The Current

Roughly a billion guns in the world — and other startling facts about firearms

Guns are so omnipresent in our society we don't talk about them. But when Iain Overton started counting the number of guns on the planet, he hit the billion mark. The Current looks at the global destruction and cultural significance of the gun.
Worldwide, 300,000 people are shot dead each year. (Reuters/Jason Miczek)

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There are almost a billion guns in world today. 

Every year more than 12 billion bullets are produced. That's almost enough to kill every person on earth. Twice. 

Worldwide, 300,000 people are shot dead each year. Many more, of course, are injured.

'250,000 guns from the US are smuggled south into Mexico every year,' says Iain Overton on the international ripple effects of the U.S. gun culture. (Peretz Partensky/Flickr cc)

The numbers involved in the trade are staggering:

  • The global pistol and revolver trade more than tripled in value between 2003 and 2013.
  • UN data indicates that by 2013 almost 31 million firearms and parts were being traded by 94 countries worldwide.
  • In one year alone, the U.S. imported about $800 million worth of guns from around the world and exported a further $400 million. 
  • Over 98 million firearms were sold by Americans, to Americans between 1986 and 2010. 

As an investigative journalist Iain Overton saw firsthand the pain and destruction caused by guns. Now he's director of investigations for the London-based charity, Action on Armed Violence. He is also the author of The Way of the Gun - A Bloody Journey in the World of Firearms. 

I've reported in over 80 countries around the world, frequently in war zones. But I began to realize that the gun was ever present but also unremarked upon.- Iain Overton, author of

As part of our series Ripple Effect, Iain Overton joined The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti to talk about how gun culture in North America has made an impact across the globe. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.