Outgunned: America is home to more guns than people

Outgunned: America is home to more guns than people and has the highest concentration of privately owned firearms in the world, data shows

  • America is home to 393.3 million civilian-owned guns – or 120.5 per 100 people
  • The rate of gun ownership in the U.S. is much higher than the rest of the world
  • However, a minority – 30 percent – of Americans actually own at least one firearm
  • About 66 percent of American gun owners have more than one firearm at home

The U.S. is the only country in the world that has more guns than people, according to a new report.

America is home to 393.3 million civilian-owned guns and has a population of 316.5 million, amounting to 120.5 firearms per 100 people, according to a report by Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based think tank.

It’s significantly more than in Canada, where a population of 36.6 million people owns 12.7 million guns, equating to 34.7 firearms for every 100 people. And Mexico, home to 130.2 million people and 16.9 million guns, has a concentration of just 12.9 firearms per 100 people.

Redditor user Udzu created this graph illustrating civilian gun ownership worldwide. The U.S. is home to the significant majority of privately owned firearms

The tiny Faulkland Islands, with a population of 3,000 and 2,000 privately owned guns, ranks second behind the U.S. for the concentration of firearms to residents at 62.1 per 100 people.

Yemen comes in third, with 14.9 million and a population of 28.1 million, for a concentration of 52.8 firearms per 100 people.

Worldwide, approximately 857 firearms were owned by civilians at the end of 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. 

While the U.S. has more than one gun per person, a majority (69 percent) of Americans do not currently own a gun, according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center. In addition, two-thirds of gun owners have more than one firearm, including 29 percent who own five or more.

Gun control advocates say the numbers suggest that a small number of people own a majority of the firearms in this country.

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‘You’re seeing the households that do have guns are stockpiling,’ said Andrew Patrick, a spokesman for The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. ‘It’s an extreme gun culture.’

Patrick said the origin of gun culture in the U.S. dates back to the 1970s when the National Rifle Association’s messaging began equating gun ownership with freedom.

‘Our organization also believes that we should have freedom from gun violence,’ he said.

The NRA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

This 1982 advertisement from the National Rifle Association features an 8-year-old boy who was a member of the organization

Patrick said things may be changing – particularly since the Parkland, Florida school shooting in February.

While the NRA has had historically had significant sway in Washington D.C., gun advocates argue the organization’s reputation has been tarnished after Parkland students began an aggressive campaign for gun control across the U.S., even calling out politicians who didn’t support their cause.

‘They spoke up immediately and they did it without fear and they did it passionately,’ Patrick said. ‘They were smart and media savvy in the way that they did it, and when corporations started seeing it … the NRA’s brand almost overnight became toxic.’

That remains to be seen.

For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods said earlier this year that it would stop selling certain types of semi-automatic rifles and that it would destroy its existing stock of those weapons – a victory for gun control advocates.

But the company’s stock sank 6.3 percent in the aftermath, as gun owners stopped shopping at the national chain.

According to Pew data, 36 percent of non-gun owners said they could see themselves owning a firearm in the future, while 33 percent said they could never imagine owning one.

A majority (69 percent) of Americans own no guns at all, while 30 percent say they have at least one firearm and 1 percent gave no response in a 2017 survey by Pew Research Center

Gun owners are more likely to be men than women, and white men, in particular, are likely to own firearms.

Gun owners are also more likely to live in rural areas, where 46 percent of people report owning a firearm, compared to 28 percent of suburban dwellers and 19 percent of people in urban communities.

Nearly half (44 percent) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents own a gun, compared to 20 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaners.

The gun culture in America typically starts young, with about two-thirds (67 percent) of owners reporting that there was a gun in the household they grew up in and 76 percent saying they first fired a gun before age 18.

A majority (about 80 percent) of gun owners say they have multiple reasons for owning a gun, although personal protection is the most common motivation, with 67 percent of current owners of firearms identifying that as a major reason.

In addition, 38 percent cite hunting and about 30 percent say sport shooting is the reason they own a gun.

This chart illustrates the top reasons that American gun owners identify as their motivation for having firearms, per 2017 survey data by the Pew Research Center

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