Small arms and light weapons cause the vast majority of violence-related death and injury throughout the world. This is true not only in war situations and in what have been called “terrorist” situations, but in times of peace as well. Firearms are used frequently without cause, in the escalation of disputes, in suicides, in the commission of crimes and in the actions of law enforcement officers. While other weapons may be used in violence, the widespread availability, portability, and simplicity of use of firearms make them a “weapon of choice” in a wide variety of situations that might have otherwise resulted in little or no violence and in no death or injury.
Many of the deaths and injuries caused by small arms around the world have their origin in the United States. Annually, the United States manufactures more guns than does any other country in the world. The guns manufactured in the United States largely end up, through legal or illegal sales or other routes, in the hands of residents of the United States. Within the United States, there are more guns, and more guns per capita, than in any other country in the world. The United States also has the highest annual rate of gun deaths per capita in the industrialized world. But the United States is also the largest supplier of guns to people in the rest of the world, through both legal and illegal transfers. These exported guns are a major cause of worldwide death, injury and disability.
Culture in the United States, particularly male culture, reinforces the link between masculinity and guns. Many young men in the United States, and some young women, grow up using model guns as toys, using real guns for hunting and reading dramatic tales about the ownership and use of guns. The U.S. media and the U.S. gun lobby export this gun culture worldwide, adding to worldwide acceptability and use of guns.