Some 20,000 Maltese were estimated to own firearms according to a study carried out by Eurostat.

However, only two per cent said they owned the gun for personal protection, much less than the EU average of 14 per cent. A total 21 per cent said they were collectors.

The study, conducted in collaboration with Misco last month, found that only seven per cent of those surveyed had owned a firearm.

Some 78 per cent said they agreed with cooperating with neighbouring EU countries on the control of guns.

Malta, along with Germany, had the highest number of respondents, 66 per cent, who did not agree with stricter regulations for the buying and selling of guns.

Women were more likely to support this, 58 per cent in favour compared to 48 per cent of men.

More than half of respondent s across the EU agreed there was a need for common standards.

The study highlighted Malta as one of the main countries in favour of sovereign state regulation.

Some 65 per cent of Maltese respondents felt the Maltese government should decide on the issue.