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The culture of gun ownership in Sweden dates far back to the country’s hunting expeditions. However, the ongoing popularity of hunting in Sweden has continued to increase the number of firearms that Swedes own. At the same time, Sweden’s gun laws are very well regulated and are often discussed internationally in terms of their impact and potential application in other countries.

That is, while guns are popular, Swedish gun control is far more regulated than most countries. Sweden’s gun laws ensure that bearers of firearms do so within reasonable limitations. 

Read on to find out more about what makes Swedish gun laws so commonly talked about.

books containing copies of Sweden's gun laws

Sweden gun laws

Gun ownership is strictly regulated under Swedish laws. A gun owner must meet certain requirements to obtain a license to legally own a gun . But, an additional measure requires anyone who carries a gun to have a valid intention or purpose.

The main reason that Swedish people choose to own guns is hunting. However, there are those that choose to own guns for competitive sport. This is why the intent or purpose to carry a gun has to be for hunting or to practice in a shooting range.

If you have to transport your guns to anywhere in the country, you also have to follow specific rules. For instance, under Swedish gun laws, your guns shouldn’t be loaded, hidden, or unsupervised. Other firearms such as submarines fall within a different ambit of rules because they have set precautionary measures to be followed.

Swedish gun laws require mandatory rules to be followed for ammunition and storage of guns. All firearms must be stored in a securely safe vault. If they’re stored for display purposes, the vaults require safety windows.

You must have a license to possess ammunition for your gun. The exception to this rule is that if you’ve obtained a license for your gun, that ammunition doesn’t require a different license.

Sweden gun laws and crime rates

As much as Sweden has tightened its laws around gun control, there has been a rise in certain crimes. It’s reportedly the one European country where gang related violence has increased. Specifically, since 2000, it has reported a significant number of cases related to gun violence.

The homicide rates in Sweden start to paint a picture on this point. For instance, in the year 2020, there were 48 homicides by firearm. As you can probably appreciate, this is comparable to or even far lower than other countries globally.

That said, it’s more useful for comparison purposes to look at this based on population. On that point, Sweden’s homicides by firearm rate is 0.5 cases per 100,000 population. For the US, this rate is 4.1 cases per 100,000 population. However, countries like Germany and Australia are both lower than Sweden, with a rate of 0.1 cases per 100,000 population.

This last statistic aligns with the fact that, despite its strict gun laws, Sweden still ranks higher than other European countries in gun related violence. In fact, Sweden is the only country in that report where this rate increased in the period from the year 2000. Interestingly, this was accompanied by a decline in other crimes, such as knife related violence.

In fact, the trajectory of gun violence in Sweden is seen as unique to some extent in Europe, although where it’s centralized in the country is relatively in line with the experiences of other countries. That is, it’s mainly the disadvantaged areas that are subjected to criminal milieux that are prone to these crime rates.


Sweden gun ownership

Swedish gun laws allow each individual to own a maximum of 16 guns. There are two routes that are available for anyone who wishes to own a gun in Sweden. You can either register as a member of a shooting club, or pass a hunting exam.

To own a gun in Sweden, you must be 18 years or older. The type of guns that you have access to is determined by the route that you take. For instance, when you only become a member of a shooting club, you only have access to pistols.

Conversely, when you pass the hunting exam, you have access to hunting rifles. There are certain exceptions to gun ownership in Sweden. One example is that anyone who is at the age of 15 can use a hunting rifle provided that they’re supervised by someone who has a license and is enrolled in a specific one year program.

Before a gun license can be obtained, there’s an online form that you must complete. It must be submitted alongside your relevant documents and your proof of residence. When you’ve satisfied all the requirements, you are welcome to visit the police station to pay the application fee to process your application.

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Sweden gun control

Since the regulation of gun carry in Sweden is categorized as restrictive, there are different gun control legislative measures that are in place. Every gun law is regulated by both the European Commission and the National Police. However, your right to gun ownership isn’t guaranteed by law.

The entire process to acquire a gun permit in Sweden is a standardized system. Before you can even obtain your gun license, you have to undergo an extensive program for a year to ensure that you can shoot and have knowledge of responsible gun carry. 

In addition, only “responsible citizens” are granted permission to possess firearms after the requirements have been fulfilled. This means that only persons who have a clean felony record, no domestic violence charges, and no drunk driving charges, amongst others, are permitted to own a gun.

woman reviewing Sweden's gun laws and gun control stats

Sweden gun control stats

It can be helpful to look at gun control stats, especially when comparing different countries and how they manage this issue. Some key points on Sweden’s gun laws and how they’re implemented in practice are below.

  • Gun numbers – The number of guns that are owned by civilians is around 3 million, with approximately 8% of the Swedish nation being reported to live in a household with a gun. At the same time, the number of government-issued guns are at a combined 200,000 for the military and law enforcement.
  • Death and injury – While it fluctuates from year to year, there were 48 homicides by firearm in Sweden in 2020. Gun related injuries are below 50 per year.
  • Gun trade and trafficking – The total value of guns that are imported to Sweden is reported to be 65 million. Reports of gun trafficking are low in Sweden.
  • Gun violence – In 2021, more than 300 gun related shootings were reported.

Sweden gun violence

Last year, there were just under 50 gun related murders in Sweden. In comparison to 2015, this number has increased drastically by almost double. The most common reason cited for the increase in gun violence in Sweden is the illegal drug trade.

The pervasive social issues in the poorer parts of the country make it easy for illegal activities to rise. Specifically, eight out of 10 shootings have been associated with organized crime. This is reported as a higher rate than other countries, particularly within Europe.

When these killings happen, they tend to trigger a cycle of ongoing violence. The times and places where these occur indicate that these violent attacks are fueled by criminal activities. Despite stringent gun laws in Sweden that are in place, there are still more measures that need to be addressed to reverse the effects of criminally related gun violence.

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Sweden gun laws vs the US

While Sweden has its fair share of gun violence issues, It’s still far better than the US. In fact, the US can arguably learn a thing or two from Sweden’s gun control measures. In particular, the strict gun regulation in Sweden has had a positive impact on how civilians are responsible for their gun ownership.

As mentioned earlier, there were 48 homicides by firearm in Sweden last year. Compare this to the US, where this number reached 20,947 last year. Even considering the significantly larger population of the US, this is still a massive difference and is one major reason why moving to Sweden is something a lot of people in the US have considered.

Related: Sweden vs the US: 13 Key Similarities (+ 24 Major Differences)

After all, let’s recall the gun violence stat from earlier, which noted that Sweden’s homicides by firearm rate is 0.5 cases per 100,000 population, compared to 4.1 cases per 100,000 population in the US.

There have also only been a handful of mass shootings that have taken place in Sweden since the year 1900. Compare that to the US, where there were 692 mass shootings reported in 2021 alone.

Sweden has stricter rules when it comes to how you can obtain a gun license. Swedes go through a vigorous process to qualify for gun ownership. On the contrary, gun ownership rules are far less regulated in the US.

Without going into an in depth analysis of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, let’s just say that Sweden’s gun laws and those in the US differ greatly in terms of their respective requirements. And as we can see from the statistics, the rates of gun violence also differ greatly between the two countries.