Around 46% of all 857 million guns in civilian hands belonged to people living in the United States last year, according to a survey released on Monday.
In Europe, the most guns were concentrated in Russia (17.6m), Germany (15.8m) and France (12.7m), while the rate of firearms owned per 100 people were highest in Montenegro (39.1), Serbia (39.1) and Cyprus (34). In comparison, there were around 120 firearms for every 100 US residents.
The data was compiled by the Small Arms Survey (SAS), a global research project based in Geneva, Switzerland. Its estimates were based on official documents, studies, questionnaires, surveys, news reports and consultations with experts where official data was unavailable.
The SAS found that gun ownership among civilians (84.6%) dwarfed state militaries (13.1%) and law enforcements’ (2.2%) stockpiles, and that number had grown by more than 200 million since 2006.
“The biggest force pushing up gun ownership around the world is civilian ownership in the United States. Ordinary American people buy approximately 14 million new and imported guns every year,” survey author Aaron Karp told reporters at the United Nations in New York.
“Why are they buying them? That’s another debate. Above all, they are buying them probably because they can. The American market is extraordinarily permissive.”
In total, it is thought that there are more than 1 billion firearms in possession across 230 countries and autonomous territories around the world.