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Gun laws and policies (collectively referred to as firearms regulation or gun control) regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification and use of small arms by civilians. Many countries have restrictive firearm policies, while a few have permissive ones. Countries with a strong gun culture may afford civilians a right to keep and bear arms, and have more-liberal gun laws than neighboring jurisdictions. Countries which regulate access to firearms will typically restrict access to certain categories of firearms and then restrict the categories of persons who may be granted a license for access to such firearms. There may be separate licenses for hunting, sport shooting (a.k.a. target shooting), self-defense, collecting, and concealed carry, with different sets of requirements, permissions, and responsibilities.
Gun laws are often enacted with the intention of reducing the use of small arms in criminal activity, specifying weapons capable of inflicting the greatest damage (such as fully automatic firearms) and those most-easily concealed (such as handguns and other short-barreled weapons). Persons restricted from legal access to firearms may include those below a certain age or having a criminal record. Firearm licences may be denied to those felt most at risk of harming themselves or others, such as persons with a history of domestic violence, alcoholism or substance abuse, mental illness, depression or attempted suicide. Those applying for a firearm licence may have to demonstrate competence by completing a gun-safety course and show provision for a secure location to store weapons.
Guns laws are considered permissive in countries where the authorities will provide a firearm license on a shall issue basis to ordinary citizens who meet the legal requirements. Guns laws are restrictive when licenses are provided on a may issue basis, at the discretion of the regulating authority, often requiring the applicant to demonstrate a reason why they need a firearm. Gun laws are considered strict when it is difficult or impossible for an ordinary citizen to obtain a firearm through legal means.
The legislation which restricts small arms may also restrict other weapons, such as explosives, crossbows, swords, electroshock weapons, air guns, and pepper spray. It may also restrict firearm accessories, notably high-capacity magazines and sound suppressors. There may be restrictions on the quantity or types of ammunition purchased, with certain types prohibited. Due to the global scope of this article, detailed coverage cannot be provided on all these matters; the article will instead attempt to briefly summarize each country's weapon laws in regard to small arms use and ownership by civilians.

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