Gun Ownership and Registration in Costa Rica
What is the Law ?
Costa Rica does have defined laws and regulations regarding the ownership, possession, registration and carrying of guns. The law which regulates weapons in general is appropriately named the Law of Arms and Explosives [Ley de Armas y Explosivos] and its accompanying regulations to the law [Reglamento a La Ley de Armas y Explosivos]. You can view the full text in Spanish of both of these laws at the end of this article.
The law allows the inhabitants of Costa Rica to purchase, possess and carry weapons as authorized and according to the requirements established in the Law of Arms and Explosives (Art. 2 Law of Arms and Explosives]
Where do I Apply for a Gun Permit ?
The government office that is responsible for the oversight of weapons in Costa Rica is the Department of Arms and Explosives which is a division of the Ministry of Public Security and Police.
Now that we know a bit about the law and the office that oversees those laws and regulations let’s look at the basics of gun ownership and registration in Costa Rica.
The first thing you need to know is that only citizens of Costa Rica and Permanent Residents with a valid permanent residency card are allowed to own, register or carry weapons in Costa Rica. If you have a Temporary Residency category you will NOT be able to do so.
In the majority of cases those that want to register their weapons in Costa Rica either (a) Purchase the weapon in a licensed gun shop or from a private individual in Costa Rica, (b) has inherited weapons which were never registered and (c) Imported the weapon from abroad which then had to be registered in Costa Rica.
The initial shock for those that intend to purchase a gun in Costa Rica are the prices. Guns are significantly more expensive then what you may have been accustomed to. However, the hassle and paperwork required to try and import your gun into Costa Rica may not be worth the savings in price. It is much easier to purchase your weapon at a local gun shop and they may even assist you in the gun registration process.
Once you decide to purchase a gun in Costa Rica there are two ways in which your gun can be owned. In your personal name (persona fisica) or in the name of a Costa Rica corporation (persona juridica). The requirements are similar the only difference is that with the corporation you will have to provide additional documents regarding corporate standing and authority of the corporate office to sign for the corporation. Even if you want to use a corporation to title the weapons they will look beyond the corporation to the corporation officer and that person must complete all the required documentation before the corporation will be allowed to own the weapon. If your intent is to own 1-3 firearms it is easier to put them in your personal name.
To register a weapon you will need:
1. Application. This is the formal written application addressed to the Department of Arms and Explosives requesting the registration of the weapon in either your personal name or in the name of a corporation.
The application must state the (i) Full legal name of the applicant, (ii) Indicate the Costa Rican identity card or in the case of a foreigner the permanent residency card number. (iii) Exact physical address of the applicant, (iv) Full legal description of the weapon that will be registered (type, caliber, manufacturer, model number, serial number) (v) Proof that the applicant has passed the weapons handling test (examen teórico práctico).
The application must be signed by the applicant. If the applicant is not personally filing the application then the signature must be certified by a Costa Rican Attorney or Notary Public.
2. Documentation Regarding Origin of the Weapon.
In this section you will have to indicate to the Department of Arms and Explosives how you acquired the weapon. The options are:
(a) Bill of Sale (Carta de Venta). This is applicable only if the weapon was already registered to somebody else and you are purchasing the weapon and thus requesting a transfer of ownership. The Bill of Sale to be binding in Costa Rica must be issued be authenticated by a Costa Rican Notary Public.
(b) Gun Shop Invoice. If you purchase the weapon from an authorized and registered gun shop then the invoice they provide to you will be sufficient to Register the weapon. Some of the major gun shop retailers in Costa Rica are: Armeria El Hispano, Armeria Polini, Armeria El Trabuco
(c) Import Customs Declaration (Póliza de Desalmacenaje) . If you have imported the weapon then you must provide proof that it went through the Costa Rican customs process by providing the Customs import declaration form.
(d) Registration by Sworn Statement. If you do not have any documents for your weapon you can still register it by rendering a Sworn Statement Under Oath (Declaración Jurada) before a Costa Rican Notary Public. In that statement you must indicate how you obtained possession of the particular weapon along with the full description of the weapon.
3. Identification Documents. Photocopy of both sides of your Costa Rican identity card or permanent residency card. You will have to present the original for verification or certified copies of the original certified by a Costa Rican Attorney or Notary Public.
4. Present the Weapon to the Department of Arms and Explosives. The registration process requires an inspection of the weapon (unloaded!) by the Department of Arms and Explosives. If you purchase the gun from a Registered Gun Shop then they will often do this part of the process for you.
5. Fingerprinting of Applicant. The applicant must be fingerprinted by the Department of Arms and Explosives. You will need to provide a passport size photograph for fingerprinting. As you face the front of the office building where the Department of Arms and Explosives is located the line on the right is for fingerprinting “huellas”.
6. Psychological Exam Certification. You will need to hire a Psychologist or Psychiatrist to administer the competency exam that is required to use firearms. The original and a copy of the certification must be provided.
If you are registering the weapon in the name of a corporation then the corporate officer must provide proof of the exam. If the corporate office will not use the weapons then the application must indicate who will use the weapons and those individuals must provide proof of the exam.
7. Certification of no Criminal Record from Police Archives. The applicant will need a certification from the Costa Rican criminal archives indicating that the applicant does not have a criminal record. You can get that certification in person at the department of the O.I.J. (Organismo de Investigaciones Judiciales) in San José or authorized somebody to get it for you.
Confused ? That is the intent. Although the law allows the possession and ownership of weapons the reality is that from a governmental policy standpoint it is discouraging gun ownership by increasing the bureaucratic hurdles for those that want to legally purchase and own weapons in Costa Rica. You will more than likely need to hire somebody to guide you through the gun registration process. To further complicate matters the Department of Firearms and explosives has required applicants to file their applications by way of the online platform known as ControlPas However, before you can use this system you will have to go to a local bank and register and pay for an “electronic signature” card (firma digital). The bank will issue you the electronic signature card and the card reader which can then be used to access the ControlPas online registration system.
The requirement specifications for registering guns in either personal capacity or corporate capacity as issued by the Department of Arms and Explosives, in Spanish, are set forth below:
The Costa Rican Law on Arms and Explosives Law # 7530
The Regulations to the Costa Rican Law on Arms and Exposives. Regulation # 25120