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Politics and Economy:
Gun Land
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International Gun Laws

The movement of guns across borders has become a major focal point for the War on Terrorism. Some of these efforts depend on national information on gun production and transfer. Below you can compare U.S. guns registration requirements with those of other nations.

The law enforcement agency INTERPOL has stepped up its efforts with a new tracking system, Interpol Weapons and Explosives Tracking System (IWETS). IWETS is currently the only international analytical database designed to collate information on illegal firearms trafficking. IWETS provides current indexes of firearms manufactures and other information that facilitates the identification of firearms. IWETS is also the only international system for stolen and recovered weapons.

The UN General Assembly established a Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) in 1999 as an arm of the Vienna-based UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP). The group aims to combat the illegal traffic in arms — as noted in GUN LAND, 11 percent of illegal guns recovered worldwide came from the state of Florida. Check their Web site to see a list of the most common weapons used by terrorists and lists gunmakers.

There are also several firearms-related bills in front of the U.S. Congress. Some of these may be reintroduced in the 2003 session.

CountryLicensing of gun owners?Registration of firearms?Other RestrictionsHouseholds with firearms (%)Total Intentional Gun Death Rate per 100,000
JapanYesYes Prohibits handguns with few exceptions 0.6 %0.07
SingaporeYesYesMost handguns and rifles prohibited0.01%0.24
U.K.YesYesProhibits handguns4.0 %0.4
Netherlands YesYes 1.9 %0.55
SpainYesYesSome handguns and rifles are prohibited13.1 %0.74
GermanyYesYes 8.9 %1.44
ItalyYesYes N/A2.27
IsraelYesYes N/A2.56
AustraliaYesYesBanned semiautomatics unless good reason16.0 %2.94
CanadaYesAll guns by 2003Assault weapons and some handguns26%3.95
FranceYesYes, except sporting rifles 22.6 %5.48
SwitzerlandYesYes 27.2 %5.74 6.2
FinlandYesYes 50 %6.65
USAin some statesHandguns in some statesSome weapons in some states41%13.47

Source: W. Cukier, "Firearms Regulation: Canada in the International Context," Chronic Diseases in Canada, April, 1998 (statistics updated to reflect most recent figures, January 2001).

GUN LAND is a continuation of research which began with KQED/CIR's own hour-long documentary, GUN SHOTS, which looked at how illegal guns get into the hands of criminals in United States. GUN LAND is a NOW with Bill Moyers co-production of KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

More on this story, "The Guns of Opa-Locka" by Jake Bergman and Julia Reynolds, appears in the December 2, 2002 issue of THE NATION magazine.

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