Whatever the reason may be, your interested in buying a gun in Costa Rica.   The question is, can you legally own a gun here. In short, if you aren’t a citizen only PERMANENT RESIDENTS qualify for purchasing a firearm.   Remember you are a temporary resident for 5 years before you are able to apply for permanent residency.   

 

So if you have your permanent residency and would like to own a firearm read on.  

Your more than welcome to visit the handful of gun shops (Armerias) in Costa Rica and they will be quite helpful and answer questions for you, but if your serious about purchasing a firearm, the gun shop is actually the last place you will end up.   Below are the steps that must be completed before you can purchase a firearm.  

 

Step 1-Get fingerprinted:

You may have already completed this step depending on the residency process you went through.   This is quite simple and now you can register for an appointment online. Bring with you two passport sized photos. To register visit  www.seguridadpublica.go.cr look for the icon titled “Toma de Huellas”.

 

Step 2. Classes and Training

Find the nearest shooting range “Poligono” in your area and ask when they have classes for “portacion de armas”  which are classes for security guards and those who wish to carry a firearm. The class could be from a few days to a just a day or two depending on how many hours of instruction are given.   Really there isn’t all that much information to cover and most of it relates to being able to name different parts of the firearm, general safety and understanding the gun laws and punishments in Costa Rica.   

*Pay attention to these laws, several will surprise you.  The course is typically 2-3 hours of instruction in total.

 

Step 3 - Pass the written test.

Complete the written exam.  This was only a couple of pages long and the classes covered every topic.   The most difficult part of this test was remembering the penalties for the various crimes.   The test is given in a multiple choice format, and is of course in Spanish. 

 

Step 4.  Pass the shooting test

Complete the on-site test.   You will be issued a pistol at the range and there is no choice on whether you are given a semi-auto or a revolver.   You must then fire 10 shots at a standard sheet of paper at a distance of 6 meters. 7 out of the 10 shots must be on the paper.   Believe it or not a lot of people fail this part.  

 

Step 5 -Psychological Evaluation

You now need to find a Psychologist that offers the service of psychological evaluation for concealed carry..  The shooting range will have contacts for this and if not visit a security company. Because their guards have to complete this training they will know of several in the area.   This exam was a series of around 50 questions and is a Pass/Fail. The exam consisted of some touchy feely questions, and others about how you handle things when you are angry. Answer honestly and you won’t have an issue.  

*Avoid the rubber stamp.   Some psychologists will go so far as to just have you write your name and sign the test and they will fill in the answers for a fee.   Don’t accept this. In the unlikely and unfortunate event that you actually needed to use your firearm in a situation of self defense every part of the incident will be investigated.   This will include how you obtained your permit.

 

Step 6 -Register with ControlPAS

Register with Ministerio de Seguridad Pública.  They have a an online system called “ControlPAS”  but in order to register you will need a Firma Digital.   Ask your bank how to acquire this. This small device is registered to you and allows you digitally sign a variety of online documents.   The Firma Digital connects to a USB port on your computer and must be connected at the time of “signing”.

 

Step 7 -Gun Shopping: Buying your firearm

Once all of your paperwork has been verified you can now go shopping for your firearm.   Upon completion of your purchase the firearm will be sent to the Ministry of Security for registration.   This process takes around 30 days. Prepare yourself for the prices as guns have a 100% import tax. While I haven’t checked the prices recently, I can tell you that I paid $1100 for a Glock 19, and the same firearm would have cost me about half that in the United States.  

Some Costa Rica Gun Laws That May Surprise You:

It should be noted that laws change quickly here and during their modification few people actually know what the actual law states. 

 

Responding with Equal Force:

Costa Rica has laws that require that you respond to an attack with equal force.  This means you are not allowed to fire upon someone attacking you with a pocket knife.   However if they have a machete then it’s Okay.  

 

Personal Self Defense Only:

This means that you are liable in the event that you choose to be a good Samaritan and intervene in a situation where your own life is not directly in jeopardy.   It may sound strange but as an example, if you saw a woman being attacked you would not be able to intervene with your firearm, and if you did the entire event could be called into question.  

 

Shoot to wound:

When possible you are required to wound your attacker as opposed to shoot for center mass.   Ask any trained professional and they will tell you otherwise but Costa Rica gun laws aren’t not necessarily as simple as in other countries.  

Your going to jail.

In the event that you have to use your firearm, you are going to end up in jail.   Be prepared for it. Your firearm will be initially confiscated and inspected and you are going to need a criminal attorney to defend you.   I would definitely not advise any “cool” modifications or upgrades to your firearm, as every part of the incident is going to be challenged, and as a foreigner you are probably at a disadvantage.  

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Some Facts On Gun Ownership in Costa Rica:

Number of Guns in Costa Rica:

There are over 250,000 registered firearms in Costa Rica and officials estimate that there are some 750,000 in total when counting the unregistered firearms.

 

Only Three Guns:

Each person can have a maximum of 3 guns registered for carry.   There is confusion on whether more can be owned, and recent legislation was defeated last year that would have changed this number to only 2 guns.

A Man Thing:

Of the registered gun owners in Costa Rica.   94.6% are men with an average age of 45. 

 

Registered Guns That Are Lost or Stolen:

Some 40% of firearms involved in a crime are actually registered, and despite being lost or stolen 90% of these are never reported.   In the event that your firearm is lost or stolen you should report it to the Ministro de Seguridad Pública.  

 

Deaths by Firearms in Costa Rica:

The latest data we could find was from 2016 but it showed that Costa Rica had some of the lowest numbers for gun deaths in Central America.  A total of 384 deaths were caused by firearms in Costa Rica in 2016.  

 

Expensive Ammunition:

The last time I purchased ammunition, I purchased it in bulk, and even then it was 12,000 colones (around $23) per box of 50 rounds for 9X19 115 grain FMJ.  Compare this to $8 in Walmart.

 

Things you should know about Gun Ownership in Costa Rica.

 

Bringing a gun to Costa Rica:

In the event that you bring a gun to Costa Rica it will be held by customs officials and separate documentation will need to be filed.   While it is possible to register a firearm that was purchased outside the country it is rarely worth the trouble. The original sales receipts must be provided and translated in Spanish by a register translator.   If you wish to go through this process it is possible through ControlPAS.

 

Buying an UNREGISTERED firearm in Costa Rica:

This is not a good idea, even though it wouldn’t be difficult.   Just for possessing an unregistered firearm will land you in jail.   This could range from a few months to a few years depending on the types of firearms.  

 

Costa Rica restricts which firearms you can own:

There are restrictions based on caliber, as well as type of firearms.   For a complete list you should review the LAW No. 7530 the link is included in the resources section of this post.

 

 Resources:

Law No. 7530 Firearms and Explosives

Ministerio de Seguridad Pública
http://www.seguridadpublica.go.cr/tramites_servicios/

ControlPAS
www.controlpas.go.cr

Fingerprinting:
www.seguridadpublica.go.cr look for the icon titled “Toma de Huellas”