Guns and Freedom Worldwide 

October 2022.

Less than half the world's population today lives in a free society.

If an armed citizenry is essential to freedom, you would expect armed societies to have more freedom than unarmed societies.

Guess what? That's exactly what the world looks like.

Countries with more civilian gun owners have higher "freedom scores" than countries with fewer civilian gun owners.
It looks like this:

Figure 1: HFI Score vs. Civilian Gun Ownership

Data sources:
I combined two datasets to compare rates of civilian gun ownership with freedom scores in 162 different countries:

  1. The Human Freedom Index.Ian Vásquez, Tanja Porčnik. The Human Freedom Index 2019: A Global Measurement of Personal, Civil, and Economic Freedom. Washington: Cato Institute, Fraser Institute, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom; 2019. LINK.
  2. the Small Arms Survey.Aaron Karp. Briefing Paper June 2018: Estimating Global Civilian Held Firearm Numbers. Geneva: Small Arms Survey; 2018. LINK..

The Human Freedom Index (HFI) uses 2017 data to rank 162 countries on a Freedom Score scale of 1 to 10. For example, USA gets an 8.5, China gets a 6.2, and Syria gets a 3.8.

The Small Arms Survey (SAS) uses 2017 data to estimate rates of civilian-possessed firearms per 100 persons in 227 countries. For example, USA has 120 guns per 100 people, China has 3.6, and Syria has 8.2.

Reduce the SAS data to 162 countries that match the HFI data.I averaged the SAS values for England & Scotland to create the GBR record for the merged dataset. Similarly, I averaged the SAS values for Ireland & Northern Ireland to create the IRL record for the merged dataset. Merge the datasets. Sort the countries into four groups according to the rate of civilian gun ownership per 100 citizens:

  1. Countries with 20+ guns per 100 citizens (GPCC). n=20.
  2. Countries with 10 to 19.9 GPCC. n=43. 
  3. Countries with 2 to 9.9 GPCC. n=63.
  4. Countries with < 2 GPCC n=36.

Then calculate the median HFI Freedom score for each group.

Look at Figure 1 above. It shows a linear relationship between the number of civilian-owned guns and freedom. More civilian-owned guns = more freedom.

This information is not surprising to educated people. For 5000 years of written human history, liberty has never been preserved by people who were unable to defend it. 

Here is the same data presented in a different format: the percentage of countries in each group that have a freedom score higher than 7.5:

Figure 2: % of Countries with HFI > 7.5

Download the merged dataset here: XLS.

This analysis does not conclusively prove that more citizen guns always leads to more citizen freedom.
But it strongly supports that theory.

This analysis is based on 2017 data. Since that year, societal indicators of human freedom have declined worldwide, and civilian ownership of guns has held steady or increased. If you live in an unarmed society, your freedoms have probably diminished since 2017. If you live in a polite society, you probably have not noticed much change.
I'll update this report in 2023 or 2024. 

This the end of the article. 

The charts and comments below are for data nerds.

More than half of the 162 countries covered by the Human Freedom Index have a Human Freedom Index score of less than 7:

Figure 4: Distribution of HFI Scores

More than half have fewer than 10 civilian guns per 100 persons...

Figure 3: Distribution of Gun Ownership

The percentage distribution of countries by civilian gun ownership was not significantly affected by the reduction of the SAS data from 227 to 162 records:

Figure 5: Distribution of Gun Ownership-SAS

Counter-trend countries:

Hong Kong and Taiwan have HFI freedom scores equivalent to or higher than USA, and no guns. If China decides to incorporate either of these polities, no one will stop them. Perhaps the accuracy of the HFI index might be improved by adding a vulnerability adjustment for polities under immediate threat of oppression by neighboring authoritarian regimes. 

Singapore has a high freedom score. Singapore officially opposes Taiwan's independence from China. Interesting.

Pakistan and Yemen have high numbers of civilian-owned guns and low freedom scores. Apparently, guns alone are not enough to create a free society. You also need a system of government designed to preserve freedom, rights, and equality for all persons.