We provide a guide to the Colombia gun laws and look at whether or not it is legal for a foreigner to own a gun, carry a gun or carry a knife in Colombia. Colombia’s gun laws are complex with a challenging process to obtain a gun permit.
Several Medellin Guru readers have asked about the gun laws in Colombia and if it is legal to carry or own a gun due to concerns over security. So, we provide a guide to the gun laws in Colombia. Also, be careful, as I have seen several inaccurate posts and videos on the Internet about Colombia gun laws.
Colombia does not have many legal guns in the hands of civilians. A study in 2014 found there were 560,667 legal guns in the hands of 419,278 legal civilian owners in Colombia. And private security made up about half the legal gun ownership at the time of that study.
Note the above photo of confiscated firearms is by the Colombia National Police.
What Are the Colombia Gun Laws?
The Colombian Constitution of 1991 does allow Colombian civilians to possess and carry firearms but this requires permission from the government. And the regulation of guns in Colombia is considered very restrictive.
Under Law 2535 of 1993, the Colombian government has the power to place a general prohibition on gun ownership and to restrict the issuance of gun permits. Guns were used in approximately 70 percent of the homicides in Colombia in 2016, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Colombians aged 18 and older are limited to the purchase of small caliber handguns and shotguns with a gun permit. Applicants for a gun owner’s permit in Colombia are required to establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example personal protection, security, hunting, target shooting or gun collection.
Additionally, all guns must be registered with the Colombian military, which has a monopoly in Colombia on the sale of firearms and issues all gun permits.
How to Obtain a Gun Permit in Colombia
The government agency that registers and sells guns in Colombia is DCCAE – Departamento de Control Comercio de Armas, Municiones y Explosivos del Ministerio de Defensa (Department of Control Trade of Arms, Ammunition and Explosives of the Ministry of Defense).
According to DCCAE, to obtain a gun permit, you must be a Colombian citizen with a Cédula de Ciudadanía. To apply for a gun permit according to DCCAE you must:
1. Pay a fee of 481,567 pesos
2. Request an appointment with DCCAE, 24 hours after the fee payment
3. At the appointment, the applicant needs the following documents:
- Request for the acquisition of the permit for the possession a gun
- Cédula de Ciudadanía (Colombian Citizen ID card)
- Chamber of Commerce Certificate (if a business owner) or sworn statement specifying work activity and monthly income (if independent), or proof of employment specifying monthly income and position (if employed or public official).
- Medical certificate of psychophysical aptitude issued by an institution authorized by the General Directorate of Military Health
- Certificate and video of the weapons management course, issued by an entity authorized by DCCAE or first-class military notebook
- Bank statements, with seal, of the last three months.
- Justification for the acquisition of the weapon
- If you are a collector, current (original) credential issued by an Asociación de Coleccionista de Armas
Due to the complex process involved in obtaining a gun permit in Colombia, a majority of legal gun ownership by civilians in Colombia is for private security.
Also, ammunition is controlled by DCCAE and someone with a gun permit is limited semiannually to 100 rounds for pistols or revolvers, 200 rounds for rifles and 300 rounds for shotguns. In addition, gun owners in Colombia must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm permit every ten years.
What Guns are Permitted for Civilians in Colombia?
According to Law 2535 of 1993, the following firearms are permitted in Colombia for personal defense:
1. Revolvers and guns that meet all of the following characteristics:
- Maximum caliber 9.652mm. (.38 inches).
- Maximum barrel length 15.24 cm. (6 inches).
- Repetitive or semi-automatic operation.
- Capacity not exceeding 9 rounds, except for those originally 22 gauge, in which case it is extended to 10 rounds.
2. Rifles of caliber 22 S, 22 L, 22 L.R., not automatic.
3. Shotguns with a barrel length that does not exceed 22 inches.
The Ministry of Defense DCCAE department is the only authorized place to buy guns if you have a gun permit.
According to DCCAE, weapons whose operation is based on compressed air or pneumatic do not require a permit for carrying or holding in accordance with Article 25 of Decree 2535/93. However, although they do not require a permit, they are subject to seizure and confiscation according to Articles 83 and 88 of Decree 2535/93.
Is it Legal to Carry a Gun in Colombia?
Under governmental Decree 2362/2018, President Ivan Duque’s government extended a pre-existing general prohibition that was originally imposed by former President Juan Manuel Santos on the carrying of guns by civilians.
However, Colombian gun control legislation has always allowed civilians to carry guns in special circumstances. These circumstances include private security details for judges and politicians.
But the bottom line is that it is currently not legal in Colombia for most civilians to carry a gun. And if you are caught with an illegal gun it is possible to receive a sentence of up to six years in jail.
In addition, there have been concerns reported in the news about some of the new wording of Decree 2362/2018, that asserts that special authorization may be granted to individuals:
…for reasons of emergency or security […] taking into consideration among other factors, the particular circumstances of each application
There are concerns that the modified law will make it easier for the Ministry of Defense to authorize the arming of civilian groups.
Is it Legal to Carry a Knife in Colombia?
Knifes reportedly are used in about one in five homicides in Colombia. In 2017, reportedly 2,175 of 11,373 homicides in Colombia were determined to be caused by knives.
In addition, for most cases of robberies in Colombia reported to the police, criminals threatened their victims with knives. Knives are much easier to get in Colombia than firearms.
I was the victim of a robbery at knifepoint in January 2020 in Laureles in Medellín, which was my first time being robbed in nearly nine years living in Medellín.
In addition, knives are preferred by many thieves, as being caught with an illegal gun can result in someone receiving a sentence of up to six years in jail. While carrying a knife is just a violation of the Colombia Police Code that is sanctioned with a fine of about 200,000 pesos. So, if you carry a knife in Colombia, you can be fined and the knife confiscated.
In Colombia, “knives” according to the police include daggers, machetes, axes, penknives, pocket knives,sabers, swords, among others.
Also, in 2018, measures were being considered in Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Barranquilla that would make it criminal to carry knives. And in public places like concert and sports events, knives and other weapons like pepper spray will be confiscated.
Medellin Guru’s Safety and Security Series
Safety is the biggest concern of foreigners visiting Colombia or planning to move to Colombia. So, we have a series of 15 popular articles about safety and security in Colombia:
- Is Colombia Safe? Colombia Security and Safety Tips
- Is Medellín Safe? Medellín Security and Safety Tips
- What are the Safest Neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley
- Medellín Robbery: Expat Experience Being Robbed at Knifepoint
- Colombia Gun Laws: Is it Legal to Have a Gun in Colombia?
- Scopolamine: The Realities of Devil’s Breath in Colombia
- Colombia Protests: Tips for Foreigners to Stay Safe During Protests
- Is Bogotá Safe? Bogotá Security and Safety Tips
- Is Cartagena Safe? Cartagena Security and Safety Tips
- Is Cali Safe? Cali, Colombia Security and Safety Tips
- Is Santa Marta Safe? Santa Marta Security and Safety Tips
- Is Pereira Safe? Pereira, Colombia Security and Safety Tips
- Is Manizales Safe? Manizales Security and Safety Tips
- Is Bucaramanga Safe? Bucaramanga Security and Safety Tips
- Is Barranquilla Safe? Barranquilla Security and Safety Tips
The Bottom Line: Colombia Gun Laws – Is it Legal to Have a Gun in Colombia?
According to DCCAE, only Colombian citizens are eligible to obtain a gun permit for use in a home or business or for gun collectors or hunting. Foreigners are not permitted to obtain a gun permit in Colombia according to DCCAE.
In addition, the Colombia Gun laws make it challenging to obtain a gun permit. So, not many civilians in Colombia have a firearm. And we strongly recommend against dealing with illegal firearms. Any gun you manage to get your hands on from anyone other than the military would be illegal.
The bottom line is that it is not legal in Colombia for civilians to carry a gun with only a few exceptions such as private security. Furthermore, you can be fined for a carrying a knife in Colombia. So, for personal protection other alternatives are recommended such as pepper spray. The Ministry of National Defense, through the DCCAE, is in charge of the control of the National Registry of Less Lethal Weapons. The Pepper Spray is a less lethal device conceived to control a specific situation, and indeed, it needs a permit granted to individuals. In this link you can apply for a less lethal weapons permit. However, this device is strictly prohibited in crowded places and under other specific circumstances.
However, we recommend never resisting if you are a victim of a robbery in Medellín or another city in Colombia. Things can be replaced and there is no reason to risk your life for a few possessions.
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