United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network

United Nations International Study on Firearm Regulation

Welcome to the website of the United Nations International Study on Firearm Regulation. Information on the methodology of the study is provided below, as are links to documents presented to the fifth and sixth sessions of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, including the survey instrument. The data of the Survey are also available below. Note that files may be downloaded in various formats, including the Portable Document Format (*.pdf) from Adobe Systems. Please click here to download the Adobe Acrobat viewer.  

1999 updated data: A new version of the database featuring forms that look like the pages of the survey instrument giving updated information on 78 countries is availbale in compressed (zip) format as of 30 August 1999. Information from the following countries has been added: Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Guyana, Monaco, Oman, Ukraine. Updates were made to Australia, Korea and others.


The Canadian Firearms Registry, a National Police Service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, has produced a Firearms Reference Table. This database, available on CD-Rom, offers a thorough description of numerous firearms. Information such as markings, designs, manufacturing companies and countries is included.

For more information, please contact the Canadian Firearms Registry, 1200 Vanier Parkway, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0R2, Canada.

Telephone: 1-800-461-7797
Email: cfr@istar.ca

Introduction and Methodology

Pursuant to the Economic and Social Council resolution 1995/27, section IV. A., paragraphs 7 and 8, adopted on the recommendation of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its fourth session (Vienna, Austria, 30 May - 9 June 1995), the present study on firearm regulation deals with, inter alia, the following topics:

(a) Criminal cases, accidents and suicides in which firearms are involved, including the number of such cases and the number of victims involved, and the status of firearm regulation by the law enforcement authorities;

(b) The situation with regard to transnational illicit trafficking in firearms;

(c) National legislation and regulations relevant to firearm regulation;

(d) Relevant initiatives for firearm regulation at the regional and interregional levels.

An additional purpose of the study was to determine what information could be collected on an ongoing basis.

The international project team established for the study determined at the outset that the research should: a) be descriptive and neutral; b) deal with only firearms, excluding landmines and other armaments; and c) focus solely on civilian regulations and civilian-owned firearms, excluding the military.

In the above framework, the following topics were selected:

Given the need to determine the nature of the information that could feasibly be exchanged on an ongoing basis and the fact that no similar international survey had previously been undertaken, the project team considered the study to be exploratory in nature and determined that a series of questions on each topic would be appropriate, even though it was expected that not all questions could be answered by all States. In addition, a blend of quantitative questions (eliciting yes/no or numerical answers) and qualitative questions (narrative, open-ended) were selected. The project team anticipated that it would be difficult for States to numerically represent the nature and extent of any firearm smuggling problem; hence, verbal descriptions of issues were requested. Generally, the level of detail to be pursued in the questionnaire was limited by the budget available to the study and the expected resource limitations of Governments, which would limit their ability to respond to a new questionnaire on firearms. The detail in the survey instrument was also limited by the need to collect information within a short period of time, enabling the Secretary-General to report to the Commission in time for its sixth session.

A draft of the survey instrument was tested in Canada, Japan, and Singapore. On the basis of the pretests, revisions were made to the survey instrument. To help ensure the accuracy of replies to the survey, the survey instrument was translated into Spanish by the Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. In cooperation of the African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders, the Canadian Government translated the survey instrument into French. The English version of the survey instrument was distributed to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its fifth session as a conference room paper (E/CN.15/1996/CRP.5) and was subsequently endorsed by the Economic and Social Council in its resolution 1996/28.

In addition to the information that would be collected through the survey, it was deemed important by the project team to consult with other intergovernmental organizations and, where possible, to collect other international data pertaining to firearms. The other organizations included the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and the Customs Co-operation Council (also called the World Customs Organization). Other international data sources to be examined were the international crime (victims) survey, coordinated by the Department of Justice of the Netherlands in conjunction with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. The final research report will contain an annex with additional findings.

Sufficient funds were available to invite approximately 50 States to participate in the survey. The project team selected Member States of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, on the basis of equitable geopolitical representation. The Secretary-General in a note verbale dated 10 October 1996, invited all other Member States to participate in the project pursuant to Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/28.

Twelve States responded to the survey as a result of the note verbale. Other replies to the survey were provided by national consultants. Four members of the Project Team, who represented a regional criminal justice institute, had agreed to consult governments and to identify a national consultant who would assume responsibility for the completion of the survey questionnaire. Representatives of regional institutes coordinated the surveys within their regions and answered the follow-up questions of national consultants as required. In most cases, in exchange for the reimbursement of costs for the collection of data, contracts were established with national consultants. The contracts were administered by the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy.

Completed survey questionnaires were received by 1 May 1997 from 49 States. The project team noted that, given the number of States and the criteria that had been applied to the selection of States, it should not be assumed that the results of the research study are globally representative. Nonetheless, the study sample can be viewed as a reasonable cross-section of States. The participating States, listed according to region, are as follows:

States participating in the survey as at 1 May 1997, by region





Latin America & Caribbean

North America


Burkina Faso


South Africa



United Republic of Tanzania




Islamic Republic of Iran





Viet Nam




Czech Republic










Republic of Moldova


Russian Federation




United Kingdom




Costa Rica





Trinidad & Tobago


United States


New Zealand

Papua New Guinea

Member States responding through the note verbale process are indicated in italics.

Responses were coded into a database, a draft report was prepared and a data validation process was begun. This involved, first of all, discussions with participants in the Expert Group Meeting on Gathering Information on and Analysis of Firearm Regulation, held at Vienna from 10-14 February 1997. Those participants who had been involved in preparing their country's response to the survey were asked to clarify their replies and to comment on their interpretations of the survey questions. These included representatives of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Jamaica, Japan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, and Zambia. Subsequently, all respondents were sent copies of the tables from the draft report, together with some clarifications of terminology (e.g. the definition of 'prohibit') and a correction to the French translation of the questionnaire. The inclusion of tables based on codifications of the narrative questions provided an opportunity for respondents to add to the information included in their original narrative responses. Amendments and additions have been received from the following 24 States as at 1 May 1997: Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Guinea, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, and United States of America.

Commission Documentation

Documents on firearm regulation have been prepared for the fifth and sixth sessions of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; please click on the links below to view respective documents. Note that the Report of the Secretary-General for the sixth session of the Commission contains a summary of the international study on firearm regulation.

Survey Instrument

The survey instrument itself, as noted above, was distributed to Member States both through the national consultant process and through a note verbale dated 10 October 1996.


Responses to the Survey have been maintained in a database, which is updated on an ongoing basis to reflect the inclusion of new information.

The file entitled unsfrdta.zip contains the data obtained in the Survey, in the form of a Microsoft Access 2.0 file. Please be aware that this dataset will be modified as Member States continue to validate the information they have provided. Furthermore, this downloadable dataset will be enhanced periodically to reflect the inclusion of new survey replies.

It may be most helpful to keep a copy of the survey instrument (above) close at hand when using the dataset, as fields have been numbered according to corresponding Question numbers. Finally, please be sure to read all accompanying notes fields for important information.

To obtain a hard copy of any of the documents listed, please contact Emil Wandzilak, Documentation Officer, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division, United Nations Office at Vienna, PO Box 500, Vienna International Centre, A-1400 Vienna, AUSTRIA.

This page last updated on 30 August 1999.

1997 United Nations

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