Exploring Strict Gun Laws in Costa Rica

Costa Rica boasts some of the strictest gun laws in Central America. Unlike the United States, where gun ownership is a constitutional right, Costa Rica’s gun control is rooted in its unique history and cultural values. Following a bloody civil war in 1948, the country abolished its military and opted for a demilitarized democracy, prioritizing peace and social harmony. This commitment to peace is reflected in its stringent gun laws.

This article will delve into various aspects, from gun ownership and control laws to obtaining a gun permit. Whether you’re a Costa Rican citizen, a permanent resident, or an expat, navigating the intricacies of firearm regulations is essential.


  • Gun Ownership Laws in Costa Rica
  • Restrictions and Prohibited Firearms: Knowing the Limits
  • Bringing Firearms to Costa Rica: Crossing the Border with Caution
  • Self-Defense in Costa Rica: Beyond the Gun
  • Important Things to Remember: Your Costa Rican Gun Law Cheat Sheet
  • The process to apply for a permit to carry a gun in Costa Rica

Gun Ownership Laws in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has firearms and explosives laws and regulations, and the Ministry of Security, which regulates and grants permits to gun ownership in Costa Rica, registers them, reports their sale or loss, and others.

The possession of weapons allowed in the domicile is permitted for its inhabitants’ security and legitimate defense, who must take all indispensable security measures to avoid accidents and for sporting use.

Restrictions and Prohibited Firearms in Costa Rica: Strict gun control laws

Even if you manage to obtain a permit, Costa Rica imposes strict limitations on gun ownership:

  • Number of firearms: Individuals are restricted to owning a maximum of two guns.
  • Types of firearms: Assault weapons, automatic firearms, and high-caliber rifles are prohibited.
  • Ammunition: The purchase of ammunition is strictly controlled, with limits exclusively for the weapon registered in your name.
  • Criminal Record: Persons with a criminal or police record for crimes against property, domestic violence, sexual crimes, crimes against life, crimes against freedom, and infractions to the Law of Narcotics, Psychotropic Substances, Drugs of Unauthorized Use, and Related Activities, Organized Crime and any other crime where violence is involved.
  • Domestic Violence: as of 2019, authorities may seize weapons and objects used to intimidate or assault, as well as any other weapons found in possession of the alleged aggressor or registered in his or her name, and will order the cancellation of gun carrying permits. This applies equally to foreigners even with a valid permanent residency card.

Bringing Firearms to Costa Rica: Crossing the Border with Caution

Traveling to Costa Rica with your firearm is a complex procedure before a Costa Rican Entity:

  • Prior authorization: Obtaining written permission from the Costa Rican government months in advance is mandatory; you have to contact comercializacionydesalmacenajedga@seguridadpublica.go.cr or entry to https://www.controlpas.go.cr for a digital request.
  • Temporary import permit: Securing a temporary license upon arrival is essential.
  • Strict compliance: Failure to comply with regulations can result in confiscation and legal repercussions.
  • In case of being a foreigner, their migratory condition must be a permanent resident of free status in force.

Sporting Permission for foreigners to enter weapons and shots into Costa Rica.

Foreigners who temporarily enter the country with weapons permitted for the exclusive use of sporting competitions may import up to five hundred shots free of duty as part of their luggage. They may also temporarily enter the country with up to four weapons allowed for the exclusive use of sporting competitions or for hunting purposes. They must inform the customs authorities at the time of entry.

Self-Defense in Costa Rica: Beyond the Gun

While gun ownership might seem like the ultimate self-defense tool, Costa Rica offers alternative options:

  • Pepper spray: Carrying for self-defense is legal and readily available.
  • Alarm systems: Investing in a reliable home or business alarm system provides an extra layer of security.
  • Community watch programs: Participating in local community watch programs fosters collective safety and vigilance.

Essential Things to Remember: Your Costa Rican Gun Law Cheat Sheet

  • Costa Rica has strict gun laws compared to most countries, including jail consequences.
  • Expats in Costa Rica must have a valid permanent residency.
  • Owning a firearm requires a permit, extensive background checks, and a mental evaluation.
  • Certain types of firearms are prohibited.
  • Bringing your gun into Costa Rica involves a complex authorization process.
  • Alternative self-defense options like pepper spray and community watch programs are viable.

By understanding and complying with Costa Rica’s gun laws, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in this beautiful country. Responsible gun ownership and respect for local regulations are vital to preserving Costa Rica’s peaceful Pura Vida way of life.

The process to apply for a permit to carry a gun in Costa Rica:

Gun Ownership and Registration:

  • A positive mental fitness report issued by a competent professional (psychologist) must be included in the CONTROLPAS system.
  • To have passed the theoretical-practical examination on the use of firearms conducted by the National Police School, which must be included in the CONTROLPAS system.
  • Have an updated fingerprint record in the Police File of the Ministry of Public Security, which must be included in the CONTROLPAS system.

The steps you must follow to apply for the registration of your firearm in the system www.controlpas.go.cr are as follows:

If you are an individual, you must:

  • Enter the site Government Information
  • Have a Digital Signature device.
  • Register as a user on the platform.
  • Complete the application at www.controlpas.go.cr.
  • The system verifies criminal records, updates fingerprints in police files and mental suitability, and approves theoretical-practical exams.
  • Verifies the document of ownership of the weapon.

Purchase a new gun: It is also important to remember that before purchasing a firearm in an official gun shop in Costa Rica, you must already be registered and have a gun permit.

We invite you to contact our law firm to proceed with the appropriate procedure to carry guns in Costa Rica. We’ll be happy to help you. info@aglegal.com