GUNS AROUND THE WORLD: The debate over gun control is heating up in the US - here's how other countries around the world regulate them

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The debate in the US over gun control reached a fever pitch following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead.

Now with the US Congress debating measures to strengthen existing gun laws and President Donald Trump releasing a plan to increase regulations - albeit a less intensive plan than initially promised, it appears legislative action on firearms could move in Congress. Activists throughout the country will march Saturday pushing lawmakers to act as part of what's become known as the March for Our Lives.

As is frequently the case after recent mass shootings, many gun control advocates pointed to other countries around the world as evidence that tighter limits on firearm ownership could reduce gun violence in the US.

It is true that in many countries outside of the US the number of gun deaths per 100,000 people is much lower - though the US is nowhere near the highest rate.

To get a more global perspective on the issue, we asked colleagues from some of Business Insider's international editions to answer a few questions about gun laws in their country.

We asked four questions:

  • What is the process like for getting a gun in your country?
  • What types of guns are legal? 
  • What do you think about President Trump's proposal to arm more teachers and trained professionals in schools?
  • Does the average person in your area fear the possibility of being the victim of gun violence?

Here are their responses.

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UK

UK

What is the process like for getting a gun in your country?

Long and relatively difficult. Police need to give you a license to buy a gun or ammunition.

To get a license, you need to fill out a 15-page form specifying what type of gun you want, and why you want it. Valid reasons include shooting for sport or pest control, as well as gun-collecting and study. Self-defense is explicitly ruled out as a good reason.

You then need to be interviewed by your local police force, and prove to them that you will be a responsible gun owner and have a safe to keep it in. You need two referees, and officers can ask for a medical assessment.

If the police later decide you shouldn't have guns, they can require you to give them back. You also have to tell the police every time you buy, sell, destroy, or lose a gun.

How long does it take on average to obtain a gun?

60 days.

What types of guns are legal?

There's a blanket ban on pistols, and most semi-automatic rifles are prohibited too. Shotguns, hunting rifles and some other firearms are allowed.

What do you think about President Trump's proposal to arm more teachers and trained professionals in schools?

The aim should surely be to stop school shootings from happening at all, rather than ending them faster when they do. The last mass school shooting in the UK was 22 years ago in Dunblane, Scotland.

Does the average person in your area fear the possibility of being the victim of gun violence?

No. Gun crime does exist, particularly in parts of London where gangs are active. But most Brits would not rank "getting shot" very highly on the list of things they worry about.

— Kieran Corcoran, Business Insider UK

US

US

What is the process like for getting a gun in your country? 

The process of getting a gun varies state-by-state in the US, with some areas placing stricter regulations on purchases than others.

In general, the process is fairly simple. Licensed gun sellers must run a federal and state background check on the prospective buyer before selling the gun. There are some exemptions to the background check such as private sales and sales at gun shows.

Some states impose other restrictions like a waiting period and limits on how many guns can be bought over a certain time period.

How long does it take on average to obtain a gun?

Again, it varies in different US states. In some states, the instant background check system allows people to buy guns in under an hour, while eight states have varying waiting periods before a purchase can be completed.

What types of guns are legal?

A wide array of guns are legal in the US, including many semiautomatic guns. The National Firearms Act states that the ownership of automatic or machine guns made before 1984 is legal but under tight restrictions. The NFA also bans various types of guns such as short-barrel shotguns and rifles.

There was previously a federal ban on certain semiautomatic weapons and high capacity magazines, but it lapsed in 2004.

What do you think about President Trump's proposal to arm more teachers and trained professionals in schools?

A poll from Quinnipiac University  released March 6 found that 58% of those surveyed were against Trump's proposal, while 40% supported the measure, though earlier polls found support to be more split. Additionally a SurveyMonkey poll found that most Americans believe arming teachers would make school "somewhat more dangerous" or "much more dangerous."

Does the average person in your area fear the possibility of being the victim of gunfire?

In a recent CBS News poll, 32% of Americans surveyed said that gun violence in America is a "crisis" while 37% said the issue was "very serious." In a CNN poll after the Parkland shooting, 57% of respondents said they are "very or somewhat worried they or a family member will become a victim of gun violence."

Sweden

Sweden

What is the process like for getting a gun in your country?

You need to contact and apply for a license from the police authorities. In the application, you will need to fill in a form stating who you are and why you need the gun.

Common purposes for applying for to be able to own a gun are: hunting (needs a hunter’s degree certificate), target shooting (needs association certificate), buying from a private person (original license from transferor needed), and memorial (certificate as well as a description of relationship needed). 

The same processes apply for ammunition and there are strict regulations on how you have to store gun and ammunition. 

How long does it take on average to obtain a gun?

6 weeks on average to the get the license from police.

What types of guns are legal?

Guns as gear for something can only be used for the approved activities. Such activities are mentioned above. For example, hunting, and target shooting.

Owning a gun for private use or security is strongly prohibited by Swedish law. It is also illegal and punishable to own a gun if you do not have a license for it.

What do you think about President Trump's proposal to arm more teachers and trained professionals in schools?

Generally, Sweden is very conservative and restrictive when it comes to guns. Even professionals, such as police, are often criticized for abusing their power to use guns. The proposal by Trump has not been seen as positive and has just been viewed as another act of his erratic behavior. 

Does the average person in your area fear the possibility of being the victim of gunfire?

I would say no. But there have been more shootings and more shootings are covered by the media. Some areas in Sweden, especially Malmö, have been more hit by criminal gun violence. These shootings exclusively deal with illegal, smuggled weapons, which are becoming an increasing problem in Sweden. But the shootings are almost only between criminals.

Shootings are a suburban problem in the bigger cities and in these areas people are more fearful than the average Swedish person.

— Adrian Woloszyk, BI Nordic

South Africa

South Africa

What is the process like for getting a gun in your country?

For a large number of the guns used to commit crime in South Africa, the process of getting a gun consists of two steps: identify a representative of a gang or suitable alternative underworld figure, then hand over a relatively small amount of cash.

The country is still awash in weapons smuggled in and cached during the armed struggle against Apartheid. The pool of illegal weapons is constantly replenished through stolen guns. According to most recent statistics police lose around 10 guns per month, and firearms are a primary goal in home robberies.

Gun ownership is not a right in South Africa, and the requirements to obtain a license are strict. For every gun every owner must undergo competency training with a registered trainer spanning theory, a practical test, and a section on the law. The trainer must certify the potential owner to be fit and competent to use the weapon – and to fully appreciate the legal rules on use – before anything else can happen.

The certification must be submitted to police, in a process that takes at least three months. Fingerprints are checked against all criminal databases.

A doctor must certify that the potential owner does not suffer from depression or any mental illness that can affect emotional state, and two references, typically close friends or family, must be available to confirm that the person is not of a violent disposition.

An on-site safety inspection is also required to ensure that gun safes comply with minimum requirements.

Under self-defense and sport-shooting licenses, every owner is limited to one handgun. 

How long does it take on average to obtain a gun?

Legally, a minimum of three months and longer in practice.

What types of guns are legal?

All of them. Semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are limited to registered private security companies or, under strict conditions, to sportspeople. Collectors may buy fully automatic weapons.

What do you think about President Trump's proposal to arm more teachers and trained professionals in schools?

Some private schools in South Africa have armed guards at the perimeter, and many more have access to quick-response private armed guards. However, the idea of arming teachers is patently absurd in the South African context.

Does the average person in your area fear the possibility of being the victim of gunfire?

All South Africans fear violent crime, which is pervasive and deadly. Few to none fear random or mass shootings, which are simply unheard of.

— Phillip De Wet, Business Insider South Africa

The Netherlands

The Netherlands
What is the process like for getting a gun in your country?

You can only get a gun if you’re a hunter, collector or a sports shooter in the Netherlands. But even then it’s not easy. You need to get a permit from your local chief of police and follow the rules of the Arms and Ammunition Act. The police will check if you have a criminal record and if you are psychologically fit. The department also keeps track of which people have permission to have firearms in their house. These permits are renewed annually and checked by the police with house visits.

Besides that, there a several conditions you need to meet if you want to hunt (you have to pass an exam, for instance). The same goes for sports shooters and collectors. You must be a member of a shooting club that is affiliated with the Royal Dutch Archers Association (KNSA) or the Dutch Traditional Archers Koepel (KNTS) for at least one year. And to be a member, you have to have a certificate of good conduct from the ministry of Justice and Security.

How long does it take on average to obtain a gun?

You need to be a member of a sports club for at least a year, and then screening and permits take at least four weeks.

As a hunter, you need to do a training course, which always starts in September and takes half a year. Only 50% of the people pass the exam the first time. After that, there's screening, insurance, and other bureaucratic things.

So on average, it takes a year for hunters before they can have a gun.

What types of guns are legal?

Even a fake gun that looks like the real deal is illegal. You may have one with a CE mark, a certification mark that indicates conformity with European regulations, but you can’t take it with you to public spaces.

The Dutch ministry categorizes weapons into four groups, each with their own regulation. If you have a permit, you can own things like pistols, revolvers, guns, throwing knives, swords, sabres, pneumatic weapons, harpoons, or crossbows.

Ballistic knives, stiletto knives, butterfly knives, nunchucks, brass knuckles, arrows, throwing stars, and fake guns without CE marking are forbidden. Same goes for military weapons like automatic firearms, hand grenades, mines, tasers, and weapons like pepper spray or tear gas. Only a select group of specialized collectors that meet certain terms and conditions can own these.

What do you think about President Trump's proposal to arm more teachers and trained professionals in schools?

A Dutch TV host made a video about it.

This video is satire, but the fact is: we truly cannot believe that someone thinks arming teachers solves the problem. The possession of weapons increases the chance of accidents and violence.

Does the average person in your area fear the possibility of being the victim of gunfire?

No, not at all. Only drugs dealers and other criminals possess illegal guns. With 17 million inhabitants there are only 70,000 weapon permits in our country: 40,000 sports shooters, 30,000 hunters.

In recent history, there was only one "sicko shooter" in the Netherlands. In April 2011, the 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis killed six people and himself in a shopping mall in Alphen aan den Rijn. He had a gun permit. Since then, the law has become more strict and background checks have increased.

— Els van Asseldonk, Business Insider Nederland

France

What is the process like for getting a gun in your country?

France is apparently one of the country where people own the most guns per resident in Europe. But guns are illegal unless you have a permit or your an officer of the law.

Since 2013, all guns must be registered at the "prefecture" (administration office). 

Lots of people who own guns have a "hunting license" that allows you to carry a gun if you are registered as "hunter". You can also carry a gun if you have a permit and after 6 months spent practicing within a "club de tir" (an organization where you can learn to shoot).

There are also a lot of weapons from WWI and WWII that are still sitting in people's attics, usually from their grandparents or great-grandparents. They also have to be registered, even if apparently it's not always done.

How long does it take on average to obtain a gun?

You have to train at a shooting range for 6 months before the club gives you an authorization. As for having a "permis de chasse" (hunting permit"), it takes a couple of months. You have to take an exam, and there's one about every two months.

What types of guns are legal?

There are 4 categories of weapons in France (A, B, C, D).

D: Historic guns that don't work (or aren't supposed to)

C: Hunting guns 

B: 9mm, semi-automatic rifle — you have to be a registered professional shooter to have one

A: War weapons or weapons of mass destruction — completely forbidden 

B, C and D have to be "kept locked" in a safe or be disabled when not used.

What do you think about President Trump's proposal to arm more teachers and trained professionals in schools?

From our point of view, it's an aberration. Nobody's allowed to carry a gun freely so it's not even a possibility. 

For example, a lot of people don't feel at ease when they see military people walking down the street carrying riffles, they are in the military — imagine what it would be for civilians. When I see images of normal American citizens carrying their guns in public it gives me goosebumps. It is so abnormal for us.

The vast majority here agrees there's a link between gun ownership and the number of mass shootings in the US, it's not really a matter of opinion, it's more viewed as a fact — maybe because there is so little pro-gun lobbying here.

The only party pro-gun ownership is the Front National, the extreme right party.

Does the average person in your area fear the possibility of being the victim of gunfire?

Not gunfire specifically. But since the 2015 Paris terror attacks, people fear terrorist attacks a lot more than before. But even back in 2015, we didn't have a "great debate" about gun ownership legalization. The subject has just never reached the national political debate sphere to the extent it has in the US.

— Marie Turcan, Business Insider France

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