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Gun love: the United States vs. Yemen

Brent Stirton/Getty Images According to the 2006 General Social Survey of the University of Chicago, gun owners in the United States are a “shrinking minority.” The actual number of firearms per U.S. household is controversial, but it seems that the share of gun owners has dropped from an all time high of 54 percent in ...

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Brent Stirton/Getty Images

According to the 2006 General Social Survey of the University of Chicago, gun owners in the United States are a “shrinking minority.” The actual number of firearms per U.S. household is controversial, but it seems that the share of gun owners has dropped from an all time high of 54 percent in 1977 to 34.5 percent in 2006.

But if gun love is headed downhill in the United States, this is certainly not the case for Yemen. Doomed by a scarcity of natural resources, a bursting population, and domestic sectarian rivalries, Yemen ranks 150 out of 177 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index. Its weapons market, however, has been flourishing for more than a decade. A recent Reuters article published by Al Jazeera English reports that Yemenis may own as many as 60 million weapons. Even the conservative estimate is a staggering 20 million guns, about one gun per Yemeni.

As part of its post-9/11 anti-terrorism efforts, the Yemeni government has resolved to address the gun glut, and has recently begun spending millions of dollars to take weapons out of the hands of ordinary Yemeni citizens. It’s not BB guns we’re talking about, according to the Reuters article:

The arms bought included mortars, surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank shells, rocket-propelled grenades as well as large quantities of mines, explosives and ammunition.  

The government isn’t targeting smaller firearms such as handguns and rifles, which have become a pillar of the local culture since the 1994 civil war. As a Yemeni professor told the BBC:

Just as you have your tie, the Yemeni will carry his gun.

 Charlton Heston would be proud.

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