There are 59 nations for which data about per capita gun ownership are available. This Article examines the relationship between gun density and several measures of freedom and prosperity: the Freedom House ratings of political rights and civil liberty, the Transparency International Perceived Corruption Index, the World Bank Purchasing Power Parity ratings, and the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom. The data suggest that the relationships between gun ownership rates and these other measures are complex. The data show that (although exceptions can be found) the nations with the highest rates of gun ownership tend to have greater political and civil freedom, greater economic freedom and prosperity, and much less corruption than other nations. The relationship only exists for high-ownership countries. Countries with medium rates of gun density generally scored no better or worse than countries with the lowest levels of per capita gun ownership.
Excerpt from study:
A. Freedom Causes Guns
One set of relationships to examine is whether increased levels of freedom tend to lead to increased levels of gun ownership. For example, greater economic freedom and economic success lead to greater prosperity, which in turn gives people more money to buy all sorts of consumer goods, including firearms. This explanation is supported by evidence from the last half-century in the United States. Although business regulation has grown over the last half-century, economic freedom has also increased in the United States. Federal tax rates are far lower: the top rate was 92% in 1952, and 35% in 2007. Free trade agreements have greatly reduced international trade barriers. The abolition of Jim Crow laws has allowed much greater participation by black people in the economy. Thus, it is not surprising that per capita gun ownership in the U.S. has risen by 158% over the last half-century. America formerly had about one gun for every three people. Now, there is nearly one gun for every American.
Non-corruption could also increase gun ownership. If two nations have very similar statutory gun laws, but the first nation is much less corrupt than the second, then citizens in the first nation will have an easier time getting permits or licenses, completing purchases which need government approval, and so on. As noted above, there is a statistically significant relationship between higher per capita gun ownership and freedom from corruption, economic freedom, and economic success. Even within the countries with perfect scores for political and civil freedom, the third with the lowest gun ownership rates had a notably worse Corruption Perceptions Index than the other two.
h/t Dan Morgan