National gun laws

The majority of small arms are in the hands of private individuals - worldwide, around 60% of guns are possessed by civilians. There is a strong correlation between firearms ownership and gun death rates, especially for handgun ownership, as handguns are concealable and so commonly used in crime.

In 2006, the UN sub-commission on human rights endorsed principles to prevent human rights abuses by civilians with guns. Many countries regulate:

- types of weapons permitted. For example, prohibiting fully automatic weapons, or semiautomatic rifles. Given their use in crime, some countries also prohibit civilian possession of handguns.

- users of guns. Licensing the users of guns might involve requiring users to prove they have a genuine need of a firearm, also background checks to investigate whether the user is likely to be a risk to themselves or others.

- uses of guns. For example, prohibiting carrying or firing guns in a  public place.

Essential to enforcing the above regulations is firearm registration, linking every weapon to its last legal user and so identifying any point of diversion. This is part of a marking and tracing requirement.

Latest news

3 people were shot and killed when a bridegroom in the south-eastern Gaziantep province of Turkey lost control while firing an AK-47 in celebration at his own wedding last week.

8 people were shot dead when a worker at a beer and wine distributor opened fire with a .223 calibre semi-automatic rifle in Hartford, Connecticut (USA) on 3 August.

Pressure by individuals and organisations may provide the tipping point when arms exporting democracies weigh up their concerns about national interest versus human rights criteria, concludes Guy Lamb of Institute for Security Studies in the new article “South African Arms Exports: A Balancing Act”.

Six people, including the gunman, were killed in Espoo, Finland, on 31 December 2009, leading to calls for reform of Finnish gun laws. 

After a 2 year process, and with significant input from civil society, Sierra Leone established a National Commission to control the illicit circulation of weapons in accordance with the ECOWAS small arms Convention on 1 July.

Latest resources

Guns were used in nearly 75% of the 18.929 homicides committed in El Salvador in the period 2007-2011, according to new research by Centro de la Sociedad Civil para el Monitoreo y Evaluación de la Violencia and Fundación para la Democracia, Seguridad y Paz. In a study on public safety in the country, they found that violence was the leading cause of death, with 12 homicides per day.87.3% of homicide victims were men.

The Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons has issued a policy statement on civilian possession of automatic and semi-automatic rifles, adopted during their board meeting in New York on 23 October this year. It states that, “ Such kinds of weapons – which do not only relate to illegal trafficking, conflict zones or high levels of gun violence but have also been used to perpetrate massacres in countries including New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, United States and recently in Norway - should be banned from civilian possession”.

This newsletter from the Coalition Against Gun Violence in the US includes a message of solidarity to the people of Norway after the shooting that left 69 people dead on 22 July 2011.

A new report on the connection between small arms and perceptions of insecurity among the population in Eastern DR Congo was launched in Kinshasa on 22 June.

The model law on firearms created by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is now available online.

Focusing on the US, this article, written by David Hemenway and published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, summarises and compares scientific literature on the health risks and benefits of having a gun in the home for the gun owner and his/her family.

This policy brief was produced by Garen Wintemute of the Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) at the University of California,Davis, in response to a policy proposal put forward by Mayors Against Illegal Guns

A website with information relevant to national gun laws across the world, including country and regional laws, news and data.

Handguns are concealable, a strong advantage for use in criminal acts. They are also specifically designed to kill people. This table lists strengths and weaknesses of national gun laws in 16 countries.

The latest DAKS newsletter is now available.

IANSA members in West Africa are keeping track of states’ implementation of the ECOWAS convention on their websites.

Firearms were the weapons most widely used to kill women in 44 countries around the world, said the Third International Report on Partner Violence against Women.

A new report analyses Colombia's national laws in the light of international instruments on small arms control.

A new report “Stopping the Destructive Spread of Small Arms” discusses the challenges that gun proliferation poses for sustainable security and development.

This resolution endorses 15 principles for preventing human rights abuses with guns, including abuses committed by state actors (eg law enforcement) and private citizens.