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Summary

The regulation of guns in Spain is highly restrictive. The bearing of arms by civilians is not considered a right but a privilege that may be granted by the government if legal conditions are met. Guns are regulated by the Ministry of the Interior through the General Directorate of the Civil Guard.  Different types of licenses are required according to the type of weapon to be used.  Firearms licenses for personal security are restricted to those who can prove that a real danger to their security exists. Automatic weapons are strictly forbidden to civilians.

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Introduction

Although the Spanish Constitution does not include an explicit prohibition on the possession of firearms by individuals,[1] the law on firearms is extremely restrictive.[2] There has always been unanimous consent by Spanish society that possession of firearms should be strictly limited and considered an exceptional privilege granted to those who need it because of the nature of their duties, because of extreme circumstances of self-protection, or for the practice of sports, such as hunting or sports shooting.[3]

The Spanish Constitution does not conceive of the right to bear arms as an individual right.  In Spain as well as in Europe in general (with the exception of Switzerland), the organization of the state is based on a model of professional armed police forces within the administration of the state, who are the persons in charge of providing security to the population.  Individuals are not expected to provide for their own security.[4]

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Legal Framework on Firearms

The Constitution has reserved to the state the exclusive competence on issues related to the production, trade, possession, and use of firearms and explosives.[5] In furtherance of this constitutional principle, the Ley Orgánica sobre la Protección de la Seguridad Ciudadana (LOPSC) (Law on the Protection of the Security of the Citizenry)[6] regulates activities related to firearms and explosives, empowering the state to intervene in matters related to the manufacturing, sale, possession, and use of firearms, and includes penalties for violations of the regulations.[7] The LOPSC establishes the restrictive character of the issuance of administrative licenses or permits for the use of firearms, especially when a permit is issued for self-defense, which is limited to instances of extreme necessity.[8] It also empowers the government to regulate the prohibition of specific firearms, ammunition, and explosives that are especially dangerous, as well as their storage.[9]

Reaffirming the principle that public security is provided only by the state,[10] the Ley de Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad (Law on Security Forces)[11] assigns to the Ministry of Interior through the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard)[12] jurisdiction over matters involving firearms and explosives.[13]

The restrictions on the possession of firearms by individuals and the state’s exclusive role with regard to firearms regulation is clearly reflected in the Ley de Seguridad Privada (Law on Private Security),[14] which provides that the security of the population is guaranteed by the public authorities.[15] Not even private security guards may use firearms to perform their duties, except for security guards in charge of the protection of the storage, classification, and transportation of money and other valuables, the protection and surveillance of factories, and storage or transportation of firearms and explosives, or those guarding hazardous facilities or establishments located in isolated areas.[16] The types of firearms to be used while carrying out private security services are determined by the Law on Private Security and may be used exclusively while performing those duties.[17]

However, the backbone of the legal framework on firearms is the 1993 Reglamento de Armas(R.A.) (Regulation on Firearms),[18] which transposed European Union Directive 91/477/CEE on firearms[19] to domestic law and implemented the LOPSC.[20] The R.A. was recently amended by Royal Decree 976/2011[21] to transpose Directive 2008/51/CE of the European Parliament on the control of the acquisition and possession of firearms.[22]

The R.A. provides for the comprehensive and detailed treatment of firearms, and includes requirements for manufacturing, possession, circulation, storage, and trade of firearms by private individuals.  It does not apply to firearms used by the armed forces, police, or security forces but does apply to the privately-held weapons of these individuals.[23]

The R.A. classifies firearms as follows:

Table 1:
Firearms Categories[24]

Category 1 and 2

Short firearms and long firearms with rifled barrels

Category 3

Long firearms with rifled barrels for sports shooting, shotguns, air guns with muzzle energy in excess of 24.2 joules

Category 4 and 5

Compressed air rifles and pistols, edged weapons, and knives or machetes

Category 6

Antique or historic firearms

Category 7

Crossbows, bows, blank firing guns, and flare guns

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Licensing Requirements

The minimum age for gun ownership in Spain is eighteen years.  However, minors between fourteen and eighteen years old may be granted a special permit to use arms for hunting or sports shooting competitions by (1) submitting criminal background checks of both the minor and his parent or legal representative, (2) holding a permit issued to the parent or legal representative to use the type of firearms to be used by the minor, and (3) submitting a physical and mental aptitude report.[25]

Only licensed gun owners are allowed to lawfully acquire, possess, or transfer a firearm or ammunition,[26] and may only have ammunition that is suitable for the intended firearm.[27] Applicants for a gun owner’s license are required to prove that they have a genuine reason to possess a firearm—for example, hunting, target shooting, collection, self-defense, or security.[28]

In order to obtain a firearms license, the applicant must submit to the Guardia Civil firearms section of his domicile an updated criminal background check and certification of good behavior, a photocopy of the applicant’s original identity card or residency card, and a report on the applicant’s “psychophysical aptitude.”[29] The aptitude test is conducted in designated medical facilities, whose physicians send a final report to the competent authorities of the Guardia Civil.[30] The background checks include consideration of domestic violence records,[31] and the applicant must undergo theoretical and practical training and testing to ensure an understanding of firearms safety and applicable legal requirements.[32]

The R.A. identifies nine types of firearms licenses:

Table 2:
Firearms Licenses[33]

License A

For members of the armed forces, police, or civil guard.  Valid only during the active service of the holder, allowing him to use all categories of weapons.  Equivalent to all other licenses available.[34]

License B

For individuals, for self-protection purposes.[35] Only gives the right to have one category 1 firearm (see Table 1, Firearms Categories, above).  Valid for three years for holders sixty years of age or younger, two years for holders between sixty and seventy years old, and one year for those above seventy.[36]

License C

For security guards.  License valid only during the holder’s service.  Photo ID must be renewed every five years.  Firearms from categories 1, 2, and 3 are allowed under this license. 

License D

For big game hunting (caza mayor).  License lasts five years for holders sixty years of age or younger and two years for holders between sixty and seventy years old.  Permit allows up to five firearms from category 2.2 (full bore rifles).  Weapons must be locked in a safe.[37]

License E

For small game hunting (caza menor).  Has same expiration terms as License D.  Allows up to six category 3.1 firearms (including an FAC-rated air gun), up to six firearms from category 3.2 (shotguns), up to twelve firearms from category 3.3 (FAC-rated air guns), up to twelve firearms from category 7.2 (crossbows), and up to twelve firearms from category 7.3 (line-launching guns).  The total number of weapons under this class may not exceed twelve.[38]

License F

For members of the Federations of Shooting Sports.  Valid for three years.  Only hunting arms are allowed under this permit.  License holder entitled to between one and ten arms depending on the shooter class.  Limited to shooting ranges.  Firearms must be stored unloaded in the shooters’ house or at a shooting club.[39]

License AE

Special permit for individuals to use firearms from category 6 (muzzle loaders) and category 7.4 (Flobert system pistols).  Valid for five years.  No limit on the number of arms that may be held under this license.  Guns must be used exclusively on approved shooting ranges.

License L

Collectors’ license for individuals.  Firearms from categories 6a and 7a.4 are allowed under this license.  No expiration date and no restriction on the number of arms that may be held under this license.  These guns may not be fired.

License AEM

Special authorization for the use of firearms by minors between the ages of fourteen and seventeen.  Expires when the child turns eighteen years old.  Limited to firearms from categories 2 or 3 and requires the supervision of a license holder.  Arms may only be used for hunting or competing in junior class competitions or sports events. The minor may use the arms according to the license but not possess or carry them.  This license is subject to detailed regulation, especially with regard to qualifications of supervising adult and required training.[40]

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Prohibited Firearms

Private individuals are not allowed to possess automatic firearms, firearms disguised as other objects, or armor-piercing, incendiary, or expanding ammunition.[41] The private possession, advertising, sale, and use of semiautomatic assault weapons and handguns, including pistols and revolvers, are permitted only with special authorization.[42]

The R.A. prohibits the acquisition, possession, or use by civilians of firearms designed for war use. These include fully automatic weapons, firearms with a caliber of 20 mm or higher, and all those considered to be firearms for war use by the Ministry of Defense.[43]

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Record-Keeping Requirements

The General Directorate of the Guardia Civil is in charge of maintaining a registry of individual civilians licensed to acquire, possess, sell, or transfer firearms or ammunition, as well as records of the acquisition, possession, and transfer of those weapons.[44]

Licensed firearm dealers are required, on behalf of the regulating authority, to keep a record of each firearm or piece of ammunition purchased, sold, or transferred.  It is illegal to deal in firearms as a business without a gun dealer’s license.[45]

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Safety and Tracking Requirements

Firearms must be kept in safe, locked, and secure storage.  The regulations provide for specific measures and requirements for storage while a firearm is in the personal dwelling of its owner or in transit.[46]

Firearm owners must be in control of their weapons at all times.[47] The loss, theft, or destruction of firearms must be reported immediately to the competent authorities.[48] Weapons must be carried from their permanent storage to a shooting range in a secured case and uncocked.[49]

Firearms must also be marked with a unique identifying mark when manufactured, to allow them to be traced and tracked according to the procedures established in the R.A.[50]

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Penalties

The R.A. provides for administrative sanctions and fines for violations of its provisions,[51] and the Penal Code[52] establishes a number of crimes related to firearms, including criminal penalties for those who possess or carry illegal weapons or carry weapons without the proper license or authorization.[53]

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Statistics

According to the 2011 annual statistics of the Ministry of Interior,[54] 2,119,942 firearms licenses had been issued in Spain as of December 31, 2011, for a total of 3,516,681 firearms.[55] In 2011, there were 288 deaths caused by firearms.  As of July 2011, Spain had a population of forty-seven million.  The rate of deaths by firearms is 0.63 per 100,000 people according to a 2010 report.[56]

The following is a table from the book Armas: Libertad Americana O Prevención Europea? (Arms: American Freedom or European Prevention) showing the comparative rate per 100,000 persons of death by firearms in the US and Spain for the period 1990–2000:[57]

 

Prepared by Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
February 2013

  1. Constitución Española [C.E.] [Spanish Constitution], Dec. 27, 1978, Boletín Oficial del Estado [B.O.E.], Dec. 29, 1978, http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1978-31229. [Back to Text]
  2. Roser Martínez Quirante, Armas: Libertad Americana o Prevención Europea? 190 (Ariel Derecho, Barcelona, 2002). [Back to Text]
  3. Id.at 191. [Back to Text]
  4. Id. [Back to Text]
  5. C.E. art. 149.1.26. [Back to Text]
  6. Ley Orgánica 1/1992 sobre Protección de la Seguridad Ciudadana [Law on the Protection of the Security of the Citizenry] arts. 6 & 7, B.O.E. Feb. 22, 1992, http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1992-4252&tn=1&p=20061122#cii. [Back to Text]
  7. Martínez Quirante, supra note 2, at 199. [Back to Text]
  8. Ley Orgánica 1/1992, art. 7.1.b. [Back to Text]
  9. Id. art. 7.1.c. [Back to Text]
  10. Id. art. 1.1. [Back to Text]
  11. Ley Orgánica 2/1986, de Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad [Law on Security Forces] art. 1.1, B.O.E. Mar. 14, 1986, http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1986-6859. [Back to Text]
  12. The Guardia Civil is a federal police force with quasi-military status. [Back to Text]
  13. Ley Orgánica 2/1986, art. 12.1.B.a. [Back to Text]
  14. Ley 23/1992 de Seguridad Privada [Law on Private Security], B.O.E Aug. 4, 1992, http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1992-18489. [Back to Text]
  15. Id., Exposición de Motivos, Apartado III.2. [Back to Text]
  16. Id. art. 14.1. [Back to Text]
  17. Id. art. 14.2. [Back to Text]
  18. Real Decreto 137/1993 sobre Reglamento de Armas [R.A.] [Regulation on Firearms], B.O.E. Mar. 5, 1993, http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1993-6202. [Back to Text]
  19. Council Directive 91/477/EEC of 18 June 1991 on the Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Weapons, 1991 O.J. (L 256) 51, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31991L 0477:EN:HTML. [Back to Text]
  20. See Martínez Quirante, supra note 2, at 201. [Back to Text]
  21. Real Decreto 976/2011 que Modifica el Reglamento de Armas [Royal Decree 976/2011, Amending the Regulation on Firearms], B.O.E. July 9, 2011, http://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2011-11778. [Back to Text]
  22. Council Directive 2008/51/CE of 21 May 2008 amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC of 18 June 1991 on the Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Weapons, 2008 O.J. (L 179) 5–11, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:179:0005:0011:EN:PDF. [Back to Text]
  23. Martínez Quirante, supra note 2, at 201. [Back to Text]
  24. R.A. art. 3. [Back to Text]
  25. Martínez Quirante, supra note 2, at 234. [Back to Text]
  26. R.A. art. 96. [Back to Text]
  27. Id. [Back to Text]
  28. Id. arts. 96–99. [Back to Text]
  29. Id. art. 96. [Back to Text]
  30. Royal Decree 2487/1998 provides a detailed regulation on the psychophysical aptitude test requirements and procedures.  Real Decreto 2487/1998 Por el que se Regula la Acreditación de la Aptitud Psicofísica Necesaria para Tener y Usar Armas y para Prestar Servicios de Seguridad Privada [Royal Decree 2487/1999 Regulating the Verification of the Psychophysical Aptitude Needed for the Possession and Use of Firearms and for the Rendering of Private Security Services], B.O.E. Dec. 3, 1998, http://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-1998-27866. [Back to Text]
  31. Martínez Quirante, supra note 2, at 230–36. [Back to Text]
  32. Orden del 27 de Marzo de 1998 por la que se Regulan las Pruebas de Capacitación para Obtener Determinadas Licencias de Armas y los Requisitos para la Habilitación de Entidades Dedicadas a la Enseñanza Correspondiente [Order of March 27, 1998, Regulating the Training Tests for Obtaining Certain Firearms Licenses and the Requirements for Training Entities Permits], B.O.E. Mar. 31, 1998, http://www.boe.es/buscar/ act.php?id=BOE-A-1998-7416. [Back to Text]
  33. R.A. arts. 96–97, 103. [Back to Text]
  34. Id. art. 97. [Back to Text]
  35. Id. art. 99. [Back to Text]
  36. Id. art. 104. [Back to Text]
  37. Id. art. 100. [Back to Text]
  38. Id. art. 101. [Back to Text]
  39. Id. art. 96. [Back to Text]
  40. Id. art. 109. [Back to Text]
  41. Id. art. 4. [Back to Text]
  42. Id. art. 5. [Back to Text]
  43. Id. art. 6, as amended by Real Decreto 1628/2009 por el que se Modifican determinados preceptos del Reglamento de Seguridad Privada y del R.A. [Royal Decree 1628/2009 Modifying Certain Provisions of the Regulation on Private Security and the R.A.], B.O.E. Oct. 31, 2009, http://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2009-17245. [Back to Text]
  44. R.A. arts. 8.3 & 52–53. [Back to Text]
  45. Id. art. 10.2. [Back to Text]
  46. Id. arts. 100.5, 144.a. [Back to Text]
  47. Id. art. 147. [Back to Text]
  48. Id. art. 144.c. [Back to Text]
  49. Id. art. 149.1. [Back to Text]
  50. Id. arts. 28–30. [Back to Text]
  51. Id. arts. 155–164. [Back to Text]
  52. Código Penal [C.P.] [Criminal Code], Ley Orgánica 10/1995, Nov. 23, 1995, B.O.E. Nov. 24, 1995, http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1995-25444&tn=1&p=20121228#a563. [Back to Text]
  53. Id. arts. 563–570. [Back to Text]
  54. Anuario Estadístico del Ministerio del Interior 2011 [2011 Yearbook of Statistics of the Ministry of Interior] 233–37, http://www.interior.gob.es/file/58/58114/58114.pdf. [Back to Text]
  55. Id. at 234. [Back to Text]
  56. For more detailed statistics, see Spain – Gun Facts, Figures, and the Law, Gunpolicy.org, http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/spain (last visited Jan. 24, 2012). Gunpolicy.org, an international bulletin based in Sydney, Australia, includes detailed statistics on gun-related deaths with the latest figures from 2009 and 2010. [Back to Text]
  57. Martínez Quirante, supra note 2, at 318.  Reproduced by permission of the publisher. [Back to Text]

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Last Updated: 09/16/2014