Foreigners May Not Own Guns in Mexico, Right? Wrong!


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By Susan Fogel
At a recent meeting of citizens with the police commander and the sub-delegado of El Centenario, the subject of gun ownership came up. When asked if foreigners could own guns in Mexico, Commandante Jose Luis Amador Olachea said, “yes.” His answer caused a stir in the crowd, many people were relieved and others aghast!
What Amador Olachea did not do was explain the procedure to own a gun in Mexico. Among those that were unhappy to hear that foreigners could own guns was sub-delegado Marco Antonio Garcia. Garcia said that this is dangerous. Once local criminals learn that foreigners may have guns, robberies will increase because the robbers will want the guns. He feels that by owning guns, private citizens are making it easy for criminals to arm themselves, and then what has been largely non-violent, petty crime will escalate.
While private citizens, including the foreign community, may own guns, they may not bring guns or ammunition into Mexico from the US or Canada or anywhere. The US consulate webpage warns sternly that bringing guns or ammo, even one bullet, can result in a 30-year jail sentence. And they mention that even if a bullet is accidently left in a bag and then travels to Mexico, the penalty is fierce.
Gun toting was fairly common in Mexico. And the right to bear arms which was constitutionally protected by article 10 is what allowed the citizenry to rise up and overthrow the oppressive rule of Spain, fight the Americans in 1846-1848 and the French in 1861-1867. And an armed populace won the Mexican Revolution in 1920.
Article 10 of the Mexican Constitution was amended to separate the right to bear arms, which means carry them in public, and the right to keep arms, which means to own guns for home use. Only the military, police, and certain private security personnel may bear arms. The caliber and type of guns private citizens may carry is tightly controlled as well.
Gun control in Mexico is tight, restrictive, and fairly young. Back in 1960, the government saw the dissatisfaction and civil unrest of the populace and, fearing an insurrection, amended Article 10 again. This time with sweeping, restrictive, gun control laws that changed the Mexican gun culture. The Federal Law of Firearms and Explosives was also enacted. Gun shops were shut down, private sales were outlawed, and private shooting ranges were closed. From time to time the federal government has held gun exchanges where guns legal or not could be surrendered with no questions asked in exchange for cash or groceries.
The right to keep arms means that a private citizen, after applying to the federal government, and having a complete background check, and also supplying a letter from the local police commandant, and proof that it is needed it for self-protection, may own a small caliber handgun that is kept only in the home. Once you have received a gun permit, you will be issued a 24-72 hour carry permit to transport the gun to your home.
Even though the commandant said foreigners may own guns in Mexico, remember, it does not mean that you can go to Sears in El Norte and buy a gun and bring it here.
For more information on legally obtaining a gun, there is the government site www.sedena.gov and a blog written by an expat: http://rollybrook.com/guns.htm
There are also restrictions related to residency. From what we understand, only foreigners holding inmigrado status may own a gun. And you must prove that you need a gun for self-protection.
Susan Fogel is the broker/owner of www.prestigepropertygrouplapaz.cvom; follow her blog www.mexicomusings.com
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