Gun Control in Most Countries More Stringent Than in U.S

Article excerpt

Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Few countries go as far as the District of Columbia government did in effectively banning handgun ownership, but gun control abroad tends to be far stricter and more intrusive than in the United States. In Britain, it is a crime to manufacture or import even realistic-looking imitation guns, while in Canada, handguns must be registered and potential buyers must undergo training, a personal-risk assessment and a criminal background check; supply two references; and have their spouses notified before purchase.

"In recent years, the trend in both developed and developing countries has been in the direction of increasing regulation," researchers Wendy Cukier and Victor W. Sidel wrote in a 2007 survey.

"Most countries require licensing of all firearm purchases and registration of some or all firearms. Import and export controls are virtually universal," they noted.

The European Union parliament last fall debated new rules to regulate and restrict gun ownership across the 27-nation bloc, including a computerized database of gun purchases and owners, including the model, caliber and serial number of the weapons.

"All European cows are registered Europe-wide, so why not guns if it can save lives?" Gisela Kallenbach, a member of Germany's Green Party, told the International Herald Tribune during the debate. "Civil liberties can be sacrificed if we can prevent people from being killed."

But as in the United States, the effectiveness and fairness of gun control laws have sparked fierce debates abroad, with the data serving up some major surprises.

In France, a strong hunters' lobby has fought restrictions on hunting rifles. Sweden, with one of the lowest homicide rates in Europe, has the second-highest rate of gun ownership in the EU, at 32 firearms per 100 people, trailing only Cyprus. …