Written and Revised by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada
December 19th, 2019
Many an Expat, whether contemplating their move to Ecuador or already residing here, has pondered whether or not they can (or should) bring or buy any type instruments that for means of self defense (hopefully for that only and not ever needing to be employed in any situation) can be used as a weapon, God forbid a situation is/was ever to arise that necessitates such an action in lieu of relegating oneself to inaction for purposes of preserving life and limb, in the highly undesirable case of any attempted home invasion, mugging, robbery, etc.
As such, this article shall explain in detail what the ability of a foreigner Resident (just like that of any Ecuadorian Citizen) is to own, carry, display and/or use the most common types of weapons that one might reasonably conceive of having on, near or readily accessible to their own person, should the unthinkable ever occur while otherwise going about and enjoying their daily life here in Ecuador.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE POSSESSION OF GUNS
Firstly, we need to define two concepts and be very clear about each one, as follows:
- Possession of Guns – This type gun permit in Ecuador consists in having a gun ready to be used inside a private residence, per which to do so the loaded gun must generally be stored in a specific area of the gun owner’s residence, which needs to be advised to and known by the below referenced governmental entity that grants the permit for the possession of guns in Ecuador. The gun can be moved from one place to another but only unloaded, because the permit does not allow carrying a loaded gun outside the property (THIS TYPE OF GUN PERMIT IS ABLE TO BE GRANTED TO EITHER/BOTH RESIDENTS OF ECUADOR AND ECUADORIAN CITIZENS).
- Carrying Guns – This type (higher level) gun permit in Ecuador allows a person to carry their gun all the time, and this person can also transport the gun from one place to another and it can also be loaded and ready to use at all times. However, this permit is only granted to ranchers, shrimpers and entrepreneurs who must specifically justify the usage of guns for their line of business by presenting documents that confirm the existence of their business and the generally daily risks that they in their line of business are subject to.
For either of the above referenced two types of gun permits, one can only possess guns of up to 38 Caliber (0.38).
As well, for either of the above referenced two types of gun permits, one can have up to a maximum of 2 guns per person (licensee), as long as it can be justified for the person to own a second gun.
To obtain the permit for the Possession of Guns, which of the two above type gun permits is the only the one allowed for ordinary Residents of Ecuador and/or Ecuadorian Citizens, one needs to visit two Ecuadorian public institutions:
- JUDICIARY POLICE
- MILITARY (ZONA MILITAR)
Here you will have to obtain the “AFIS Certificate”, which stands for Automated Fingerprint Identification System (www.policiaecuador.gob.ec)
Requirements for the AFIS Certificate:
- Original Ecuadorian Identification Card (CEDULA) and a Copy of it.
- Original Ecuadorian Voting Certificate and a copy (only if you have one though).
- Blood type card issued by the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
- The receipt or contract of the purchase and sale of the gun to you here in Ecuador (guns of/from another country can’t generally be imported to Ecuador).
- A form signed by the Agent of the Judiciary Police with respect to your application.
- Psycho-Sensometric (psychological and motor) test done in this same institution as well.
- Fingerprints to be taken, registry of fingerprints and a photographic registry of you (your photos from various angles and postures will be taken there as well).
Approximate Time of the Process: 2 hours
Government Fees: $5.00 for Blood type card issued by the Ecuadorian Red Cross
Expiration Date for Renewal Purposes: 5 years, but 2 years for Temporary Residents
The first step is to enter your information in the Arms Control Web Page (https://controlarmas.ccffaa.mil.ec/#), and they will provide you a USERNAME that is generally your Ecuadorian Cedula number, plus a PASSWORD will be registered as well, and this information will be sent to your email and registered on their system.
- The receipt or contract of purchase and sale of the gun that is going to be registered to you (again guns of/from another country can’t generally be imported to Ecuador).
- AFIS report – the first payment for this is to be done at the ECUADORIAN JUDICIARY POLICE OFFICE.
- Psychological Test – granted by a professional appointed by the Ecuadorian Police.
- Ballistics Test – this consists of loading the gun with five bullets for the purpose of proving the weapon for a subsequent analysis and registry (this test and the gun itself will be sent to the city of Quito).
- The documentation must be physically presented to the office of the local Military Facility and also digitally in a PDF format sent via email and/or on a USB Flash Drive.
- A psychological online test (computerized and in basic Spanish) will also occur on generally the same day that you present all your documentation, and note that there is not a specific topic for you to study ahead of time (just you need to evidence/prove in the test that you are of sane and sound mind per societal standards).
Time of the process (waiting period): 30 to 60 days
Government Fees: $20
Expiration Date for Renewal Purposes: 5 years
OTHER TYPE WEAPONS (APART FROM GUNS/MUNITIONS)
- Stun Guns & Tasers. Known as electric shock weapons in Ecuador, the Judiciary Police maintains as of this writing that there is no specific permit for their use and neither is its use, as a weapon of self-defense, restricted in any way, and thus one can generally walk the streets with it and if provoked use it (though never for purposes of attacking another individual or as a recreational device).
- Bows & Arrows / Crossbows. There are no records of the use of this instrument as a weapon, thus it isn’t regulated as a weapon – naturally anything could conceivably be utilized as a weapon though and so it’s best to store and use it responsibly and not walk on the street with it.
- Knives & Swords. Knives and Swords are generally not permitted to be carried on one’s person in Ecuador (though practically it’s hard to limit knives and machetes since they’re commonly sold in Ecuadorian stores and people have/use them for cooking and eating), but swords for sure are known as a WHITE WEAPON (or in Spanish “ARMA BLANCA”). There is no permit available for common citizens to carry any type of knife or sword; the only persons who can legally (without issue) carry a knife or sword on their person is/are officers of the Ecuadorian army (Ecuadorian police don’t generally do so themselves), though having one or more knives in your home clearly isn’t illegal (and possibly even swords for show in the form of art or an ancient/martial art), though again it’s best to store and use it responsibly (and if at all possible never walk on the street with a knife or sword).
- Pepper Spray & Mace. You do not need a special permit to carry Pepper Spray in Ecuador as a weapon of self-defense, because its carrying and responsible use is permitted all throughout Ecuador. The only pepper spray allowed in the country is the one that contains a value equal to or less than 1.3% of capsaicin (that generally being in line with industry standards for the production and distribution of Pepper Spray products), as it’s considered a non-lethal weapon. However, Mace, which is generally considered as being akin to or the same as Tear Gas, can be subject to confiscation and penalties, as technically Tear Gas is only meant/supposed to be in the possession of and/or utilized by the Ecuadorian Police and Ecuadorian Military (as evidenced in past unruly and violent protests that occurred within Ecuador).
- BB Guns & Other Similar Toys. As stated in the preceding title hereof, BB Guns in Ecuador are grouped into the category of “Toys”, and so even though some BB Guns are higher powered and easier/faster to utilize against any type of target than other similar toys (whether as a weapon or otherwise), it’s generally permitted to own a BB Gun and even walk on the street with it if concealed and not being displayed, flashed or waived at/to bystanders or passersby.
In conclusion per the use of unregulated or uncontrolled weapons, the Ecuadorian Penal Code warns that the concept of self-defense exists when a “person acts in defense of a right – that being his/her own or others”, but only when three requirements are met, which are stated as follows:
- Present and illegitimate aggression. That is to say, that there is an imminent, real, unprovoked and unjustified attack.
- Rational need for defense. This principle means a balance between the level of aggression received by the victim and the level of defense that reasonably applies or is necessitated.
- Lack of sufficient provocation of those who act in defense of a right. In other words, if the victim is in his/her residence, sleeping and a stranger enters the home, then there is a sufficient need to protect himself/herself (as well as any family/friends) and avert the risk.
Per the above explanation of the differing laws related to the various type arms available to be brought to or obtained in Ecuador, it should be clear that the subject of weapons in Ecuador isn’t such a simple concept, afterthought or any laughing matter, and thus should only be considered with a well reflected plan per one’s ownership, use and storing of any such personal accoutrements intended for self defense, and not with a proverbial grain of salt. Finally, always make sure to take into account the benefits, risks and overall value(s) of keeping any type of weapon at your side or within arm’s reach, so that you will never be accepting or inviting any undue risk(s) to yourself, your family, friends and/or other innocent persons in or around your own person or home, whether anticipated or unanticipated, no matter the circumstances at hand.
Sara Chaca (Attorney – Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador, as well as for any legal issues that arise or become actionable for her Expat clients to undertake in their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, which consists of her American husband and 2 daughters (as well as her parents and siblings), and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains and local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as the many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and her law office’s fully informative website is www.ecuadorvisas.com for you to visit at any time of day or night – plus, her personal Ecuadorian cell phone number is 099-296-2065 and her Toll Free “800” phone number for US & Canadian callers is 1-(800)-655-1581. Sara has a less than 24 hour first response policy, in that if you email or call her, she WILL return your first email or first phone call in less than 24 hours (more typically in closer to 24 minutes). Most importantly, all first time consultations with Expats for any type Visa or Legal matter(s) are always FREE OF CHARGE.