Legal Reference

Mexican Gun Laws

Damn there are sure a lot of myths about the legality of guns in Mexico. I thought civilians were banned from owning guns in Mexico, that is one myth.

While it is certainly easier to get guns in Mexico then it is in the American police states of Washington DC, or Yew York City it is a lot harder to get them then it is in a gun friendly place like Arizona.

Here are snips form a couple of articles I found.


Mexico By David B. Kopel

The Mexican Constitution guarantees the right of Mexicans to possess arms. Even so, gun control laws in Mexico are very strict, and police discretion in enforcement makes possession of firearms of greater than .22 very difficult.


Article 10 of the Mexican Constitution, as amended, states:

“The inhabitants of the United Mexican States have the right to possess arms in their homes for their security and legitimate defense with the exception of those prohibited by federal law and of those reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard. Federal law shall determine the cases, conditions and place in which the inhabitants may be authorized to bear arms.”
Here article 10 is in Spanish
Los habitantes de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos tienen derecho a poseer armas en su domicilio, para su seguridad y legitima defensa, con excepción de las prohibidas por la ley federal y de las reservadas para el uso exclusivo del Ejército, Armada, Fuerza Aérea y Guardia Nacional. La ley federal determinara los casos, condiciones, requisitos y lugares en que se podrán autorizar a los habitantes la portaron de armas.

In the middle of the twentieth century, firearms laws and their enforcement had become liberal enough so that Mexico was a popular hunting destination for Americans,


In Mexico as in the United States, civil unrest in 1968 led to important new restrictions on firearms. Before then, many types of rifles and handguns were freely available. Anti-government student movements, however, scared the government into closing firearms stores, and registering all weapons.


Today, notwithstanding the constitutional right, arms possession in Mexico is severely restricted by a wide network of laws. Article 160 of the Federal Penal Code authorizes government employees to carry guns. Article 161 requires a license to carry or sell handguns. Article 162 provides penalties for violations, and also bans the stockpiling of arms without permission. Article 163 states that handguns may only be sold by mercantile establishments, not by individuals. Further, handgun carry permit applicants must post a bond, must prove their need, and must supply five character references.

The most important gun laws are contained in the Federal Law of Firearms and Explosives. It establishes a Federal Arms Registry controlled by the Ministry of National Defense. Both the federal and state governments are required to conduct public information campaigns to discourage all forms of weapons ownership and carrying. Only sports-related advertising of firearms is permitted.

Title Two of the Federal Law of Firearms allows possession and carrying of handguns in a calibers of .380 or less, although some calibers are excluded, most notably .357 magnum and 9mm parabellum.

Members of agricultural collectives and other rural workers are allowed to carry the aforesaid handguns, .22 rifles, and shotguns, as long as they stay outside of urban areas, and obtain a license.

Hunters and target shooters may obtain licenses for the above types of firearms, as well as higher-powered rifles. There are a variety of exceptions for particular guns, detailed in the Library of Congress volume cited at the end of this entry. Gun collecting is allowed, with a license and registration. Possession of firearms for home defense is legally permitted. All guns must be registered with the Ministry of National Defense within 30 days of acquisition. Licensees may only buy ammunition for the caliber of gun for which they are licensed.

In practice, possession of firearms above .22 caliber is severely restricted. As with much of the rest of Mexican law enforcement, corruption is a major element of the gun licensing system.

Because government permits are difficult to obtain, there is a thriving market in smuggled handguns from the United States.


In July 2001, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Mexican Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha announced a cooperative law enforcement program, aimed partly at weapons smuggling. Mexican police would provide computerized information about seized firearms to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) so that BATF can trace the guns for criminal investigation.


Even government agencies, frustrated with the Defense Ministry, sometimes smuggle in their own weapons from the U.S. [wait a minute, Mexican government agencies smuggle their guns in from the USA???]


Temporary gun licenses for sporting purposes may be issued to tourists. 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 stringently, even in cases where the violation was accidental. In December 1998, however, 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, but not imprisoned. The exemption does not apply for military weapons or calibers - which by Mexican law means any handgun above .380 in caliber, as well as a wide variety of rifles.

The exemption does not apply for military weapons or calibers - which by Mexican law means any handgun above .380 in caliber, as well as a wide variety of rifles.

For further information:

Library of Congress, Firearms Regulations in Various Foreign Countries (Wash.: May 1998)(LL98-3, 97-2010).


Mexico's Gun Laws for Americans

Last Updated: 10 February 2008

Warning: there is a lot of false information about Mexico's gun laws floating around, including in Wikipedia. The information in this web page has been verified with Mexican sources.

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

Unlike Canada, where you're likely to be turned away at the border if you have unauthorized firearms or ammo, unwary visitors to Mexico have languished in Mexican jails for five years due to a single spent casing in their vehicle.

It is true that Mexico's constitution has a Right to Keep and Bear Arms for its citizens. However, it is quite a bit more restrictive than the USA's Second Amendment:

In the original 1917 Constitution, Mexican RKBA was:

Artículo 10. Los habitantes de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos tienen libertad de poseer armas de cualquiera clase, para su seguridad y legítima defensa, hecha excepción de las prohibidas expresamente por la ley y de las que la nación reserve para el uso exclusivo del Ejército, Armada, y Guardia Nacional; pero no podrán portarlas en las poblaciones sin sujetarse a los reglamentos de policía.

This right has been substantially abridged by subsequent amendments, and now reads:

Artículo 10. Los habitantes de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos tienen derecho a poseer armas en su domicilio, para su seguridad y legítima defensa, con excepción de las prohibidas por la Ley Federal y de las reservadas para el uso exclusivo del Ejército, Armada, Fuerza Aérea y Guardia Nacional. La ley federal determinará los casos, condiciones, requisitos y lugares en que se podrá autorizar a los habitantes la portación de armas.

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

Artículo 27. A los extranjeros sólo se les podrá autorizar la portación de armas cuando, además de satisfacer los requisitos señalados en el artículo anterior, acrediten su calidad de inmigrados, salvo el caso del permiso de licencia temporal para turistas con fines deportivos.

(Unofficial translation)

Article 27. The right to bear arms will only be authorized for foreigners when, in addition to satisfying the requirements indicated in the previous article, they accredit their status of "Inmigrados" [equivalent to permanent residents], except in the case of temporary license permits for tourists with sports-related intentions.

What this all means:

Visitors [Americans] do not have RKBA rights without a license. This license is only issued for "sporting purposes".

Mexican citizens [not American citizens] and "inmigrados" have RKBA in their homes, and only of permitted firearms. The privilege of carrying a firearm outside of one's home is limited to what is authorized by Mexican federal law.

Article 11 of Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos lists prohibited "military firearms" in Mexico. They include:

  • anything full-auto
  • any semi-auto handgun larger than 380 (e.g., 9mm, .38 Super, or larger)
  • any revolver in .357 Magnum or larger
  • any rifle in larger than .30 caliber
  • any shotgun larger than 12ga or with a barrel shorter than 25".
Where there are prohibitions, there are penalties.

The penalties for possession of prohibited "military firearms" include: 3-12 months in prison for bayonets, sabers and lances, 1-7 years for .357 magnum revolvers and any revolver larger than a .38 Special, and 2-12 years for other prohibited weapons. You don't want to run afoul of this law!

There is one gun store in the country (in Mexico City). It takes about a month for your purchase to be approved. Approval will be denied once you own more than 2 handguns or 10 long guns.

Carry permits exist for outside of your home, but generally not for mere mortals. Even if you get a carry permit, the biggest that you can carry is 380.


Another site claims Wikipedia has a number of inaccurate statements but here is some of what I cut and pasted from their site.

The United Mexican States or Mexico (Spanish: Estados Unidos Mexicanos or México) has some of the strictest gun laws in the world. It is in many ways similar to the United Kingdom, except with much more severe prison terms for even the smallest gun law violations. On the other hand, possession of non-military-caliber small arms by citizens is largely a non-issue.


Gun licensing and legislation for Mexican citizens remember that is for Mexican Citizens, NOT American citizens

Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos (Federal Law of Firearms and Explosives)

Generally, citizens are restricted by law to:

pistolas (handguns) of .380 Auto or .38 Special revolvers or smaller in either case,
escopetas (shotguns) of 12 gauge or smaller, with barrels longer than 25 inches, and
rifles (rifles) bolt action and semi-auto.

Handguns in calibers bigger than those mentioned above are forbidden from private ownership.


There is only one legally authorized retail outlet in Mexico City: UCAM (Unidad de Comercialización de Armamento y Municiones), run by the Army and able to sell firearms. It is owned by, and is part of, the government.


CCW licenses are issued but are hard to obtain for anyone not wealthy and without political connections.


The US Department of State warns US citizens against taking any firearm or ammunition into Mexico without prior written authorization from the Mexican authorities. Entering Mexico with a firearm, or even a single round of ammunition, carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, even if the firearm or ammunition is taken into the country unintentionally. Furthermore even a single round of 9 mm ammunition, being a military caliber cartridge, carries even heavier jail-time penalties.

[while Mexican citizens can have guns, American citizens are not allowed to have guns unless they have a permit]