After mass shooting events, much debate centers around Americans’ relatively easy access to guns.

The U.S. is one of only three countries in the world where the right to own guns for self-defense is protected in the constitution.

As of 2015, there are more guns than people in the U.S. This rate is far higher than other developed nations, according to the Australian research site gunpolicy.org.

HOW THE U.S. COMPARES

TO THE OTHER DEVELOPED

COUNTRIES IN GUN OWNERSHIP

Guns per 100 people

0

60

100

20

80

40

United States

 

Germany

Austria

Iceland

New Zealand

Finland

Norway

Canada

Switzerland

Portugal

Greece

Latvia

Luxembourg

France

Australia

Mexico

Slovenia

Turkey

Denmark

Italy

Spain

Estonia

Czech Republic

Slovakia

Belgium

Hungary

Chile

Israel

Netherlands

Ireland

Britain

Poland

South Korea

Source: GunPolicy.org

HOW THE U.S. COMPARES TO THE OTHER DEVELOPED

COUNTRIES IN GUN OWNERSHIP

Guns per 100 people

0

60

100

20

80

40

United States

 

Germany

Austria

Iceland

New Zealand

Finland

Norway

Canada

Switzerland

Portugal

Greece

Latvia

Luxembourg

France

Australia

Mexico

Slovenia

Turkey

Denmark

Italy

Spain

Estonia

Czech Republic

Slovakia

Belgium

Hungary

Chile

Israel

Netherlands

Ireland

Britain

Poland

South Korea

Source: GunPolicy.org

HOW THE U.S. COMPARES TO THE OTHER DEVELOPED

COUNTRIES IN GUN OWNERSHIP

Guns per 100 people

0

60

100

20

80

40

United States

 

Germany

Austria

Iceland

New Zealand

Finland

Norway

Canada

Switzerland

Portugal

Greece

Latvia

Luxembourg

France

Australia

Mexico

Slovenia

Turkey

Denmark

Italy

Spain

Estonia

Czech Republic

Slovakia

Belgium

Hungary

Chile

Israel

Netherlands

Ireland

Britain

Poland

South Korea

Source: GunPolicy.org

Researcher Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama, has tracked mass shootings around the world since the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas, when an ex-Marine sharpshooter killed 17 people.

[From the UT Tower to a Las Vegas hotel: The carnage when shooters take aim from above]

Lankford’s list only includes attacks by public mass shooters, not organizational acts of terrorism or genocide such as the 2008 Mumbai attacks or 2015 Paris attacks.

Only one recent mass shooting — the 2011 attack at a Norwegian summer camp where 69 people died — was more deadly than the incident in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS IS THE SECOND-DEADLIEST

INCIDENT WORLDWIDE IN RECENT DECADES

People killed

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

Norway attacks, in 2011

Las Vegas shooting, 2017

South Korea shootings, 1982

Orlando nightclub shooting, 2016

Istanbul nightclub shooting in Turkey, 2017

Tunisia attack, 2015

Port Arthur massacre in Australia, 1996

Mikenskaya shooting in Russia, 1999

Virginia Tech shooting, 2007

Bogotá shooting in Colombia, 1986

Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, West Bank, 1994

Sandy Hook shooting, 2012

Kampala wedding massacre in Uganda, 1994

Tian Mingjian incident in China, 1994

Luby's shooting, 1991

Jarafa mosque massacre in Sudan, 2000

San Ysidro McDonald's massacre, 1984

Source: Adam Lankford, University of Alabama

LAS VEGAS IS THE SECOND-DEADLIEST INCIDENT

WORLDWIDE IN RECENT DECADES

People killed

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Norway attacks, in 2011

Las Vegas shooting, 2017

South Korea shootings, 1982

Orlando nightclub shooting, 2016

Istanbul nightclub shooting in Turkey, 2017

Tunisia attack, 2015

Port Arthur massacre in Australia, 1996

Mikenskaya shooting in Russia, 1999

Virginia Tech shooting, 2007

Bogotá shooting in Colombia, 1986

Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, West Bank, 1994

Sandy Hook shooting, 2012

Kampala wedding massacre in Uganda, 1994

Tian Mingjian incident in China, 1994

Luby's shooting, 1991

Jarafa mosque massacre in Sudan, 2000

San Ysidro McDonald's massacre, 1984

Source: Adam Lankford, University of Alabama

LAS VEGAS IS THE SECOND-DEADLIEST INCIDENT

WORLDWIDE IN RECENT DECADES

People killed

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Norway attacks, in 2011

Las Vegas shooting, 2017

South Korea shootings, 1982

Orlando nightclub shooting, 2016

Istanbul nightclub shooting in Turkey, 2017

Tunisia attack, 2015

Port Arthur massacre in Australia, 1996

Mikenskaya shooting in Russia, 1999

Virginia Tech shooting, 2007

Bogotá shooting in Colombia, 1986

Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, West Bank, 1994

Sandy Hook shooting, 2012

Kampala wedding massacre in Uganda, 1994

Tian Mingjian incident in China, 1994

Luby's shooting, 1991

Jarafa mosque massacre in Sudan, 2000

San Ysidro McDonald's massacre, 1984

Source: Adam Lankford, University of Alabama

Jaclyn Schildkraut, another researcher who tracks mass shooting news coverage at the State University of New York at Oswego, said it’s hard to compare these events because every country measures them differently. A mass shooting in the U.S. might be reported as a terrorist attack somewhere else, for instance.

New laws introduced after mass shootings in other countries addressed two main factors: gun types and mental health. Comparing U.S. policy with similar rules in Germany, Australia and Britain illustrates the different approaches.

[The Las Vegas shooter modified a rifle to shoot like an automatic weapon]

MASS SHOOTINGS

THAT LED TO GUN REFORM

BRITAIN

’80

Hungerford shooting, 1987

Firearms Act, 1988

In 1987, a man shot and killed 16 people before killing himself. He used semiautomatic rifles that he lawfully owned.

 

The 1988 Firearms Act banned the ownership of high-powered self-loading rifles and burst-firing weapons.

’90

Dunblane school, 1996

The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997

In 1996, a man shot and killed 16 children, ages 4 and 5, and their teacher before killing himself. He lawfully owned the guns he used.

 

The law was amended in response to overwhelming public opinion that firearms should be banned from use by the civilian population.

’00

’10

’17

GERMANY

’00

Erfurt school shooting, 2002

Weapons Act, 2003

In 2002, a student killed 16 people at a school in Erfurt.

 

A new law following the incident restricted the use of large caliber weapons by young people and strengthened rules for the safe storage of firearms.

’10

Winnenden school, 2009

Weapons Act (amendment), 2009

’17

In 2009, an 18-year-old killed 15 people in a school shooting.

 

Afterwards, Germany created a federal gun registry and to increased regulation of firearm storage.

AUSTRALIA

’90

Port Arthur shooting, 1996

National Firearms Agreement, 1996

In 1996, a gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle shot and killed 35 people at several locations in and around Port Arthur,

a popular tourist area.

 

 

’00

Following the massacre, the federal government and states agreed to make firearms regulations more uniform, including a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons. A national buyback program for prohibited weapons netted more than 700,000 firearms.

’10

MASS SHOOTINGS THAT LED TO GUN REFORM

BRITAIN

’90

’00

’10

’17

Hungerford shooting, 1987

Dunblane school, 1996

Firearms Act, 1988

The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997

In 1987, a man shot and killed 16 people before killing himself. He used semiautomatic rifles that he lawfully owned.

 

The 1988 Firearms Act banned the ownership of high-powered self-loading rifles and burst-firing weapons.

In 1996, a man shot and killed 16 children, ages 4 and 5, and their teacher before killing himself. He lawfully owned the guns he used.

 

The law was amended in response to overwhelming public opinion that firearms should be banned from use by the civilian population.

GERMANY

’90

’00

’10

’17

Erfurt school shooting, 2002

Winnenden school, 2009

Weapons Act, 2003

Weapons Act (amendment), 2009

In 2002, a student killed 16 people at a school in Erfurt.

 

A new law following the incident restricted the use of large caliber weapons by young people and strengthened rules for the safe storage of firearms.

In 2009, an 18-year-old killed 15 people in a school shooting.

 

Afterwards, Germany created a federal gun registry and to increased regulation of firearm storage.

AUSTRALIA

’90

’00

’10

’17

Port Arthur shooting, 1996

National Firearms Agreement, 1996

In 1996, a gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle shot and killed 35 people at several locations in and around Port Arthur,

a popular tourist area.

 

 

Following the massacre, the federal government and states agreed to make firearms regulations more uniform, including a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons. A national buyback program for prohibited weapons netted more than 700,000 firearms.

Source: Library of Congress

MASS SHOOTINGS THAT LED TO GUN REFORM

’90

’00

’10

’17

Britain

Britain has some of the tightest gun control laws in the world. Only police officers, members of the armed forces, or individuals with written permission from the Home Secretary may lawfully own a handgun.

Hungerford shooting, 1987

Dunblane school, 1996

Firearms Act, 1988

The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997

In 1987, a man shot and killed 16 people before killing himself. He used semiautomatic rifles that he lawfully owned.

 

The 1988 Firearms Act banned the ownership of high-powered self-loading rifles and burst-firing weapons.

In 1996, a man shot and killed 16 children, ages 4 and 5, and their teacher before killing himself. He lawfully owned the guns he used.

 

The law was amended in response to overwhelming public opinion that firearms should be banned from use by the civilian population.

’90

’00

’10

’17

Germany

The German system of gun control is among the most stringent in Europe.

Erfurt school shooting, 2002

Winnenden school, 2009

Weapons Act, 2003

Weapons Act (amendment), 2009

In 2002, a student killed 16 people at a school in Erfurt, Germany.

 

A new law following the incident restricted the use of large caliber weapons by young people and strengthened rules for the safe storage of firearms.

In 2009, an 18-year-old killed 15 people in a school shooting.

 

Afterwards, Germany created a federal gun registry and to increased regulation of firearm storage.

’90

’00

’10

’17

Australia

In 1996, the federal government, states and territories agreed to a uniform approach to firearms regulation.

Port Arthur shooting, 1996

National Firearms Agreement, 1996

In 1996, a gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle shot and killed 35 people at several locations in and around Port Arthur,

a popular tourist area.

 

 

Following the massacre, the federal government and states agreed to make firearms regulations more uniform, including a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons. A national buyback program for prohibited weapons netted more than 700,000 firearms.

Source: Library of Congress

After the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Australia, the country made its previously patchwork state-by-state regulations more uniform and banned some semiautomatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns. A 1987 attack in Britain led to an outright ban on the ownership of high-powered self-loading rifles and burst-firing weapons.

[How Australia beat the gun lobby and passed gun control]

Automatic

Semiautomatic

U.S.

In the United States, private possession of semiautomatic assault weapons is permitted without a licence in almost all jurisdictions

In the United States, private possession of fully automatic weapons is permitted subject to federal licensing and registration

GERMANY

Automatic

weapons are

prohibited

Semi-automatic

weapons are permitted

only with special

authorisation

AUSTRALIA

Automatic weapons are prohibited, with only narrow exceptions for permanently inoperable collector's, display, or museum guns

Semi-automatic weapons are prohibited in all but exceptional circumstances

BRITAIN

Semiautomatic weapons are not specifically prohibited in law

Automatic weapons are prohibited

Automatic

Semiautomatic

Handguns

In the United States, private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is permitted without a licence in almost all jurisdictions

In the United States, private possession of fully automatic weapons is permitted subject to federal licensing and registration

In the United States, private possession of semiautomatic assault weapons is permitted without a licence in almost all jurisdictions

U.S.

Prohibited

Permitted only

with special authorisation

Permitted only

with special authorisation

GERMANY

Prohibited, with only narrow exceptions for permanently inoperable collector's, display, or museum guns

Prohibited in all but exceptional circumstances

Only permitted subject to stringent conditions

AUSTRALIA

BRITAIN

Prohibited

Not specifically prohibited in law

Prohibited

Automatic

Semiautomatic

Handguns

In the United States, private possession of fully automatic weapons is permitted subject to federal licensing and registration

In the United States, private possession of semiautomatic assault weapons is permitted without a licence in almost all jurisdictions

In the United States, private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is permitted without a licence in almost all jurisdictions

UNITED

STATES

GERMANY

Prohibited

Permitted only

with special authorisation

Permitted only

with special authorisation

Prohibited, with only narrow exceptions for permanently inoperable collector's, display, or museum guns

Prohibited in all but exceptional circumstances

Only permitted subject to stringent conditions

AUSTRALIA

Prohibited

Not specifically prohibited in law

Prohibited

BRITAIN

The most deadly attack in Norway did not lead to stricter gun control laws, but lawmakers there added new safety provisions to the country’s Mental Health Act.

Recognized

Reasons

Criminal

History

GERMANY

Licenses issued to

hunters,

marksmen,

shootingassociation

members,

endangered

persons,

collectors, experts,

producers and

dealers, and

private security

firms.

No criminal

record,

membership in

criminal or

terrorist

organization, or

justified suspicion

of potential

violation.

AUSTRALIA

“Genuine reason”

(e.g., sports,

recreational

shooting/hunting,

collecting, or

occupational

requirements).

Ammunition only

provided to

license-holders.

Self-defense

excluded.

“Fit and proper

person” test; no

convictions for

violent offenses in

past five years.

BRITAIN

No sentence of

more than three

years’

imprisonment or

preventive

detention; those

receiving

sentences of three

months to three

years cannot

possess firearms or

ammunition for a

period of five

years after date of

release.

“Good reason” to

possess requested

firearm (e.g.

profession, sport

or recreation, or

shooting vermin).

Self-defense not a

good reason.

Minimum

Age

Recognized

Reasons

Criminal

History

Health

requirements

18 generally.

 

14–18 for

supervised

training or

employment.

 

21 for

marksmen,

subject to

exceptions.

Licenses issued to

hunters,

marksmen,

shootingassociation

members,

endangered

persons,

collectors, experts,

producers and

dealers, and

private security

firms.

No criminal

record,

membership in

criminal or

terrorist

organization, or

justified suspicion

of potential

violation.

No substance

addiction, mental

illness, or

feeblemindedness.

Psychiatric

evaluation if under

25.

GERMANY

“Genuine reason”

(e.g., sports,

recreational

shooting/hunting,

collecting, or

occupational

requirements).

Ammunition only

provided to

license-holders.

Self-defense

excluded.

“Fit and proper

person” test; no

convictions for

violent offenses in

past five years.

Mental/physical

fitness.

AUSTRALIA

18

“Good reason” to

possess requested

firearm (e.g.

profession, sport

or recreation, or

shooting vermin).

Self-defense not a

good reason.

No sentence of

more than three

years’

imprisonment or

preventive

detention; those

receiving

sentences of three

months to three

years cannot

possess firearms or

ammunition for a

period of five

years after date of

release.

References

regarding mental

state, home life,

and attitude

toward guns;

medical release

form; access to

firearms by unfit

family members or

associates may

disqualify

applicant.

18

BRITAIN

Minimum

Age

Recognized

Reasons

Criminal

History

Health

requirements

Training

18 generally.

 

14–18 for

supervised

training or

employment.

 

21 for

marksmen,

subject to

exceptions.

Licenses issued to

hunters,

marksmen,

shootingassociation

members,

endangered

persons,

collectors, experts,

producers and

dealers, and

private security

firms.

No criminal

record,

membership in

criminal or

terrorist

organization, or

justified suspicion

of potential

violation.

No substance

addiction, mental

illness, or

feeblemindedness.

Psychiatric

evaluation if under

25.

Knowledge of

weapons

technology and

law; expertise in

use of firearms.

GERMANY

“Genuine reason”

(e.g., sports,

recreational

shooting/hunting,

collecting, or

occupational

requirements).

Ammunition only

provided to

license-holders.

Self-defense

excluded.

“Fit and proper

person” test; no

convictions for

violent offenses in

past five years.

Mental/physical

fitness.

Safety course.

AUSTRALIA

18

“Good reason” to

possess requested

firearm (e.g.

profession, sport

or recreation, or

shooting vermin).

Self-defense not a

good reason.

No sentence of

more than three

years’

imprisonment or

preventive

detention; those

receiving

sentences of three

months to three

years cannot

possess firearms or

ammunition for a

period of five

years after date of

release.

References

regarding mental

state, home life,

and attitude

toward guns;

medical release

form; access to

firearms by unfit

family members or

associates may

disqualify

applicant.

18

BRITAIN

Efforts by Congress to strengthen gun policy in the U.S. have been held up by elections. In 2011, officials in President Obama’s Justice Department wrote a list of recommendations in the aftermath of a shooting which wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and killed six others. The Post reported that the effort was put on hold until after the 2012 midterm election.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the university where Adam Lankford works and misspelled his name.

About this story

Gun data from gunpolicy.org. Mass shooting list from Adam Lankford, University of Alabama. Policy comparison information from Firearms-control Legislation and Policy by the Law Library of Congress.

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