Costa Rica Gun Laws

Costa Rica is a conservative country, which has inherited it´s culture, language, social norms and legal system from it´s mother country, Spain. The country is very Catholic, and laws and social norms tend to side with guidelines established by the Vatican. Abortion is illegal in Costa Rica. Thus, when Costa Rican women get pregnant, even if their career or personal condition is not optimal, they bit the bullet and give birth, and move on.

This whole concept flies in the face of liberalism in the US. If getting pregnant is inconvenient, then the laws are setup to make abortion illegal. And, in a similar manner, Costa Rica is conservative with respect to gun laws. Guns are not illegal in Costa Rica, but there is an intelligent set of laws around gun ownership, that lower the risk for gun violence. It is interesting that Barack Obama came to Costa Rica to learn about renewable energy; however, he never once asked Costa Rica for advice on healthcare and gun control. The Costa Rican healthcare system rates higher than the US. And, Costa Rica has around 8 violent deaths per capita, per year.  that is just 8 per 100,000 residents! This beats many large US cities such as:

  • Detroit – 48 per 100,000
  • New Orleans – 58 per 100,000
  • Oakland – 26 per 100,000
  • Chicago – I lost count. However, why should I be counting? Guns are illegal in Chicago.

Barack Obama has darker skin, but he is still a Gringo in Costa rica, and stuck to true form. He flew down with a big arrogant attitude, and an army of security; and he missed some obvious things that Costa Rica is doing better than the US.

How to Buy a Gun in Costa Rica

In order to buy a gun in Costa Rica, you will need some to follow a process that normally takes two to three months. Before I even begin, forget about it, if you are a tourist. The law starts by only allowing permanent residents and citizens of Costa Rica to apply for gun ownership. Here is what you will need:

  • Cedula – A Costa Rican ID card with residency or citizenship.
  • Hoja de Delincuencia – your criminal history
  • Finger Prints
  • Gun Training Course
  • Pass the firearm exam (This is offered in English and Spanish)
  • Psychological exam

1. Hoja de Delincuencia

In order to obtain your criminal history, you must first request it.  Thankfully, you can do this online:

This link takes you to the Sistema de Administration y Control Electronico de Juzgamientos (The System of Administration and Electronic Control of Judgments) and complete the form.  Please note the first field asks for your cedula, and pasaporte is a listed option.  I think regardless of your residency status, you can request your certificate, but if you do not have residency, you will not be allowed to apply for a gun permit. This is free and within 5 days, you can pickup your certified criminal background check at the Ministerio Judicial which is 10 minutes east of San Jose central:

View My Saved Places in a larger map


Look for a building on the northwest corner of Avenida 6 and Calle 21. You pretty much just walk in and stand in a short line. It took me about 10 minutes, and was not a major inconvenience.

2. Comprobante de Huellas (Fingerprints)

You then must go to the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica and the Spanish web site is located here:

The office is located in a commercial center Barrio Córdoba of San Jose, which is located onAvenida 36,  In front of Liceo Castro Madriz.  If you have GPS or google maps enter “Centro Comercial del Sur” in San Jose, Costa Rica.

If you speak Spanish, you can call them at 2586-4000.  I take that back, they speak English as they process fingerprints for foreigners all the time. You need to take with you two photographs the size of a passport: one facing forward and one facing sideways.

3. Gun Training Courses and Examspoligono-de-tiro-costa-rica

You can receive gun training courses anywhere in the world. You will need to understand basic firearm safety and usage and pass an exam. In Costa Rica, you can go to the Poligno De Tiro located in Pavas. Here they offer training courses, shooting booths and annual memberships ($200), which includes the following benefits:

  • 12 months of unlimited use
  • Reservations for shooting
  • Eye protection
  • Ear protection
  • Discounts on renting arms and courses

Here you can also take the official exam that is an important document in the gun permit process. The exam takes about two hours.

4. Psychological Exam

You must then have a psychological evaluation by an authorized Psychologist in Costa Rica (Authorization code 2105). At the Poligono de Tiro, you can make an appoint with a certified doctor.  This is there current affiliate psychologist:

  • Dra. Vivian Solis Mendez
  • +506-8856-4709
  • +506-2279-2121





15 Comments on “Costa Rica Gun Laws

  1. You selected cities in the U.S. (with the exception of New Orleans) that have even tighter restrictions on firearms ownership and carry than Costa Rica. Odd that.

    Also, the rate of violent death in the U.S. (a far more honest comparison) is 4.2 per 100,000 persons, half that of Costa Rica. So what exactly can the U.S. learn from that???

    • Science shows that statistics can be processed and a conclusion can be derived in a number of different ways. You also point out weaknesses in my opinion. I don’t know anything about guns laws in New Orleans. Can you elaborate?

      On the other topic, since Costa Rica is tiny at 3.5 million, I don’t think it is fair to compare to the entire US population of 250 billion. Since on average, people consider CR to be “somewhat dangerous” and the US to be “pretty safe”, I decided to compare it against several cities. The cities I have mentioned in the US are much more dangerous than Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a risk for petty theft and muggings, which are not pleasant, but I THINK the probability of getting shot in Costa Rica is lower.

      • If you think the probability of getting shot in Costa Rica is lower than in the US, then you are completely missing the point of probabilities and statistics.

        You’re not wrong that comparing 3.5 million to 300 million (the population of America is not 250 billion, not sure if that was hyperbole or not) is somewhat unfair, and that it a regional comparison is better, but by most metrics, your statement would still be wrong.

        Comparing it to American cities with the most crime is also an unfair metric, as the US has over 19,000 cities, the majority of which fare better than 10.0 homicides per 100,000.

        For a fair comparison, you’d have to find somewhere similar in population density. New York’s gun laws are ridiculous, regardless of whether you’re for gun control or against it, and Costa Rica’s gun laws seem about as ineffective if you factor in the lesser population density.

        > Science shows that statistics can be processed and a conclusion can be derived in a number of different ways.

        Yes, statistics are manipulatable, which is what you’re clearly doing here. 4.7 is a smaller number than 10.0, no matter how you slice it. Yes, there are certain cities in the United States that are more dangerous than the country of Costa Rica, but there’s no way to make that comparison even remotely fair, and even if you said that it was, there are approximately 18,000 or more cities in the United States that are safer than Costa Rica, which leaves your metrics on shaky ground.

        For a fairly bold counterpoint, New Hampshire has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States. You can even carry guns into courthouses and government buildings. You can purchase firearms in New Hampshire with no permit, no mental check, no special status. You can get a license to carry your firearms concealed without any special approval either. New Hampshire is also the most dense population for owning federally regulated firearms (e.g., actual weapons of war — fully automatic).

        Despite all this, the murder rate in New Hampshire is a scant 1.8 per 100,000, and the state is one of the safest in the union, and all of its major cities fare among the safest in the nation.

        • Does anyone know what the 2012 murder rates are in both the US and Costa Rica? After living in Costa Rica for seven years, I feel that the San Jose area is roughly as safe as dangerous cities in the US. This is my belief, however, there are statistics out there. Getting lost in Cleveland, Houston or New Orleans is just as dangerous as San Jose. You have to be slightly street smart in all those areas mentioned.

      • The homicide rate in Costa Rica is higher than in the US. I dont kow how the people are getting killed with a gun or stabbed to death but homicide is homicide son.

        • Is this just your opinion, or do you have facts to support this? I am referencing data from reputed sites and government statistics. Before you call me son, perhaps you need to provide support for your opinion? Do you know how many gun murders versus knife murders were committed in either country?

  2. Thank you very much for all the very important information that you have provided. I love all your points. I think the guy from Louisiana might have taken offense to your comments on his lord and savior. Not the real one but the one they all follow in louisiana. I also think the population of the USA is about 365 Million. I love your website! Keep up the great work!!

    • Thanks Ed. I appreciate the feedback. Very shortly, I’m doing a major upgrade on styling and I’m also hiring insiders to provide more content.

    • Thanks man! I’m working on an upgrade to the site and also an overhaul to the crappy business model behind it. I want to put up an 800 number for concierge services and reservations. Is this something that people will value?

  3. I would like to know if having a valid CCW permit for many years in the US will make it easer for me to obtain one in Costa Rica apon my relocation?

    I am planing to retire to the area, and would like to get more information.

    Which areas have the most ex-patriots living permaintely there?

    • Mark,

      I don’t think any permit outside of Costa Rica is relevant inside. The only document that works from a foreign country is a your passport. There are lots of areas for expats including Escazu, Santana, San Pedro, La Sabana, Rhomoser, Curridibat…. You can also live in Grecia, Atenas, San Ramon. Then, there are a lot of places on the coast.

    • For Gringos, the most popular areas are upper class suburbs of San Jose, Grecia/Atenas, San Ramon and then beach areas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to FREE weekly newsletter!
  • Hotel Deals, Tours and Promotions
  • Nature and Ecotourism
  • Travel Guides and Insider Tips
  • Men's Lifestyle - Women, Cars, Gadgets
  • Costa Rica World Cup Hotties!!!
Get FREE information about Costa Rica every week.
Your name and email address are private and will not used for any other purpose.
Share with your friends