10 Best Countries for Gun Owners

You can tell a lot about a national government by its trust of law-abiding, armed citizens. Nations with a functioning government in place were considered and judged based on their rates of civilian firearm ownership, open or concealed carry legislation and other factors. Here are ten of the world’s best countries for gun owners.

 

10. Honduras

The Good: Hondurans may purchase most popular types of shotguns, handguns or rifles for the recognized purposes of self-defense and recreation.

The Bad: The momentum in Honduras is overwhelmingly anti-gun. Decades of violence swayed public opinion and led to a complete ban on open and concealed carry in June 2007. Not surprisingly, these gun controls have done nothing to quell the bloodshed. Honduras retains one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Hondurans are only permitted five firearms, all of which require licensing and registration with the government. All 26 locations where guns and ammunition are sold in Honduras are under military control.

Rate of Ownership: 2.05 percent; however, this includes only registered firearms. Illicit firearms may number as high as 850,000.

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Yes, most semiautomatic carbines of .308-caliber or smaller are allowed.

Concealed or open carry? Prohibited

9. Finland

The Good: As with other Nordic countries, Finland boasts high per-capita gun ownership due in large part to a strong hunting tradition. In 2009 Finnish pro-gun activists fought back a proposal to tighten licensing restrictions.

The Bad: An acquisition license is required to buy firearms, and a separate license is required for each individual gun. Gun owners must declare a reason for ownership such as hunting, target shooting or collecting, but self-defense is not considered valid. All guns must be locked in the home. If the collection includes more than five guns, they must be stored in a safe that has been inspected and approved by local police.

Rate of Ownership: 12.81 percent, however, this rate is based on registered ownership. Thousands of additional World War II-era guns are thought to be in circulation, though estimates vary widely.

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Yes, but only in very limited circumstances; generally, with a collector’s license at the discretion of local police.

Concealed or open carry? Prohibited.

8. Serbia

The Good: Rural Serbs have a strong history of gun ownership and licenses can be obtained to buy most classes of firearms.

The Bad: If a prospective gun buyer is denied a license, there is no appeal process. You can’t buy a gun. Shooters are also limited to purchasing 60 rounds of rifle or handgun ammunition annually, not including any rounds expended at a shooting range. Reloading rifle or handgun ammo is prohibited. Handgun ownership licenses are highly difficult to obtain.

Rate of Ownership: 15.81 percent

Allows semiautomatic Rifles? No, except in extremely rare instances.

Concealed or open carry? Permits for concealed or open carry are available to those in “imminent danger,” but they are very rarely issued.

7. Sweden

The Good: A fairly high number of Swedes own guns and participate in competitive shooting and hunting.

The Bad: Self-defense is not considered a valid reason for owning a gun, and Swedish self-defense laws essentially render any shooting an unjustifiable one. The gun-control laws are numerous and draconian. Those over 18 may obtain a license from the police to own a gun and must declare their reason for applying: sport shooting, hunting or collecting. Sport shooters must belong to a club for six months before obtaining a license; prospective hunters must pass an examination. Guns registered for sport may not be used for hunting. Swedes are only permitted 6 hunting rifles or 10 pistols, or an eight-gun combination of rifles and pistols (all of which must be stored in an approved safe), and they cannot purchase ammunition for a firearm they do not own.

Rate of Ownership: 31.6 percent

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Yes, pending “special authorization”.

Concealed or open carry? Prohibited

6. Canada

The Good: Canada’s hunting and sport-shooting traditions continue, despite the many successes of its anti-gun lobby. In 1995 the country required every gun to be registered in a federal database, but the scheme was famously disastrous and ceased operation in 2012.

The Bad: Canada has outright bans on pistols with barrel lengths under 4.1 inches, semi-auto rifle magazines holding more than 5 rounds and semiautomatic pistol magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Pistols with barrel lengths exceeding 4.1 inches, long guns with an overall length under 26 inches and semi-auto rifles with barrels under 18 ½ inches (i.e. AR-15 variants) can only be shot at firearms ranges and require a special license. All gun ownership requires a “possession and acquisition license.” Canada’s storage requirements include provisions that the guns be unloaded and rendered inoperable or locked. Forget using them for self-defense.

Rate of Ownership: 23.8 percent

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Technically, yes, though the right is severely restricted.

Concealed or open carry? Prohibited.

5. Norway

The Good: Norway has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and a permit process to obtain most types of firearms.

The Bad: The right to own firearms is not guaranteed by law, and those seeking a gun owner’s license (required for all ownership) must provide a reason for doing so. License applicants must pass background checks and complete a qualifying course at a shooting range just to keep a gun in their homes.

Rate of Ownership: 31.3 percent

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Yes, with a permit.

Concealed or open carry? Prohibited.

4. Panama

The Good: Want to retire someplace warm and gun friendly? We suggest you stick with the southern United States; otherwise, Panama is the least anti-gun country in Central America. If you legally own a gun, you can carry it concealed; no permit required. Essentially all non-fully automatic guns are legal, even sawed-off shotguns and short-barrel rifles, and there are also no magazine capacity restrictions.

The Bad: Tourists have no gun rights. You must establish residency to buy or import a gun to Panama, and the importation process is expensive and reportedly quite unreliable. Your best bet is to buy a pre-government-registered gun from a dealer, which will require a firearm owner’s license. To get the license you must complete a background check, which can take months, and submit blood and urine samples. The next issue to overcome is that Panama has a diminutive gun culture despite decent laws compared to much of the world. Thus, there are few gun stores and even fewer with a decent selection of guns and ammo. Don’t expect to find the gun you’re looking for (without special order) and plan to pay more than the gun is worth.

Rate of Ownership: 3.06 percent

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Yes

Concealed or open carry? Concealed carry is allowed without a permit for any legally possessed handgun; open carry is illegal.

3. Switzerland

The Good: Until 2010, all able-bodied males were required to keep automatic rifles at home or the local armory to provide for the national defense. The service is now voluntary, but voters rejected a 2011 referendum that would have required militia members to store their guns on military bases. The tradition also coincides with a strong culture of private ownership. The Swiss have one of the world’s highest rates of gun ownership at around 29 percent, and also one of the lowest crime rates. So-called “free arms” such as single-shots and bolt-action rifles can be purchased by anyone over 18 years of age without a permit. In 1997, the Federal Law on Arms, Arms Accessories and Ammunition guaranteed a right to ownership.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the same 1997 law that recognized a right to ownership also established numerous restrictions, as did laws that followed. Licenses and registration are required for most gun purchases, including between private citizens. If someone steals your gun and uses it in another crime, you are legally responsible for his actions.

Rate of Ownership: 29 percent

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Yes, with a permit.

Concealed or open carry? Guns may be carried openly with the proper license. Concealed-carry permits are issued on a restrictive basis. Individuals must show “proof of genuine need and tangible danger,” and pass a variety of background checks and a police firearms examination.

2. Czech Republic

The Good: After the fall of the Soviet Union, Czechs sought to restore their gun rights and indeed have some of Europe’s best. Recreational shooting is the third most popular sport in the Czech Republic, behind soccer and hockey. Unlike many European countries, citizens may obtain concealed-carry permits without declaring a reason for doing so. Czech law also recognizes the right to self-defense more strongly than most nations.

The Bad: A Czech court ruled that the right to firearms is not constitutionally recognized. All gun owners must go through a shall-issue license process including background checks and various competency exams in order to buy and own firearms. Even single-shot types must be registered.

Rate of Ownership: Despite having decent gun laws in comparison to other European countries, the rate of ownership is quite low. In 2013, there were only 306,815 firearm-owner licenses and 728,476 registered guns out of a population of 10.5 million Czechs. Overall private ownership rate is about 16.3 percent.

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Yes, with a permit.

Concealed or open carry? Though a distant second to the United States, the Czech Republic has one of the world’s best concealed-handgun laws. After obtaining a firearm-owner license (requires backgrounds checks and various competency exams), no additional permit is required to carry concealed. Up to two guns may be carried concealed at once. Open carry is highly restricted.

1. United States

The Good: The United States boasts the proudest tradition of firearm ownership in the world. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution recognizes an individual right to keep and bear arms, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in the 2008 D.C. versus Heller decision. When America’s gun rights are challenged, the measures are generally beaten back by a large and organized segment of pro-gun voters. It holds the No. 1 spot on this list by a very distant margin.

The Bad: Certain states and municipalities have sought to undermine gun rights through regulation. Some of these attempts have been overturned on Second Amendment grounds, as in the cases of Chicago, IL, and Washington, D.C. More recently the state of New York’s SAFE Act banned a host of firearms and features.

Rate of Ownership: The United States does not require registration of non-NFA guns, so ownership rates are difficult to quantify. Estimates are that 43-percent of American homes contain a firearm and that 90 million people own a gun. These are by far the world’s highest rates per capita.

Allows semiautomatic rifles? Yes, in all but a few states.

Concealed or open carry? Yes. Thirty U.S. states allow open carry without a permit, 14 require a permit, and six prohibit it. All 50 states now have a process by which citizens can obtain a concealed-carry permit; 39 shall issue, eight may issue, and three unrestricted.

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