Owning a Gun in México

Last Update 9 November 2012

In the last decade there have been some changes in the gun laws of México.  There may be more in the future, so this article should be viewed as a general guide, not the definitive word on the subject.  The only place where you can get THE word on gun ownership is from your nearest army base.


Mexico's gun laws are quite restrictive, and extremely harsh if you run afoul of them.

Temporary gun import licenses for sporting purposes may be issued to tourists, discussed below. Mexican law provides penalties of at least five to as many as 30 years in prison for tourists who attempt to bring a firearm, or even a single round of ammunition, into Mexico without prior permission. In the past, the law was enforced harshly, even in cases where the violation was accidental.  In December 1998 the Mexican Congress enacted legislation relaxing the law for first-time, unintentional violations involving only a single gun. Now, first-timers will be fined $1,000 dollars, but not imprisoned. The exemption does not apply for prohibited guns -- any handgun above .380 in caliber, as well as a wide variety of rifles

Ownership law

The Mexican Constitution says:

Article 10 - The inhabitants of the United Mexican States have the right to possess arms in their residences for their security and legitimate defense with the exception of those prohibited by federal law, and those reserved for the exclusive use of the military.  Federal law will determine the cases, conditions, requisites, and places in which the bearing of arms by inhabitants will be authorized.

The inhabitants of the United Mexican States” means Mexican citizens and, as defined in other laws, foreign citizens who hold a valid immigration status beyond FMM.

Mexican federal law regarding firearms and explosives (Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos) is here. Note in particular Article 27:

Article 27. The right to carry arms will only be authorized for foreigners when, in addition to satisfying the requirements indicated in the previous article, they accredit their status of "Inmigrado" except in the case of temporary license permits for tourists with sports-related intentions.  Visitors/tourists (Visitante) do not have gun rights without a license. This license is only issued for "sporting purposes."

The privilege of carrying a firearm outside of one's home is limited to what is authorized by Mexican federal law.  Mexican citizens and a Residente Permanente can apply for a carry permit. Convincing evidence must be presented showing why a carry permit is needed.  Such a permit is very hard to get.  There are work-arounds by membership in a hunting or gun club as discussed below.

All privately-owned firearms must be registered with the Mexican army.

Owning a gun for personal protection

If you decide to get a gun for protection in your home, you better be prepared to take a human life and be able to live with the consequences.  Among those are facing retaliation by the dead man’s family.  This is no small threat.  If you kill a man, or especially a boy, you can expect big trouble from the family.  You also can also expect a long and expensive legal battle to prove that your action was justified.

Types of guns allowed

Article 11 of Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos lists prohibited "military firearms" in México.

They include:

full-auto and semi-auto handguns larger than 380

revolver .357 Magnum or larger

rifles larger than .30 caliber

shotguns  larger than 12ga or with a barrel shorter than 25".

Allowed hand gun calibers are .380 auto, .38 and .22.

Allowed long guns: rifles no larger the 30 caliber; shotguns 12, 20 and 410 with barrels longer than 25”

Buying from the government

There is only one legal gun store in the country; it’s  at an army base  in Mexico City.  There  you can legally buy a gun and get a 24 to 72 hour transport permit back to your home. You can buy two boxes of ammo with the gun.  You will need a letter from the local police department attesting that you have no criminal record.  You will also need your immigration document (or voter ID card if you are a citizen) and passport with copies, your CURP and proof of address.  When you arrive at the army base you will not be allowed to enter with any electronic device – cell phone, computer, camera, etc.

Buying from a private person

You can buy from a private citizen, but you must register the gun at the nearest army post. 

Registering a gun

You must fill out an application which you can get at any army base.   In addition to the completed application, you will need your immigration document (or voter ID card if you are a citizen) and passport with copies, your CURP and proof of address.  When you have all of this, you may then transport the weapon to the Army base for registration. The registration application is your permit to transport the gun to the base.  The gun must be in a box or wrapped so that it is not visible.  The approved application will serve as your carry permit on the way home.  Thereafter, you must not take the gun out of the house without a special carry permit.

Carry permits

The right to keep arms in your home is not the right to transport them outside your home; this is a crime.  If you want to target practice or engage in competitive shooting or hunting, you will need to be a member of a gun or hunting club that can arrange the proper permissions. Even then there are restrictions on days and places you can transport.

Importing guns for hunting or competition

There are ways to temporarily import a weapon for hunting or a shooting competition. In those cases special paperwork and guidance will be provided by the outfitter or sponsoring club.  Getting permission to import the guns on your own is so complicated and restrictive that the only practical way is through a licensed gun or hunting club.

The federal government sets the gun laws.  The states set the hunting  laws – season, bag limits, etc.

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