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Bringing a hand gun to Costa Rica

This is posted May 9, 2016.   I recently attempted to bring a hand gun with me to Costa Rica.   I have been living in the San Jose metro area for over a year.   I was back home for a month and decided I should bring a pistol with me to keep in my residence here in CR.    I had read one or more blogs over the past ten months about bringing a hand gun to CR.   I did not find anything online that indicated it was a big issue.   So I packed my pistol and ammo in the required hard plastic case, with a lock to which only I had the key.  ( this is for transport via airline in one's luggage ).   I declared the pistol to the airlines and off we went.   On arrival in San Jose, my bag was flagged for inspection when it went thru the x-ray machine. 

At that point,  I soon learned getting my gun thru customs was going to be more of an issue than I expected.  My gun case was tagged and placed in a box along w/ the ammo.   I was given a receipt and told to call a number on the back in a few days to get my gun back.  Well, if it were that simple I would not be writing this article.  :0)   

What I have now learned is that at some point in the recent past, laws were apparently changed regarding gun ownership and transport of such a gun into CR.   I spent several hours over at aduana or customs one day.   That got me absolutely no where.   I have now been directed to an agency within the Department of Security.   I am told this is a potential problem because while I am a resident , I am not yet a permanent resident.   Allegedly, only a permanent resident can now bring a gun into the country.   Does anyone WITH REAL KNOWLEDGE know who I must see, where I must go and what I must do to retrieve my pistol and ammo? 

muchas gracias..

Rules to import a gun

This is not a new law.
In part:

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.

(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.

Can't help you with who to see but am aware of this law as a Temporary Resident.  I need another 2.5 years!

Additional information on another website today.

thank you kohlerias !

I am not an expert but a friend of mine recently got a gun and he told me the laws did change in some respects in the past couple years or so. Maybe that's not true but being that he's involved in processing to get a gun, I assume he knows what he's talking about when he tells me it did change some time in the recent past re non-residents or non-citizens owning guns.

I'm not recommending anyone break the law, certainly if you're not a citizen of Costa Rica, but a Tico friend told me the best way is to get a black market gun.
However if you shoot someone they'd better be IN your house and have a gun on you. Otherwise YOU will go to jail.

IMHO, if someone enters my property with a gun I should be able to shoot them right on the spot as soon as I see them. My property is posted "Entry Prohibited" so that should be enough to make it clear if someone comes on my property uninvited and in spite of my locked gate, they are an intruder and can be shot by me.

But unfortunately the laws of  Costa Rica don't allow you to shoot anyone unless it's in clear self defense (as I understand it; I'm not an attorney and do not play one on tv either).

If you live out in the boonies I think one should be allowed a gun, to deal with animals and armed robbers. But then what I think is of no consequence to the lawmakers of Costa Rica. I think you will have a very hard time getting your gun back.

To own a gun here in CR is too easy.  I own two, and I would like to sell one.  One has to take a course and pass the test!  If you should have an ilegal gun and you have to use it.  You can say that it was the gun, that he brought with him and you took it from him.  I have taken one gun away from one caco, thief, trying to rob my Pizzeria.  I did not kill him!  The La Nacion says that there are 140,000 young men, who study nothing but how and who to rob.  It happens to the Ticos as well as the Expats.  There are alot of poor people and alot of poor minded people! There are alot of good people as well! :)

But unfortunately the laws of  Costa Rica don't allow you to shoot anyone unless it's in clear self defense

I see little unfortunate about murder being illegal.

However, much as John Wayne is dead, his spirit is alive well, and attempting to take weapons through customs with declaring them.
I did a quick google to find out what was needed to import a weapon into that country, the information taking about two minutes to find.

I also found this....

http://www.therealcostarica.com/moving_ … _rica.html

NOTE! If you are caught traveling with a weapon without the appropriate permits and registrations in Costa Rica, your weapon will be confiscated and you will be fined, arrested or deported.  They do not fool around with this stuff here.  If you are a non-resident, expect to get the boot!  If a resident, expect serious problems.

Fred :

I see little unfortunate about murder being illegal.

Okay I mispoke or wasn't clear.
Of course I am not advocating murder.
But if someone comes on my property at night when it's just me and my wife here with no one else around, and I see them outside getting ready to come in...
Am I supposed to wait until they actually come in and show me their gun before I shoot them?
To me, someone is in my yard at night with a gun, it should be self defense if I shoot them.
No?

Not if they are shot in the back.  That is cut and dried.

If shot in the back, the law considers that they were in the process of leaving the premises.

"If you live out in the boonies I think one should be allowed a gun, to deal with animals and armed robbers. But then what I think is of no consequence to the lawmakers of Costa Rica. I think you will have a very hard time getting your gun back."

It is 100% illegal to shoot any animal in Costa Rica (non-human ).  I also agree with this law.  People on the other hand, no worries.

I already have my ccw permit with costa rica.  So all  of the above does not apply to me when bring in guns.  Just to turn it over to the Police to register and take a bullet sample , right?
Actually gun movement and possession is under the authority of the UN now.

Dave, you wrote that it's illegal to shoot any animal here. Is it illegal to shoot even poisonous snakes? If so, that's kinda nuts.

Is it okay to shoot them with a bow and arrow?
Is it okay to stab a terciopelo or cut its head off? LOL.

Anyway I am quite sure no cop or MINAE guy or whatever is going to come running if someone shoots a pizote killing their chickens or a terciopelo in any situation.

A puma (mountain lion) or jaguar, that's another story. You might get in trouble for killing one of those.

I'm just dubious that this law (not killing animals) is enforced much out in the back country... I know there are sometimes hunters looking to kill deer in my area, and though they do it at night or early morning, so as not to be seen trespassing and carrying guns, there's no real way anyone is going to catch them unless they're seen carrying their kill(s)... which they probably throw into their trunk or back of their truck, covered up.

We talked to a lawyer when we visited a few mo. ago and was told this too....
If you already own 1 and you plan on living in CR & want to bringing it in from the USA to CR you will need to use a gun broker in the US, they will hold your gun while you go thru the offices
Then after you've jumped thru all the hoops they can/will ship it to you, that the broker.
That's what we were told
(by the lawyer) I still think that a lawyer will help, (plus some are notaries too)
Hope this helps it helped us to deside on our moving there.

Your hand gun will be held until you have gained Permanent resident and have the necessary license  which will take 4-5 years from your initial application.

samramon :

Dave, you wrote that it's illegal to shoot any animal here. Is it illegal to shoot even poisonous snakes? If so, that's kinda nuts.

Is it okay to shoot them with a bow and arrow?
Is it okay to stab a terciopelo or cut its head off? LOL.

Anyway I am quite sure no cop or MINAE guy or whatever is going to come running if someone shoots a pizote killing their chickens or a terciopelo in any situation.

A puma (mountain lion) or jaguar, that's another story. You might get in trouble for killing one of those.

I'm just dubious that this law (not killing animals) is enforced much out in the back country... I know there are sometimes hunters looking to kill deer in my area, and though they do it at night or early morning, so as not to be seen trespassing and carrying guns, there's no real way anyone is going to catch them unless they're seen carrying their kill(s)... which they probably throw into their trunk or back of their truck, covered up.

Hola San Ramon,

Sorry, I didn't see this post last month when you posted it.  Yes, it is 100% illegal to shoot, kill, harm any wildlife in Costa Rica.  This law is already in place and is the reason it was not added to the new animal rights bill that hopefully passes soon.

And, unfortunately, you are correct that MINAE does not always do their job in enforcing this law unless it's an endangered species.  Even then there are times they don't always help.  It's one of the reason that we are relocating.  We had a bird breeder in Palmares capture three of our Scarlet Macaws, endangered, and one was born in the wild.  MINAE was made aware of the capture and did absolutely nothing to assist in the recovery.  We ended up having to pay a $350 bribe to get them back.  Again, they were aware of this and did nothing to help.  Happy to say that the MINAE office and the local police in the area we're moving to are known for caring for the environment and react quickly and do enforce the laws.

If you eliminate all of the poisonous snakes, you then will be overrun with rats, mice and toads and nothing for the predatory birds to eat.   :cool:   There are usually Ticos in the area that will relocate the snakes if you are like most people and don't want to handle them - and should not.  I've removed close to twenty Terciopelos from my property over the years.  I had snakes in the past and know how to handle a snake and do not recommend that people do this.

Part of the problem with snakes in this area is that so many of the trees have been removed that the hawks that love to eat the snakes have no habitat to nest in or hunt from.  And unfortunately, many Ticos have fear of snakes and kill them upon site whether they are poisonous or not.   Again, balance of nature.

According to WWF, the worlds wildlife population will have plummeted by 70% between 1970 and the end of this decade.  Within this same time period, humans will have increased their population by about this same 70%.  Personal opinion with so much going on - too many humans having too many babies.

So much of Costa Rica's plants and wildlife are on the endangered species list.  It's one of the reasons that within our project we choose to educate the younger generations as to the importance of protecting not only the animals but their environment as well.  My daughter has never met with a group of children who had heard of the "circle of life."  Not something normally taught in the schools here.   Further,  having them understand that killing one animal will have a direct affect on another.

We work with three endangered species - Yellow-nape Amazons, Scarlet Macaws and once we move and most importantly to me, the Great Green Macaws, or Buffons.  It's estimated that there are only about 3,000 Great Greens remaining in the wild.  Amazingly, we see or hear them daily at the new place.  Can't wait to move there!  The property is being purchased as I write - 69 wonderful hectares and hopefully 260 more to be protected in the future.  Once we have the additional donations for the development, we will be on our way!

Okay, I will now step down from my soap box....  🤓

- Expat Dave

ExpatDave, hopefully you will allow visitors at your new location, even if they cant volunteer to stay for a month... :cool:

kohlerias :

ExpatDave, hopefully you will allow visitors at your new location, even if they cant volunteer to stay for a month... :cool:

But of course!  🌴

FYI Expat Dave, The Scarlet Macaw is not on the endangered list.

rendrag :

FYI Expat Dave, The Scarlet Macaw is not on the endangered list.

You're correct in that they are not on the Endangered List; however, they are on the IUCN Threatened Species list.  We prefer not to wait for them to be on the endangered list before doing something about it.

In the Scarlet's native habitat between Mexico and Central America, more than 90% of their habitat has been destroyed.  Fortunately, Scarlets are not as selective about their nesting sites as some other Macaw species.  If monitored and with new blood lines introduced, it's possible their numbers could come back.  It will all depend on how much habitat can be protected and reestablished.  This is the reason for our attempting to purchase the additional 260 hectares of land that is adjacent to ours.  It will be designated as protected land and will be patrolled to keep it secure for the plants and animals.

Fortunately, we and the Ara Project are working toward repopulating the Scarlets back into the wild.  Not just creating flocks of what are essentially pet birds. 

The Parrot Rescue Center of Costa Rica is the only rescue center that is attempting to repopulate the Yellow-nape Amazon.  Hopefully will can make a difference.

- Expat Dave

Thanks for the info re killing snakes etc., Dave.

Since we planted so many trees over the past 10 years and basically do not cut any, we now have hawks and falcons in the area as well as lots of other wildlife. We planted 200 trees and 1,000 bushes just last month! And I'm buying 40 more this week! LOL.

If you find any boas feel free to bring them up here! We have a creek that runs through the property and a waterfall down below us and I'm sure they can find small animals to eat around here! The Ticos I know around here, know that almost all the snakes except the terciopelos are not a danger to anyone!

p.s. Sorry to hear MINAE doesn't seem to give a dang in this area. Understaffed or just lazy or what?

We have lived on a few large properties here, and we too have succumbed, samramon, to planting too many trees. :joking: and totally understand where you are coming from,  and suggest that you don't make the mistake of planting too many trees and shrubs. I have met many who have realized, like us and after the fact,  that they planted too many in the first place and now are having to pay to have them removed.

In the front garden of our present home, in a rental property, the original owner planted two beautiful 'Dypsis decaryi' palm trees commonly known as the Triangle palm, approx 6' apart... which now are huge and 'squished' with other trees around them  and really belong in a large open space. Also, nearby there is a Huge Norfolk Island palm, right between 2   'Adonidia merrillii' (Manila/Christmas Palm) palms, all planted 6 ' apart. Plus other 'shrubs' that very quickly grow tall and require constant pruning to allow movement between the tall palms.

In this space is a beautiful and huge 'Tuna cactus' that has tripled in size since we moved here.

In other words, all the plants would look much better in a larger open space.

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