How does gun ownership in the Czech Republic compare to the rest of the world?

The Czech Republic leads in gun ownership among the Visegrad Four group but lags behind neighboring Germany and Austria.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 30.11.2021 10:30:00 (updated on 30.11.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

A recent string of gun violence in the United States has put the spotlight on international attitudes toward gun ownership and gun laws.

U.S. news station and website CNN revisited the global gun statistics as part of a look at U.S. attitudes toward gun ownership and gun violence, which are deeply dividing the country.

“Almost a third of US adults believe there would be less crime if more people owned guns, according to an April 2021 Pew survey. However, multiple studies show that where people have easy access to firearms, gun-related deaths tend to be more frequent, including by suicide, homicide, and unintentional injuries,” CNN said.

Most European countries, including the Czech Republic and its neighbors, have both low rates of gun ownership and gun violence compared to the U.S.

The most recent statistics show that on a per-capita basis Czechs own about one-tenth the number of guns Americans. The U.S. is the only country in the world with more guns than people. This is a bit misleading as some people own multiple guns, while others don’t own any guns at all. Still, there are over 120 guns for every 100 people in the U.S., accounting for 46 percent of the firearms in private hands in the entire world.

The Czech Republic leads in gun ownership among the Visegrad Four group but lags behind neighboring Germany and Austria.

There are 12.5 guns per 100 people in the Czech Republic, while Hungary has 10.5 Slovakia has 6.5, and Poland just 2.5 per 100 people. Austria, on the other hand, has 30 per 100 people and Germany has 19.6.

The statistics compiled by Small Arms Survey, an independent research group based in Switzerland, were compiled in 2017 but the situation does not seem to have changed significantly. The survey counts handguns, rifles, shotguns, improvised guns, and, when available to the public, machine guns.

Since the statistics were compiled, though, the Czech Republic has passed a constitutional amendment in July allowing the right to use arms to defend oneself and others under legal conditions. This move is intended to prevent the European Commission from weakening Czech guns laws. A separate law passed in 2020 made it easier to transport guns for sales events and historical shows. It also allowed for night vision scopes and silencers.

Still, owning a gun in the Czech Republic isn't so easy. Permits are for 10 years and are reviewed after five years. People have to pass a written and practical test, as well as a medical check that includes mental health, and a clean criminal record.

The U.S. also leads in gun violence. There were 4.1 deaths per 100,000 people in the US in 2019. No other country came close. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Germany, and Austria all had 0.1 gun deaths per 100,00 people, while Slovakia had 0.3.

Mass shootings are rare in the Czech Republic, but not unknown. In 2019, seven people plus the gunman were killed in Ostrava, and in 2015, eight people plus the gunman were killed in Uherský Brod. There was also a case in 2009 with four victims plus the gunman. Then there is a big gap to before the Velvet Revolution.

The U.S. has 4 percent of the world’s population but accounted for 44 percent of suicides by firearms, with 23,265. The Czech Republic has 0.14 percent of the world’s population and reportedly had 120 gun suicide cases that year. Slovakia, with 0.7 percent of the world’s population, had 50 cases.

Statistics track both registered and estimated unregistered weapons. An amnesty from January to July 2021 saw over 3,700 weapons turned in ranging from handguns to tanks.

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