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Syria — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law

StockpilesGun Numbers

Civilian Guns

Number of Privately Owned Firearms

The estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in Syria is 735,0001

Rate of Civilian Firearm Possession per 100 Population

The estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) in Syria is 3.91 firearms per 100 people

Number of Privately Owned Firearms - World Ranking

In a 2007 comparison of the number of privately owned guns in 178 countries, Syria ranked at No. 622

Rate of Privately Owned Firearms per 100 Population - World Ranking

In a 2007 comparison of the rate of private gun ownership in 178 countries, Syria ranked at No. 1121

Government Guns

Number of Military Firearms

The defence forces of Syria are reported to have 2,010,0003 firearms

Number of Law Enforcement Firearms

Police in Syria are reported to have 66,8544 firearms

ImpactsDeath and Injury

Homicides (any method)

ChartIn Syria, annual homicides by any means total

2010: 4635 6
2009: 476
2008: 529
2007: 533
2006: 446
2005: 430
2004: 426
2003: 405
2002: 368
2001: 376
2000: 357
1999: 3306
1998: 336
1997: 296

Rate of Homicide per 100,000 People (any method)

ChartIn Syria, the annual rate of homicide by any means per 100,000 population is

2010: 2.25 6
2009: 2.4
2008: 2.7
2007: 2.85 6 7
2006: 2.4
2005: 2.3
2004: 2.4
2003: 2.3
2002: 2.2
2001: 2.35 6
2000: 2.2
1999: 2.16 7
1998: 2.2
1997: 2.0
1996: 0.967
1995: 1.09

ProductionGun Industry

Regulation of Firearm Makers

In Syria, the manufacture of small arms, ammunition and/or their components is prohibited, for all excluding government manufacturers8

TransfersGun Trade and Trafficking

Firearm Exports

In Syria, firearm and ammunition exports are limited by transfer control law8 9

Small Arms Exports (US$) - Customs

The annual value of small arms and ammunition exports from Syria is reported by Customs to be US$8,37510 (2010)

Firearm Imports

In Syria, firearm and ammunition imports are limited by transfer control law8 11 9

Small Arms Imports (US$) - Customs

The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to Syria is reported by Customs to be US$317,87210 (2011)12 13

Smuggling Guns and Ammunition

Reports suggest that the level of firearm and ammunition smuggling in Syria is negligible14

Regulation of Arms Brokers

In Syria, the activities of arms brokers and transfer intermediaries are specifically regulated by law11

MeasuresGun Regulation

Firearm Law

Guiding gun control legislation in Syria includes the Law No. 403 of 195715 11 and Legislative Decree No. 51 of 23 September 200116

Firearm Regulation Authority

Guns in Syria are regulated by the Ministry of the Interior, the General Organization for Trade and Distribution (GOTA) of the Ministry of Economy and Trade,11 and the police17

Right to Possess Firearms

In Syria, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law18 19 15

Restricted Firearms and Ammunition

In Syria, civilians are not allowed to possess military rifles, whether automatic or single-shot, and machine guns16 20

Regulation of Automatic Weapons

In Syria, private possession of fully automatic weapons is prohibited16

Regulation of Handguns

In Syria, private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is permitted under licence20

Law Regulates Long Guns

In Syria, civilian possession of rifles and shotguns is regulated by law20

Gun Ownership and Possession

In Syria, only licensed gun owners (for certain arms)16 21 11 8 may lawfully acquire, possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition

Genuine Reason Required for Firearm Possession

Applicants for a gun owner’s licence in Syria are required to establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example for the legitimate protection of persons, assets or property15 22

Minimum Age for Firearm Possession

The minimum age for gun ownership in Syria is 25 years16 21

Gun Owner Background Checks

An applicant for a firearm licence in Syria must pass a background check which considers criminal and health21 22 records

Domestic Violence and Firearms

Where a past history, or apprehended likelihood of family violence exists, the law in Syria stipulates14 that a gun licence should be denied or revoked

Gun Owner Licensing Period

In Syria, gun owners must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licence every five years16 23

Licensing Records

In Syria, authorities maintain a record11 of individual civilians licensed to acquire, possess, sell or transfer a firearm or ammunition

Limit on Number of Guns

Licensed firearm owners in Syria are permitted to possess one single-shot revolver and two hunting rifles16

Firearm Registration

Civilian Gun Registration

In Syria, the law requires11 that a record of the acquisition, possession and transfer of each privately held firearm be retained in an official register

Gun Dealer Record Keeping

In Syria, licensed firearm dealers are required11 to keep a record of each firearm or ammunition purchase, sale or transfer on behalf of a regulating authority

State-Owned Firearm Records

In Syria, State agencies are required11 to maintain records of the storage and movement of all firearms and ammunition under their control

Gun Sales and Transfers

Regulation of Private Gun Sales

In Syria, the private sale and transfer of firearms is prohibited11

Regulation of Dealer Gun Sales

In Syria, dealing in firearms by way of business without a valid gun dealer’s licence is unlawful11

Storage and Transport of Guns and Ammunition

Firearm and Ammunition Transport Regulations

Regulations in Syria include17 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of firearms and ammunition while in transit

Carrying Guns

Carrying Guns Openly in Public

In Syria, carrying a firearm in plain view in a public place is allowed without a permit, with some restrictions14

Penalty for Illicit Firearm Possession

In Syria, the maximum penalty for unlawful possession of a firearm24 is 15 years in prison and a fine of 10 times the value of the seized weapons and ammunition22

Collection, Amnesty and Destruction Programmes

Authorities in Syria are known to have16 implemented voluntary firearm surrender schemes, and/or weapon seizure programmes in order to reduce the number of illicit firearms in circulation

MeasuresInternational Controls

Regional Agreements

League of Arab States

As a member of the League of Arab States, Syria adopted the Arab Model Law on Weapons, Ammunitions, Explosives and Hazardous Material in January 200225 26

Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development

The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development, was not signed27 by Syria.

United Nations Arms Trade Treaty

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has not been signed28 by Syria

United Nations Firearms Protocol

The United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition has not been signed29 by Syria

United Nations Small Arms Programme of Action UNPoA

UNPoA Commitment

On 21 July 2001, Syria committed to a consensus decision of the United Nations to adopt, support and implement the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects30

UNPoA Implementation Monitor Score

In its UN small arms Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (PoAIM Phase 1), the Small Arms Survey scored Syria against its commitments to the PoA, then ranked it at No. 11931 32 33 34 among 159 Member States

UNPoA National Reporting

Under the terms of its 2001 commitment to the United Nations small arms Programme of Action, Syria has submitted one or more national reports35 9 on its implementation of the UNPoA

UNPoA National Point of Contact

In Syria, a National Point of Contact to deal with issues relating to the UNPoA has been designated9

UNPoA National Coordinating Body

In Syria, a National Coordinating Body to deal with issues relating to the UNPoA has not been designated9

UNPoA Civil Society Involvement and Support

In National Reports of Syria submitted to the UN from 2001 to 2010, a history of substantive cooperation with civil society in support of UNPoA activities was not apparent9

UNPoA International Assistance – Donor

Funds for UNPoA implementation have not been donated9 by Syria to other UN Member States

UNPoA International Assistance – Recipient

Funds for UNPoA implementation have been provided9 to Syria by other UN Member States

United Nations Small Arms Register

According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, Syria has not declared36 its small arms exports in one or more annual National Reports on Arms Exports.

United Nations Membership

In the UN List of Member States, Syria has been a Member State of the United Nations since 194537

Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls and Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies does not list38 Syria as a Participating State

BackgroundCountry Profile

Conflict Profile

For a profile of conflict in Syria, select the Link icon to open an external web page from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia at Uppsala University

Global Peace Index

To see where Syria ranks, select the Link icon to open an external web page at the Global Peace Index


Short References

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Karp, Aaron.2007.‘Completing the Count: Civilian firearms - Annexe online.’ Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,27 August. (Q5)Full Citation

2.

Karp, Aaron.2007.‘Completing the Count: Civilian firearms.’ Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,27 August. (Q4)Full Citation

3.

Karp, Aaron.2006.‘Trickle and Torrent: State stockpiles.’ Small Arms Survey 2006: Unfinished Business.Oxford:Oxford University Press,1 July. (Q6)Full Citation

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Karp, Aaron.2006.‘Trickle and Torrent: State stockpiles.’ Small Arms Survey 2006: Unfinished Business.Oxford:Oxford University Press,1 July. (Q7)Full Citation

5.

UNODC.2014.‘Homicides in Syria.’ Global Study on Homicide 2013: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),10 April. (Q10297)Full Citation

6.

UNODC.2013.‘Homicide in 207 Countries - Syria.’ Global Study on Homicide 2011: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,26 June. (Q6288)Full Citation

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8.

Syria.2003.‘Manufacture, Export, Import and Transfer.’ National Report of Syria on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York NY:Permanent Mission of Syria to the United Nations,7 July. (Q12787)Full Citation

9.

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10.

Marsh, Nicholas.2014.‘Database of Authorised Transfers of Small Arms and Light Weapons.’ NISAT Small Arms Trade Database.Oslo:Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers,22 December. (Q16)Full Citation

11.

Syria.2010.‘Marking, Licensing and Registration.’ National Report of the Syrian Arab Republic on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations,1 January. (Q4687)Full Citation

12.

Holtom, Paul and Christelle Rigual.2015.‘Annexe 4.4: Authorized Transfers of Small Arms and Light Weapons to Egypt, Libya, and Syria, 2001-13.’ Small Arms Survey 2015: Weapons and the World.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press and the Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 June. (Q11079)Full Citation

13.

Holtom, Paul and Christelle Rigual.2015.‘Small Arms Transfers to Syria, 2001-2010.’ Small Arms Survey 2015: Weapons and the World.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press and the Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 June. (Q11075)Full Citation

14.

United Nations.1999.‘Analysis of Country Responses.’ United Nations International Study on Firearm Regulation.Vienna:UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division,30 August. (Q1)Full Citation

15.

Syria.2010.‘Law No. 403 of 1957.’ National Report of the Syrian Arab Republic on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations,1 January. (Q6503)Full Citation

16.

Syria.2010.‘Legislative Decree No. 51 of 23 September 2001.’ National Report of the Syrian Arab Republic on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations,1 January. (Q6504)Full Citation

17.

Syria.2010.‘Transfer.’ National Report of the Syrian Arab Republic on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations,1 January. (Q6506)Full Citation

18.

Sherman, Amy and Tom Ginsburg.2014.‘Gun Rights in National Constitutions.’ Marco Rubio Says Second Amendment Is Unique in Speech to NRA.Miami, FL:Miami Herald (PolitiFact Florida),29 April. (Q8507)Full Citation

19.

Zachary Elkins, Tom Ginsburg and James Melton. 2013. ‘U.S. Gun Rights Truly Are American Exceptionalism.’ Bloomberg (USA). 7 March. (N422) Full Citation

20.

Syria.2003.‘Restricted Firearms.’ National Report of Syria on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York NY:Permanent Mission of Syria to the United Nations,7 July. (Q12786)Full Citation

21.

Syria.2010.‘Permits.’ National Report of the Syrian Arab Republic on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations,1 January. (Q6505)Full Citation

22.

Syria.2010.‘Penalties.’ National Report of the Syrian Arab Republic on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations,1 January. (Q6508)Full Citation

23.

Syria.2010.‘Fees and Period of Validity of Permits.’ National Report of the Syrian Arab Republic on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations,1 January. (Q6507)Full Citation

24.

GunPolicy.org. 2015. ‘Penalty for Unlawful Firearm Possession.’ Definition and Selection Criteria.
Sydney School of Public Health, 23 January.
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25.

League of Arab States / UNODA.2002.‘Arab Model Law on Weapons, Ammunitions, Explosives and Hazardous Material.’ United Nations Programme of Action Implementation Support System: Regional Organisations.New York, NY:Council of the League of Arab States / United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs,1 January. (Q3215)Full Citation

26.

Holtom, Paul and Christelle Rigual.2015.‘Small Arms Exporter Policies Towards Syria, 2011-2013.’ Small Arms Survey 2015: Weapons and the World.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press and the Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 June. (Q11081)Full Citation

27.

GDAV.2006.‘Geneva Declaration.’ Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development.Geneva:Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development Secretariat,7 June. (Q7162)Full Citation

28.

UNODA.2013.‘Towards Entry Into Force.’ Arms Trade Treaty.New York, NY:United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs,2 April. (Q7226)Full Citation

29.

UNGA.2001.‘United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition.’ UN General Assembly Resolution 55/255.New York, NY:UN General Assembly,31 May. (Q17)Full Citation

30.

UNGA.2001.‘Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.’ United Nations General Assembly.New York, NY:UN General Assembly,20 July. (Q18)Full Citation

31.

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32.

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Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Point Allocation System.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 August. (Q8754)Full Citation

34.

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35.

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37.

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38.

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