fan of either the Democrats or the Republicans, but I recognise that the threat to my, and your, 2A rights is real and it needs to be defended anyway we can. We tell our kids”If you see something, say something.” Each of us should be doing the same. Speak up when you here the incorrect information about gun safety and gun violence being spread and answer it with the truth. We spend hours honing our firearm skill so we will be prepared when the time comes to defend ourselves, we should take the time to educate ourselves with the facts to defend our rights when our rights come under attack too.

    • TexJim June 22, 2018, 4:37 pm

      Excellent comments, David Bradford! We need you to go on CNN to counteract their fake news! But obviously, they wouldn’t dare let you make them look like fools on the gun debate. They would rather David (Camera) Hogg spout out his lies about guns!

  • Jeffrey L. Frischkorn June 22, 2018, 4:56 am

    Just 40%? Hmm.. Time to check on the next few gun shows.. I do believe that I am going to help try and boost that number.. If nothing else than to listen to the gun grabbers squeal…

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