Owning a gun in Italy is simpler than you think. Every citizen over 18 years of age, who didn’t commit any of the crimes specified in 1931 “Decreto Regio” (articles 11 and 43), can get a license to own a gun for personal defense, sport, hunting or collecting.
Despite this, gun ownership is not common among Italians. According to latest estimates, in Italy there are about fifteen millions guns, mostly for hunting purposes. We could say that about one in four Italians own a gun, but it would be more appropriate to say that one in four is a hunter.
In the United States of America the ratio between weapons and citizens is 1:1 but the majority of guns are for personal defense. The main reason for this difference is that American Constitution asserts “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” (Second Amendment). On the other side the Italian Constitution focuses on the matter by saying “citizens have the right to meet in peace and without weapons” (Art. 17).
In both countries there is an excited debate about the freedom to sell weapons for personal defense and there are powerful economic interests at stake. I find these numbers more informative than any debate: In 2009 there were 9.146 murders with a gun in USA (1 in every 34.347 citizens), while in Italy there were 246 (1 in every 247.442 citizens).