Monday, August 6th 2018

Can American Expats in Mexico Own or Purchase Firearms?

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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How to get your guns across the border into Mexico legally

Are you an American who is thinking of living the expat life in Mexico? Do you own firearms, and are curious as to how to bring your firearms with you to Mexico? Is it legal to bring your firearms to Mexico? Is there a stand your ground law in Mexico? This article will dig deeper into self-defense laws in Mexico and gun laws in Mexico, to get at the minutiae of gun registration in Mexico for American expats.

Many American expats believe that it is illegal for citizens or residents in Mexico to own firearms, however that is not the case. It is true that gun laws in Mexico are far stricter than American gun laws, yet that does not mean that they are prohibited—neither for citizens, nor for residents. La Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos is the federal law that describes the restrictions, rights, and specific conditions of private gun ownership in Mexico.

Citizens can own up to a total of 10 registered firearms (1 handgun and 9 long guns) per household. Businesses cannot keep a firearm on the premises unless this is business is also their residence. Any lost or stolen firearms have to be reported immediately to the La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional—often referred to only as “la Sedena”.


Article 10 of the Mexican constitution 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 [weapons] prohibited by federal law and those reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard. Federal law shall determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places [under and] in which the inhabitants may be authorized to bear arms.

*Click here to learn more.

Self-defense laws in Mexico are fairly simple. The law states that you have the right to “repel an aggression real, actual and imminent in defense of properties or goods (yours or someone else), only if there exists need of defense and a rationality in the means used and there is sufficient provocation from the aggressor”.

This means that you can only use force against a man breaking into your home, for instance, if he has the intent to harm you. By Mexican law, you have to prove that the aggressor had the intent to harm you because he was actively firing at you, jumping at you, strangling you. . .etc. Without sufficient evidence, the aggressor can say that he was going to run away.

*To read more about self defense laws in Mexico, click here.


In 2017, the state of Nuevo Leon approved a reform to allow for greater protection by individuals in their self-defense. Previously, citizens were ignoring the standing laws when acting in self-defense, so this new initiative loosens the restrictions so that the typical actions by civilians in their own defense are now legal. The new lax restrictions include the provisions where citizens can defend themselves in a home that is not theirs if they hold a responsibility to defend it—say for example that it is their grandmother’s home—or if they have goods or property in a residence which they have a legal obligation to defend it.

Congressman Marcos Medoza Vazquez, of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon states, “What concerns our neighbors the most is that they or their relatives could be injured or lose their lives or freedom for defending themselves against someone who breaks into their home or business to commit a crime.”

*To read more about the new laws in the state of Nuevo Leon, click here.


Several town in areas plagued by cartel violence and corruption have used Article 10 as quoted above to justify the formation of civilian militias. These militias are controversial and often politically radical, however their legal justification is taken on a case-by-case basis.

*To learn more about the legality of these civilian militias, click here.


It is important to recognize that owning and carrying a firearm are two different things in Mexico. The only place your firearm is permitted is in your primary residence. To have it at another residence, or to transport it anywhere—even to go hunting or target shooting—you must have another permit, including proof that you are an active member of a shooting or hunting club. The permit must be renewed every year.


Carry firearms licenses in Mexico are extremely rare. “La Sedena” has issued roughly 3,000 of these permits in a country of over 120 million residents; this figure includes those who carry their firearms for work. However, in some cases, army, navy, private security, police officers, rural landowners, politicians, affluent citizens, and other citizens or residents who think that they are in danger can apply for a Carry Firearms License, provided that they have:

  • Proof of employment
  • No criminal record with the use of a firearm
  • Served in the military
  • Can pass a drug test
  • Prove they are mentally and physically capable
  • Can demonstrate a need to carry firearms because of the nature of their employment or occupation, circumstances in the way they live, or any other legitimate reason.

There are two main types of carry firearm licenses: official use and private citizens. Private citizens must renew their license every two years, whereas officials can hold their license as long as the work in a job that requires a firearms license. These licenses only apply to a certain individual—and not to a company for example—for their exclusive use.

*For the more information and the application for a carry license, click here.


The three basic types of permits available to citizens and residents. Each type of permit is outlined in the Mexican constitution:

  • Home Protection – Article 9
  • Hunting and Sporting – Article 10
  • Gun Collecting – Article 21,22


The first permit—protected by Artículo 9—is for Home Protection. This license only allows one gun (however there is some leeway for people living outside of a residential area). This permit allows pistols up to a .380 caliber. However, it does not allow .38 commando, .38 super, 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Mausser, 9mm Commando—and similar models of this type. This permit will also allow revolvers, but it will not permit a .357 magnum.

Article 9 – Possessed or behaved, in the terms and with the limitations established by this Law, weapons of the following characteristics:

I.- Pistols of semi-automatic operation of caliber not exceeding .380 (9mm.), Remaining except .38 Super and .38 Command pistols, and also in 9 mm calibers. the Mausser, Luger, Parabellum and Command, as well as similar models of the same caliber as the exceptions, of other brands.

II.- Revolvers in calibers not exceeding .38 Special, except for caliber .357 Magnum.

The communal land worker, communal land holder, and day laborers of the countryside, outside the urban areas, may possess and carry with the single demonstration, a weapon of those already mentioned, or a rifle of caliber .22, or a shotgun of any caliber, except for barrel lengths less than 635 mm. (25), and those of higher caliber to 12 (.729 or 18. 5 mm.).

III.- Those mentioned in article 10 of this Law.

IV.- Those that integrate weapons collections, in the terms of articles 21 and 22.


The second permit—protected by Artículo 10—is for Hunting or Target Shooting. This license allows up to ten firearms (nine long guns and one .22 caliber handgun). This permit allows .22 caliber revolvers, pistols, and rifles. Shotguns with no less than a 25-inch barrel and no greater than a 12 gauge. The permit also allows .38 pistols for competition shooting. Many rifles are permitted, however the following are specifically prohibited: .222, .30, 7mm, 7.62mm. (There are more federal restrictions and a look at the specific law in the related links below is recommended).

Article 10.- Weapons that may be authorized to sportsmen for shooting or hunting, to possess in their home and ported with a license, are the following:

I.- Guns, revolvers and .22 caliber rifles, circular fire.

II.- .38 caliber pistols for Olympic or competitive shooting purposes.

III.- Shotguns in all their sizes and models, except those with a barrel of less than 635 mm. (25), and those caliber higher than 12 (.729 or 18. 5 mm.).

IV.- Shotguns of 3 guns in the calibers authorized in the previous section, with a barrel for metal cartridges of different caliber.

V.- High power rifles, of repetition or of semi-automatic operation, not convertible for automatic, with the exception of carbines caliber, 30, rifle, carabiners and .223 caliber carbines, 7 and 7. 62 mm. and Garand rifles caliber .30.

VI.- High power rifles of calibers superior to those indicated in the previous paragraph, with permission special for its employment abroad, in hunting of major pieces that do not exist in the national animal wildlife.

VII.- The other weapons of sporting characteristics in accordance with the legal norms of hunting, applicable by the Secretariats of State or Organisms that have interference, as well as the regulations national and international for competition shot.

The people who practice the sport of *charrería may be authorized revolvers of greater caliber than that indicated in Article 9o. of this Act, only as a complement to the attire of a Mexican cowboy, should take them unloaded.

Article 10 Bis.- Possession of cartridges corresponding to the weapons that may be possessed or behave will be limited to the amounts established in article 50 of this Law, for each weapon manifested in the Federal Register of Weapons.

*Charreria is a Mexican form of rodeo


The third permit—protected by Artículo 21/22—is for Collectors. This permit has no limit how many guns one can purchase, however it is a special license that is difficult to obtain. There are almost no restrictions on what a collector is allowed to purchase, even those that are not allowed by federal law.

Article 21.- Natural or legal persons, public or private, may own collections or museums of ancient or modern weapons, or both, with the corresponding permission of the Secretary of National Defense.

They may also possess, with the same requirements, weapons prohibited by this Law, when have cultural, scientific, artistic or historical value or meaning.

When in a collection or museum not attached to an armed institute of the Nation, there are weapons of those reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy and Air Force, will be required, in addition, written authorization of the respective agency.

Article 22.- Individuals who have collections of weapons, must request authorization for the acquisition and possession of new weapons for the enrichment of the collection or museum, and enroll them.


There are temporary import permits that are issued by the Mexican government for an American tourist, however the requirements are specific to sporting. For example, one requirement to get this permit is that an American expat must provide a copy of a personal invitation from a hunting or shooting club based in Mexico. All temporary or permanent registrations are conducted by La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional—often referred to only as “la Sedena”.

American expats are allowed to purchase a firearm in Mexico as long as they can prove that they are a legal resident via Artículo 27 with a permanent residence visa—formerly known as an FM2. In addition, they must be approved by la Sedena on the following requirements:

  • Photocopy of your Clave Única de Registro de Población or CURP (in English it is your Unique Population Registry Code, or basically your Personal ID Code Number)

  • Photocopy of a photo ID

  • Proof of address—an electric bill will suffice

  • If you are employed, you must provide a work letter on work letterhead that specifies your job position, salary, and time in grade

  • Certified copy of your birth certificate

  • For foreigners, you must provide proof of legal permanent residency

  • If you wish to buy a long gun, you must have proof of an active membership in a shooting or hunting club with valid expiration of said club membership


When it comes to transfers of firearms or private sale of firearms, both the buyer and seller must appear at La Sedena along with the weapon to legally process the transaction.


You may feel that gun laws in Mexico are sensible and pragmatic, or you may find these restrictions overbearing compared to the United States’ laws, however this article was not meant to spark a debate, only to inform American expats about current self-defense and gun laws in Mexico, and the requirements for permits.

*WeExpats drew upon several sources in the writing of this article. If you would like to learn more about Mexican gun laws from one of our favorite sources for expats, click here.

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