There is no legal right under Lebanese law for anyone on Lebanese territory to bear arms. The government has wide latitude and discretion under the provisions of the Weapons and Ammunition Law to grant or refuse permits for the manufacturing, trading in, possession, and carrying of weapons and ammunition. However, Lebanon is notorious for the existence on its territory of several armed groups operating outside any legal framework.
Major Categories of Weaponry
The control of firearms in Lebanon is regulated by the Weapons and Ammunition Law, issued by a legislative decree dating back to 1959, which has been amended from time to time since that date. According to this law, military equipment, weapons, ammunition, and explosives are divided into three categories:
Classification of Weaponry into Nine Types
The law classifies all weaponry into the following types, which facilitate the legal regime applicable to each one:
A. Guns of all measurements and calibers with all their components intended for military use;
B. Machine guns of all kinds, measurement and calibers, and all their components;
C. Long and short canons of all kinds, measurements, and calibers including those made for aircraft and all of their components and parts;
D. All kinds of ammunition made to be used by the weaponry mentioned in A, B, and C;
E. Bombs, torpedoes, and land or sea mines of all kinds including any equipment related to them; and
F. All equipment related to military operations such as those made to attack airplanes and boats or to locate them.
A. Combat vehicles, tanks, armored cars, and similar weaponry;
B. Naval vessels of all kinds, including aircraft carriers and submarines;
C. Water microscopes for submarines;
D. All kinds of combat aircraft including balloons and their parts and guns; and
E. Bases, yards, and armored or nonarmored parts used for the manufacturing of the weaponry mentioned in A, B, and D above.
Gear intended to protect against attacks, including protective clothing and masks.
Weapons and ammunition that are not considered military weaponry, but could be used militarily, consisting of the following:
A. All kinds of pistols;
B. All kinds of ammunition for these pistols and all parts and components related to these pistols;
C. Weapons that can use the ammunition of military weapons referred to above and ribbed arms of all measurements and calibers;
D. All ammunition used in military weapons including certain hunting cartridges; and
E. Bayonets, swords, and spears, excluding those referred to in the seventh type.
Firearms and ammunition of all calibers intended for hunting, which are not mentioned in the previous types and do not constitute a part of the weapons and ammunition referred to in paragraphs C and D of the fourth type and all handguns with particular barrels.
Training weapons that fire by pressure without gunpowder.
Antique and souvenir weaponry provided it is not usable and is not a part of the weapons referred to in paragraph C of the fourth type.
Prohibited weapons, consisting of those not mentioned in the previous types and in particular: daggers, knives, brass knuckles, and similar items.
A. All kinds of gunpowder;
B. All kinds of dynamite explosives; and
C. All kinds of explosive accessories and devices.
Permits to Possess and Carry Firearms
Firearms control in Lebanon is subject to two fundamental principles: (1) there is no constitutional right to bear arms; and (2) the government has wide latitude and discretion in granting permits to possess and carry firearms.
No one is permitted to acquire, possess, or transport weapons or ammunition of types 1 and 2, except in case of security disturbances or in the cases provided for in Chapter II of the decree related to the manufacturing and trading of these items in accordance with the requirements provided therein. The permit is issued by the Minister of National Defense. Members of the Lebanese military forces, the gendarmerie, and the police are allowed to transport such items within the scope of their duties in accordance with military laws and regulations.
No person is allowed to carry or possess on the Lebanese territory any weapons or ammunition of type 4 except if he holds a permit issued by the army command. Such permits are given for one year and can be renewed.
The kaemaqam (the highest official in the qada, the smallest administrative district in the country) has the right to issue permits relating to hunting weapons referred to in type 5. The permits to carry and possess type 5 weapons are personal, given only once, and do not expire except by death or the loss of its holder of any of the qualifications required by the legislative decree.
No permit can be issued for the possession and carrying of more than two weapons of type 4. Weapons of type 5 and their ammunition are not subject to this restriction. No hunting permits shall be issued except to those who hold permits to carry and possess weapons.
No permit holder has the right to transfer or sell his permit, with or without compensation, unless the buyer has an authorization allowing him to do so. The permit holder must show his permit to any public authority officer upon request.
Possession and carriage of weapons of type 6 are allowed and the identification papers serve in lieu of a permit.
Persons are permitted to acquire but not carry weapons of types 7 and 8. Permits for carrying such weapons are not issued under any circumstances, except for knives imported specifically for the use of scout organizations.
No permits to carry or possess weapons of any types shall be issued except to people who are at least eighteen years old. However, permits for hunting weapons can be issued to those who are sixteen years old under the responsibility of their guardians. Permits can be issued provided that the following requirements have been met:
1. The applicant has not suffered a mental illness;
2. The applicant has not been sentenced to deprivation of his civil rights or convicted of a heinous felony or crime;
3. The applicant has not been sentenced for carrying weapons or convicted of offenses against the security of state;
4. The applicant has not, if a foreigner, been subject to a decision of revocation of residence or deportation; and
5. The applicant has not been repeatedly convicted for violating this legislative decree.
The permit shall be withdrawn from any person who fails to meet any of these requirements.
Apart from permits for hunting weapons, the Ministry of National Defense has the authority to withdraw at any time a permit or stop its effects, based on reports of relevant authorities or public security needs. If the permit is withdrawn the weapon shall be confiscated and the permit fee shall not be returned.
No trader or manufacturer is allowed to give anyone equipment, weapons, or ammunition of types 1 to 4 before making sure the concerned person is duly authorized to acquire them. The person acquiring these items must have a temporary permit stating the number of items he is authorized to obtain. The shop owner or manufacturer must inscribe in the specified place on the temporary permit the information related to the items to be sold, sign it, and stamp it with the seal of his commercial enterprise. He shall not deliver the items sold to the concerned person before the latter obtains the final permit.
Any person who loses weapons or ammunition in his possession is required to notify the nearest office of gendarmerie, police, or general security, explain the circumstances surrounding the loss, give all pertinent information, and surrender his permit.
Carrying a weapon without the relevant permit constitutes a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment from six months to two years for weapons of the first four types, up to six months for weapons of the fifth, seventh, and eighth types, and from one to six months for any violation of the Weapons and Ammunitions Law for which no specific penalty has been assigned.
Permits to Manufacture and Trade in Weaponry
No natural or legal person on the Lebanese territory can be involved in commercial or industrial activities of any kind related to equipment, weapons, and ammunition of any type without obtaining a bona fide permit issued by decree on the recommendation of the Ministers of Interior and National Defense.
To obtain this permit, the person concerned must submit an application to the Ministry of Interior stating their
- full name, date and place of birth, and identification card number;
- place of residency;
- occupation (weapons manufacturer or dealer);
- registration number with the Chamber of Commerce;
- address of the store or factory; and
- how the firearm is to be used, whether by a person or a company. In the latter case, the type of company, the commercial name, the names of the partners, directors, and heads of operations, agents, employees and, if it is a joint-stock company, the names of the Board of Directors and its members and their addresses must be stated.
The application must be accompanied by an extract of the police record of each of the persons mentioned in the preceding paragraph and a certificate of good conduct given by the commander of the gendarmerie or the police commissioner in the district where the person concerned resided during the last six months.
No manufacturing or dealer permits that relate to the first five types of weaponry and explosives can be issued until the Ministry of National Defense has verified that the enterprise meets all technical qualifications required to insure the safety of peoples and neighboring buildings.
Furthermore, no permit can be issued except to Lebanese citizens who have reached the age of twenty-one years, are free from mental illness, have not been prohibited by court order from carrying weapons, and have not been convicted of state security offenses.
The holder of the permit must inform the Ministries of Interior and National Defense of any changes that occur during the lifetime of the permit, including changes concerning the company by-laws and its board of directors, the relocation of the premises, the stoppage of operations, and any changes in the equipment produced or traded.
The permit may be issued for a maximum of five years and may be renewed for the same period. The permit will become void if its holder does not start the work in accordance with its terms within one year from the date of issuance. The permit may be withdrawn immediately if any of the conditions of its issuance are no longer present. Even where there is no fault on the part of its holder, the Ministry of Interior or National Defense may withdraw the permit at any time for exceptional reasons or for public safety considerations. In such circumstances, raw materials, products, and equipment that are not suitable for any purpose other than the manufacturing of weapons and ammunition shall be confiscated to the benefit of the army, with fair compensation determined by a technical committee of four members appointed by the Ministry of National Defense and one expert chosen by the permit holder. Decisions made by this committee are subject to review by courts with jurisdiction to decide administrative cases.
Illegal Armed Groups
While the law in Lebanon does not provide for a legal right to bear arms, and while the permits to possess and carry weapons are granted at the discretion of the executive branch, for the last few decades Lebanon has been home to several armed groups operating outside any legal framework or official government acquiescence. This situation, which is public knowledge, prompted the United Nations Security Council in 2004 to officially call for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.
Prepared by Issam M. Saliba
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
- Legislative Decree 137 of 12 June 1959 (Weapons and Ammunition Law), Qawanin Lubnan: Majmu’at al-nusus al-tashri’iyah wa’al-tanzimiyah. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 1. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 2. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 25. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 24. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 28. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 30. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 27. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 29. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 31. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 32. [Back to Text]
- Id.art. 37. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 39. [Back to Text]
- Id. art 72. [Back to Text]
- Id. art 73. [Back to Text]
- Id. art 78. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 3. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 4. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 6. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 7. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 8. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 9. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 10. [Back to Text]
- Id. art. 11. [Back to Text]
- S.C. Res. 1559, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1559 (Sept. 2, 2004), http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp? symbol=S/RES/1559(2004). [Back to Text]
Last Updated: 02/28/2014