Pictures of Sterling training with the Three Lions squad showed the tattoo of an M16 rifle, prompting anti-gun campaigners to publicly lambast the 23-year-old.
One such campaigner insisted Sterling should not play for his country again while he has the tattoo, telling The Sun newspaper that he should have it removed immediately.
However, he has now explained the reason behind the ink, revealing that it is a tribute to his late father, who was shot and killed when he was just two.
Writing on Instagram, Sterling said: "When I was 2 my father died from being gunned down to death. I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my lifetime.
"I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning, and is still unfinished."
Sterling has been in excellent form this season, scoring 23 goals and providing 17 assists in all competitions, with City ultimately winning the Premier League and the Carabao Cup.