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Differences in Gun Control Around The World

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In one of America’s earliest founding documents, the Constitution clearly communicates the ability for a citizen to bear arms as a freedom given to all. This Second Amendment is perhaps the most prominent distinguishing feature between the United States and other well developed nations. It is one of three countries that consider gun ownership, and its associated gun culture, a constitutional right, and thus a personal freedom. How the United States measures up to other developed nations in regard to gun regulations, restrictions, and culture, however, is staggering.

In order to properly understand how the United States compares to other nations when concerning firearms, America’s own gun culture must be discussed first. American civilians own the largest amount of firearms globally, ranking number one in firearms per capita. With only five percent of the world’s population, the United States owns forty six percent of the world’s civilian owned firearms. To put this into perspective, for every one hundred people in the United States, there are one hundred and twenty point five guns. This means there are more guns then there are people.

There are various reasonings for why an individual would own a gun. Many gun owners would say that their main reason is for protection. This could derive from an individual’s personal belief that they should be able to defend themselves, their families, or their property when necessary. Aside from protection, gun owners say they also own guns for hunting, sport, as apart of a collection, or because their job requires them to. Regardless of why an individual owns a gun, there are still basic legislations put into place by the United States government in order to regulate gun ownership.

Despite the right to own a gun being a Constitutional Amendment, the United States has specific regulations and restrictions in place to ensure some scope of control over the gun ownership process. Some of the most basic restrictions include bans on concealed weapons and the possession of specific types of firearms. Furthermore, there are qualifications that an individual must meet in order to purchase a firearm. One such act that does so is the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibits the sale of guns to those under the age of eighteen, convicted criminals, the mentally disabled, and dishonorably discharged military personnel. Additionally, there is the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which mandates background checks for all unlicensed individuals who would like to purchase a firearm from a federally authorized dealer. Although both of these government Acts seem to provide well structured requirements for gun ownership and usage, the United States Supreme Court has also denied some legislation. One such example would be the denial of Washington, DC, to have a law in place that would ban handguns.

Federal laws and acts are in place in order to provide a basic understanding of how guns should be regulated. However, the United States is unique in that it gives the individual states freedom in how they would like to enforce and further strengthen, or weaken, the restrictions regarding guns. This variance from state to state can begin to pose a problem; nothing stops someone from California, a very restrictive state, from going to Alaska, a less restrictive state, and buying a gun, which they can then bring back to California. This could potentially be a contributing factor in the United States’ homicide-by-firearm rate being the highest among the world’s most developed nations.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Japan, with highly restrictive firearm regulations. This is reflective in the country’s homicide-by-firearm rate, which is among the lowest in the world. The latest data available from 2015 recorded only three deaths because of firearms. Most guns are illegal in Japan, which is why there is such a shocking difference in ownership rates when compared to the United States, with zero point three guns per one hundred people.

Japan’s Firearm and Sword Possession and Control Law explicitly outlines everything an individual would need to know about specific restrictions and regulations when it comes to guns. It states that the only guns permitted are shotguns, air guns, guns with specific research or industrial purposes, or those used for competitions. However, before someone can be granted permission to access a firearm, they must first receive formal instructions, as well as pass a series of written, mental, and even drugs tests, along with an especially rigorous background check. Once a person obtains a gun, they must inform the authorities of their weapon, as well as where it, and its ammunition, will be stored. Annual inspections are also required.

There is no definitive answer explaining why Japan has such restrictive gun laws. However, some speculate that the repercussions of World War II are what led Japan to its current attitude towards firearms. After being demilitarized, the country looked to have developed a sour taste with guns. There is also the idea that because the overall crime rate is so low in Japan, many find there is no real need to own a gun. Both of these speculations contribute to Japan’s low gun ownership rates.

Closer to the United States, Canada proves to be a seemingly more relatable comparison in regards to gun culture. Similar to America, there are restrictions set for the provinces, territories, and municipalities by the Canadian government that can be added to when needed. However, there is a drastic difference in the amount of guns, with only thirty four point seven guns per one hundred people, almost four times less than the United States. This is also reflective in their homicide-per-firearm rate, which is higher than Japan’s, but also dramatically lower than America’s.

Canada’s reasoning for the creation of gun laws is due to gun violence incidents. One such incident would be the shooting at a Montreal engineering school, occurring in 1989. This singular incident is what caused major gun reforms in Canada, one of which included an imposed twenty eight day waiting period for purchasing a gun. Also added were mandatory safety training courses, more detailed background checks, bans on large-capacity magazines, as well as bans on military-style firearms and ammunition.

The firearms in Canada can be divided into three main categories. The first deals with non restricted weapons: normal rifles and shotguns. Next, the restricted ones: handguns, semi automatic rifles, and shotguns. Lastly, the prohibited guns: automatic weapons. Unless a fully automatic weapon was registered before 1978, it is illegal to own.

As Canada has progressed in history, its laws progressed with it. In 1995, changes to the law were made requiring individuals to obtain a license to purchase guns and ammunition. All firearms also needed to be registered. As time passed, the requirement to register non restricted guns was dropped in 2012. However, following another mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017, the Canadian government passed a bill once again requiring all non restricted firearms to be registered. Additionally, background checks needed to begin considering events from more than the last five years.

Despite these tragic events, Canada has only experienced two school shootings since 2009, while the United States has had two hundred eighty eight. To clarify, a school shooting is defined as a violent act in which someone uses a gun to kill or injure teachers, students or faculty. School shootings are a uniquely American issue, as they do not seem to occur so much in other countries. America’s own regulations and restrictions towards firearms have had a profound impact on all of its people, but specifically children. Firearms are the second leading cause of death in children and teens. Compared to other developed nations, an American child, age five to fourteen, is twenty one times more likely to be killed with guns. A young adult, ages fifteen to twenty four, is twenty three times more likely to ne killed by a gun.

These staggering statistics prove that the United States does not truly measure up when it comes to gun culture and gun related issues when compared to other developed nations. Perhaps the biggest solution to this epidemic is to take a step back to research and observe how other countries regulate their firearms. Increased restrictions on how firearms are obtained and used could have the largest impact as it would be dealing with the issue directly.      

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Differences in Gun Control Around the World. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from
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