In the US gun laws may be a controversial subject area, but ultimately the bottom line is that it is legal to carry a firearm. This puts the US at odds with most of Western Europe where it is generally against the law to carry or possess a gun.
Gun Laws in Western Europe
Firearm laws in most of Western Europe are subject to the EU Directive 2008/51/EC and the Arms and Ammunition Act where weapons are divided into four categories and punishments are assigned for possession or carrying in public for each of these. While variations exist on these laws (more liberal laws exist in France for instance when compared to England or Germany), generally there are more similarities than differences.
The exception to these rules in most cases is for hunters, practitioners of shooting sports, members of shooting clubs and collectors in which case a license must be obtained for ‘category three’ weapons (all firearms up to .50 cal. that aren’t fully automatic). This allows possession of up to five firearms per license. Collectors can obtain licenses other that just category three meaning that they are permitted to own full automatic guns – but there are very strict rules and requirements to achieve collector status and collector licenses do not usually cover shooting the firearms. Again the specifics regarding the nature of certification will vary between countries. Another exception in most of Western Europe is towards pre 1945 ‘antique’ fire arms such as muzzle loading guns for which no license is required.
Gun Laws in Eastern Europe
In Eastern Europe meanwhile gun laws are more varied. In the Czech Republic for instance firearms are available to anybody above 18 years of age and with no criminal record and it is legal to possess and carry guns as a form of self-defence. Meanwhile in Russia, citizens can legally obtain smoothbore shotguns, gas pistols or revolvers that shoot rubber bullets, and once they have owned these for five years safely and without incident they are legally entitled to own rifles or carbines. At the other end of the spectrum however, gun ownership in Poland is lower than anywhere else in the European Union at around one gun per one hundred citizens showing the wide range of attitudes toward firearms in Eastern Europe.