Published January 2, 2013
In light of recent remarks by Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr about America’s gun culture, a better look at Iceland’s gun culture turns up a number of differences between the two countries.
As many are likely aware, violent crime in Iceland does exist, but is almost always unrelated to guns. In fact, the use of a gun in committing any crime is cause for media attention. Last week, Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr spoke up about American gun culture, expressing bewilderment that the US would pressure Iceland to stop hunting whales while having no problem with the proliferation of small arms within America.
It would seem as though Icelanders in general have an aversion then to guns. However, statistics on gun ownership in Iceland show them to actually be a somewhat popular purchase.
The total number of guns in Iceland is estimated to be around 90,000, ranking Iceland 15th in the world in terms of number of guns per person. With a population of just over 300,000, this translates to about one in three Icelanders being gun owners. This is actually lower in rank than most other Nordic countries, behind Finland (4th), Sweden (10th) and Norway (11th). Denmark is far behind the pack, ranked 54th in the world.
Despite this relatively high rate of gun ownership, the number of gun related deaths in Iceland is very low – only four were reported in 2009, which includes suicide, homocide, and accidental shooting.
All guns in Iceland may only be purchased by those with a license to own a firearm, and all guns are registered in a national database. The vast majority of these weapons are shotguns and hunting rifles.