How many guns are there in the United States today? No one really knows, but research conducted by the Geneva, Switzerland based Small Arms Survey provides the best guesstimate for 2017:
Civilian-held Firearms: 393,347,000
Military-owned Firearms: 4,535,380
Law Enforcement Firearms: 1,016,000
TOTAL FIREARMS ESTIMATE (2017): 398,898,380
Data for the United States can be viewed alongside the rest of the world — including links to the underlying country data (click the “Annexe” links) and a dynamic global map — on the Small Arms Survey global firearms holdings page.
SAS’s Estimating Global Civilian-Held Firearms Numbers report shows that the United States is an outlier both in terms of aggregate numbers of civilian-held firearms (Table 1 below) and per capita firearms ownership (Table 2 below).
There are at least 120.5 civilian firearms for every 100 residents of the United States, more than doubling the rate of ownership in the second highest ranked country (Yemen) and tripling the third highest ranked countries (Montenegro and Serbia).
The Small Arms Survey estimated that U.S. civilians owned between 250M and 290M guns in 2006. As Figure 2 (below) in their 2018 report shows, the annual acquisition of new firearms in the United States has increased dramatically since then, especially during the presidency of Barak Obama.
From 2013 to 2014, we see a decline in the number of firearms purchased. This is likely a “regression to the mean” after the extraordinary run-up with Obama’s election to a second term and the threat of gun bans following the massacres at the Century Theaters in Aurora, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
If we added data for 2016 to 2018 to this figure, I believe we would see an increase from 2015 to 2016 reflecting fear of President Hilary Clinton purchases, and then decreases from 2016 to 2017 to 2018 (the “Trump Slump”), though a slump in 2018 might have been offset by the threat of gun bans following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.