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I.  Introduction

The two largest national police forces in Spain are the National Police (Policía Nacional) and the Civil Guard (Guardia Civil).

The National Police is an armed body with civil status at the national level.  Its core mandate is to secure the enjoyment of people’s rights and freedoms and to guarantee the safety of the country’s inhabitants.  The National Police is the law enforcement authority tasked with crime prevention and criminal investigations.  It additionally has the authority to issue national identity cards and passports, enforce immigration laws, collaborate in foreign law-enforcement operations, and supervise private security services.  The National Police is also in charge of collecting and processing information on national and international terrorism, and investigating organized crime operations and drug-related crimes.[1]

The Civil Guard is the military law-enforcement force of the Ministries of the Interior and Defense.  It conducts customs police operations under the supervision of the Treasury and, as a judicial police force, it answers to the courts and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.  The Civil Guard is deployed throughout Spanish territory and is also responsible for territorial waters.  It shares a number of competences with other law enforcement agencies, including public safety and order, criminal investigations, intelligence and counter terrorism, and administrative police tasks.  However, it has exclusive authority over matters related to weapons and explosives; customs-related violations and crimes; traffic and transport beyond city limits; roads, railways, borders, ports, and airports; nature protection; and interurban prisoner transport.[2]

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II.  Police Weapons

According to the Royal Decree Approving the Regulation on Arms,[3] license type A professional arms are issued only to members of the National Police and the Civil Guard.[4]  The Regulation allows Civil Guard members and officers of the National Police to use the following weapons:

  • category 1: short firearms, such as guns and revolvers[5]
  • category 2: long firearms for use in surveillance and by guards[6]
  • category 3: long firearms such as smooth-bore shotguns[7]

License A is the most comprehensive of the nine categories provided by the Regulation on Arms since its holders are also entitled to use sporting, antique, or historic arms; air guns; and arms with a “Flobert” system.[8]

The elite Special Operations Group (Grupo Especial de Operaciones, GEO) of the National Police is mainly responsible for combating terrorism, as well as guarding Spanish embassies abroad and conducting hostage rescue operations.[9]  Members of the GEO are equipped with the following weapons:

  • Mauser SP-66 sniper rifle
  • H&K PSG-1 semiautomatic sniper rifle
  • AMP DSR-1 police sniper rifle
  • Sako TRG-41 (.338 caliber) sniper rifle
  • SAKO TRG-21 sniper rifle
  • SAKO A-II bolt action rifle with silencer
  • SIG SAUER SWAT and SIG SAUER Commando assault rifles (both 5.56 caliber)
  • Franchi, Remington, and H&K rifles
  • H&K MP-5 submachine gun
  • FN P-90 personal defense weapon
  • SIG SAUER 226 (9 mm) combat pistol
  • H&K USP COMPACT semiautomatic pistol[10]

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

The authorization to carry weapons for the officers of the National Police and the Civil Guard are issued by the Dirección General de la Policía and the Dirección General de la Guardia Civil, respectively.[11]  According to the Security Forces Organization Act, police officers may use arms only in situations of grave risk to their lives or the lives of others, and only in circumstances posing a serious risk to public safety, while meeting the proportionality and reasonability standards of behavior applicable to the police and security forces.[12]

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Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
September 2014


[1] Ley Orgánica 2/1986 de Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad [Security Forces Organization Act] arts. 9–11, 12(1)(a), Boletín Oficial del Estado [B.O.E.] [Official Gazette] Mar. 14, 1986, http://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1986-6859.

[2] Id. art. 12(1)(b).

[3] Real-Decreto 137/1993 por el que se Aprueba el Reglamento de Armas [Royal Decree 132/1993 Approving the Regulation on Arms], B.O.E. Jan. 29, 1993, https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-1993-6202.

[4] Id. arts 114(1)(b), (c).

[5] Id. art. 3, 1st category.

[6] Id. art. 3, 2d category.

[7] Id. art. 3, 3d category.

[8] Id. arts. 3, 96(2), (3).

[9] Grupo Especial de Operaciones (G.E.O.): Funciones, Policía Nacional, http://www.policia.es/org_central/ dao/geo/funciones.html (last visited Sept. 11, 2014).

[10] Grupo Especial de Operaciones (G.E.O.): Material del G.E.O., Policía Nacional, http://www.policia.es/org_ central/dao/geo/material.html (last visited Sept. 11, 2014).

[11] Real Decreto 137/1993, art. 115.

[12] Ley Orgánica 2/1986, art. 5(2)(c), (d).

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015