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18.9.2021 : 8:49 : +0200

Regulation of Civilian Possession

Most of the world’s firearms are held, not by national armed forces or police, but by civilians. The regulation of civilian gun ownership is thus an integral component of broader efforts to control access to and use of firearms. Domestic regulation governing the possession, ownership, carrying, and use of firearms is typically designed to limit access to these weapons to responsible users, thus reducing the risks of unlawful violence. Safe storage requirements minimize the risk of theft and accidents (keeping loaded firearms away from children in the home).

Most countries have legislation governing the civilian possession of firearms, although the nature of these laws varies considerably. States tend to require licensing of all new firearms purchases, while import and export controls are virtually universal. A significant majority register firearms, and storage regulations are common. While the approaches vary, the underlying principles remain the same: regulate possession and use in an effort to prevent diversion and misuse.


Small Arms Survey Publications

  • From Legal to Lethal: Converted Firearms in Europe, by Nicolas Florquin and Benjamin King. Small Arms Survey Report, April 2018 (also available in Arabic and French).

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  • Availability of Small Arms and Perceptions of Security in Kenya: An Assessment, by Manasseh Wepundi, Eliud Nthiga, Eliud Kabuu, Ryan Murray, and Anna Alvazzi del Frate, a joint publication of Kenya National Focus Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons, and the Small Arms Survey, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. June 2012. Special Report No. 16. (This report is also available in Swahili. An Executive Summary including recommendations is also available in English and Swahili.)

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  • Assessing the Effect of Policy Interventions on Small Arms Demand in Bogotá, Colombia, by Katherine Aguirre et al., co-published with CERAC, December 2009.

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Other Publications

  • Knight, Brian G. 2011. State Gun Policy and Cross-State Externalities: Evidence from Crime Gun Tracing. Working Paper No. 17469, The National Bureau of Economic Research.

    More information
  • ISER (Instituto de Estudos da Religião). 2006. From Yes to No: The Referendum on Gun Prohibition in Brazil. ISER Communication No. 62. Rio de Janeiro: ISER.

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  • Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. 2005. Missing Pieces: Directions for Reducing Gun Violence through the UN Process on Small Arms Control. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

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  • Miller, Derek and Wendy Cukier. 2003. Regulation of Civilian Possession of Small Arms and Light Weapons. Biting the Bullet. Briefing 16. London: International Alert, Saferworld, and University of Bradford.

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  • Cukier, Wendy, Tania Sarkar, and Tim Quigley. 2000. Firearm Regulation: International Law and Jurisprudence. Canadian Criminal Law Review. Vol. 6, No. 1, December 2000, pp. 99-123.

  • Open Society Institute and Funders' Collaborative for Gun Violence Prevention. 2000. Gun Control in the United States: A Comparative Survey of State Firearm Laws. New York: Open Society Institute.

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  • McKenzie, Katharine. 1999. Domestic Gun Control Policy in Ten SADC Countries. Report commissioned by Gun-Free South Africa.

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Further Resources

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