Legal  Obtainment  Of  Firearms

Americans seem obsessed with owning guns.  Their Constitution even has a clause for the ‘Right to Bear Arms’.  Comedians claim this clause actually referred to a common practice back in the 1770’s to owning bear claws they could hang above their fireplace.  Whatever the interpretation, Americans often ask what are Panama’s laws regarding owning guns and carrying concealed weapons? Here are the basic requirements to buying guns and obtaining a gun permit for a pistol, rifle or shotgun (the first seven apply to Panama citizens and foreigners). 

1. Fill in a basic data form for the Ministry of Justice.

2. Supply two copies of the purchaser’s cedula (national ID card).

3. Provide three photos (carnet size) of front face. 

4. Take a psychological examination specifically for carrying weapons.

5. Take a dope test for marijuana and cocaine.

6. Present yourself to the Ministry of Justice for fingerprinting.

7. Take a DNA exam at the institute of Legal Medicine in Clayton (City of Light), open Monday – Friday 8 am to Noon or 1 pm to 4 pm.

8. Foreigners also need a copy oft heir Work Permit (if applicable), a copy of the Commercial License for their business (if applicable), passport copy, and a copy of their permanent resident carnet.

Note:  Tourists and temporary residents cannot purchase guns or apply for a concealed weapons permit.

There are only three gun stores in Panama City.  The gun store collects the permit fees including $22 for 2 years up to $55 for 5 years.

The gun store will also fire three rounds from each gun and send them to the Ministry of Justice for future ballistic testing in solving crimes along with the guns, transfer of ownership certificate and payment receipt. 

Guns are not cheap in Panama.  Expect to pay at least twice as much as the same gun in the US.

Patience is learned in Panama.  The waiting period from the time you complete your application to receive approval from the government so the gun store can give you the gun is around 4 to 6 months for citizens and 6 to 8 months for foreigners.  The reason for the delay is for the national police is to perform a criminal records check.  The Interpol desk which checks out the foreigner’s international criminal record causes the extra 2-month delay for foreigners.

Wild, Wild West is not the reality in Panama.  Even with a gun permit, you cannot carry guns into banks, government offices, the airport, and other public places.

If you sell your gun to another person, you take a big risk of being arrested if the gun is used in the commission of a crime or the ballistic test shows that one of your bullets ends up inside a dead body.

Panama law requires that before selling a gun to another person, he/she must fulfil the above mentioned requirements.  You must send the Ministry of Justice copies of the bill of sale, payment receipt, the gun and three bullets fired from our gun (if the Ministry of Justice cannot find them), a copy of your gun permit, a copy of your passport and permanent residence ID.  Failure to do this makes you legally responsible for whatever crimes committed with the gun.

Pepper spray is another option.  You cannot buy mace here, but gun stores sell powerful pepper spray bought over the counter for around $15 with no waiting period or ID required.  I have had to use my small can (easily concealed in my fist and good for 25 sprays) twice over the past 10 years.  I have never seen a grown thief cry in pain so hard after getting one spray in the eyes (effective up to 10 feet).

Happy hunting!


Written by Steven Rich, for The Visitor, Feb 27 – Mar. 5, 2009