Going to the 2019 Guadalajara Gun Show and guns in Mexico
I went to the Expo Tiro or Gun Show in Guadalajara this past weekend on Saturday, November 23, 2019. The “gun” issue seems to be a hot topic here in Mexico with recent changes to federal law to supposedly make the right of self-defense in one´s home clearer. I thought that among so much controversy, speculation and unclear information that I would try to set the record straight.
I guess you could say I am a gun guy, I worked on the weekends during college at a gun club in California and shot every type of gun imaginable. I taught people to shoot and to be safe handling firearms. I have a concealed weapons permit which allows me to legally carry a concealed weapon in 33 states in the US. I have owned up to 50 guns at one time, many being historical relics which were never fired and fine Italian shotguns for skeet and sporting clays. I would go to gun shows every year to buy bulk ammunition or supplies to reload cartridges.
I have lived in Mexico for over 10 years and have gone shooting at clubs here in Jalisco.
In the United States gun laws may be regulated by Federal, State and local laws. In Mexico only federal law regulates weapons.
Like the United States which has the Second Amendment guaranteeing the citizenry the right to bear arms, Mexico´s Constitution allows their citizens in Article 10 as well although the language is not as broad and is narrowly construed and with restrictions reading:
“Article 10. The inhabitants of the United Mexican States have the right to possess arms in their home, for their safety and legitimate defense, with the exception of those prohibited by Federal Law and those reserved for the exclusive use of the permanent Armed Forces and reserves. Federal Law shall determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places where inhabitants are authorized to carry weapons.”
Mexico´s 10th Amendment has not changed much since their latest Constitution in 1917.
As the United States restricted gun laws as a reaction to student and minority uprisings such as clashes with the Black Panthers in California in the late 1960´s, Mexico had its own version with student, peasant, teacher and Marxist groups as part of the 1968 Movements which ultimately led up to armed confrontations and the increase in armed opposition groups.
The boiling point was reached in 1971 where police forces clashed with opposition groups resulting in the deaths of 120 people, akin to the 1970 less bloody Kent State shootings.
Mexico´s president at the time, Luis Echeverria Alvarez then made a decree in 1971 and the Federal Firearms and Explosives Law was born which to this day regulates firearms and ammunition in Mexico and remains relatively unchanged from its original 1971 version.
Here are excerpts from the Federal Firearms Law which contain some important points that people need to know:
Article 7. All guns owned must be registered with the National Secretary of Defense.
Article 9. Guns that may be owned by the public are:
(I.) semiautomatic pistols no greater than .380 auto caliber excluding .38 Super and .38 Comando (a caliber which does not exist), as well as Mausser (spelling is really Mauser), Luger, Parabellum and Comando as well as similar models of the same prohibited caliber in other brands.
(II.) Revolvers in calibers up to .38 Special except .357 magnum.
(III.) Those mentioned in Article 10 of this law.
Article 10. Arms that can be authorized for sportsman or hunting, for possession in the home… … are the following:
I.- Pistols, revolvers and rifles .22 rimfire caliber.
II. .38 caliber pistols.
III. Shotguns in all calibers and models except ones with barrels less than 635mm (25 inches) and greater than 12 gauge.
V. High power rifles, repeater or semi-automatic, not convertible to fully automatic, excluding carbines and calibers .223, 7mm and 7.62 and .30 caliber Garand.
Article 15. Arms may be possessed in the home for security and legitimate defense of the inhabitants. Their possession imposes the duty to register them with the National Secretary of Defense. Each gun needs to be registered.
Article 16. People are only allowed to have one declared residence per family.
Article 17. All persons acquiring a firearm must register it within 30 days of acquisition.
Article 50. Business can only sell to the public:
a).- Up to 500 .22 caliber cartridges.
b).- Up to 1,000 shotgun cartridges.
d).- Up to 200 cartridges for other permitted calibers.
The regulations to the law shall specify time periods to be able to purchase more.
Foreigners may possess firearms although the application of the law is a bit unclear as one form states foreigners need to attach a copy of their FM2 which hasn´t existed since 2010 and other places mentioning you need to be inmigrado which has not existed since 2012. Logically people who have their permanent resident visa should not have any problems but those with temporary residency could have to battle a bit.
There are 3 important distinctions about having guns. Possession, transportation and carrying.
Possession is a constitutional right as far as having in your home assuming you have registered your firearm of permitted caliber for your sole residential address. You are not allowed for the gun to leave your home. Registration costs 52 pesos (2019), ownership changes 85 pesos (2019), address change 35 pesos (2019). You may only register a pistol if you are not a member of a gun club.
Possession is limited to 1 registered firearm of permitted caliber for home defense at your sole registered address only. You are also limited to a maximum of having 200 rounds as well as limited to buying 200 rounds a year so if you live in a bad area and plan on frequent armed confrontations keep this in mind to not run out of ammo too fast. There is no right to be able to keep a firearm at your place of business or in your vehicle.
Other guns may be kept in the home that are used for sport or hunting up to a maximum of 10 total (for any purpose) per person if all registered and assuming they are permitted calibers and if you are a member of a gun club.
Transportation of firearms, even unloaded ones require special permission. This is available for people who hunt or are members or gun clubs who go to practice. Permission cost is 468 pesos for up to 3 guns, 155 each additional gun (2019). You are limited to transportation within certain states. Without this permission you may not take any firearms out of your home and if you do you are subject to arrest, fine and imprisonment.
Carrying firearms also requires permission that is virtually impossible to get unless you are a police officer or work for a security company that is already registered with the National Secretary of Defense.
You should only buy a firearm from the Military or from someone who has a registered gun. Do not trust anyone else as there are many guns that have been used in crimes and that could cause you fine and imprisonment. You cannot legally buy guns from the police.
You can get permission to buy a gun in permitted calibers from the only legal gun store in the country in Mexico City. The guns they have in stock change from time to time and please be aware that they list all guns available, even those of restricted calibers so don´t get your hopes up if you see a nice 9mm or .40 caliber pistol.
You need to fill out the request form https://www.gob.mx/cms/uploads/attachment/file/452965/SEDENA-02-040-CIVIL-2019.pdf also note all prior versions of form are obsolete and will be cause for rejection, this form has been changed for 2019. You will need to present the form to the National Defense Secretary, in person is best and if all documents in order you will have your permission in a month and a half, be aware that while they say they notify you by email, many times they don´t so best to call to check on status. You can also buy ammunition in the quantity (limits established) and caliber for your gun. There are also various ammunition stores all over the country although you may pay up to twice what the military would sell it to you for.
The most popular caliber for home defense here is the .380 auto although a .38 special would also have good stopping power against an intruder with his adrenaline pumping and possibly being under the influence of crack or other drugs where they may not immediately feel the effects of a few direct bullet hits and still advance at you or draw their weapon.
When you pick up your gun you can get transportation permission from 24-72 hours. Guns may be transported on airplanes but airlines may charge extra for the security and documentation procedure and the pilot can refuse to fly if there is a gun on board. Transportation in a car is the best option. You need to use your permission within 4 months of it being authorized or start over again.
You can also buy from a private party who has the gun registered, in this case both of you would go to do a change of ownership at the closest military office.
In theory Mexico has a registry of all guns legally in the country as the federal firearms law has been around for almost 50 years. The reality is that some military bases only have digital records going back only 10 years which means it is important to keep your pink firearms registration paper. That may make it easier to register some guns that belonged to family who have died without the need to present all sorts of evidence to prove the right to inherit or for guns that may have not entered the country legally but were not used in a crime.
When you change your address you need to do a change of address for your guns. There are some areas of the law that are not clear such as when you change your residence and you do not have permission for transportation how do you legally move your gun from one home to another or to the military base for registration or change of ownership?
There are gun clubs in Mexico, I have been shooting at the nice one outside Guadalajara which has pistol, rifle, long range and trap and skeet shotgun fields. All clubs are not equal and some are deluxe for gun enthusiasts where membership costs $100,000 pesos plus a few thousand pesos monthly. There are other clubs that are primitive where you go to some isolated area to shoot although the benefit with the more primitive clubs are that as a member you can use that membership to buy more guns, not just the one for self-defense in your home, ammunition and get permission for transportation and many of the more primitive clubs are a little as $2,000 pesos a year for membership and they can help with requests to buy guns.
Two topics I do not see much of that should be discussed are part of being a responsible gun owner. I’m talking about the proper cleaning and storage of guns.
The cleaning part is relatively easy but I have not seen many places to buy cleaning equipment. There is the old carburetor cleaner and WD40 option but proper solvents and lubricants should be the preferred method as well as a proper scrubbing of all interior parts to get gunpowder residue off. The reliability of your firearm may depend on how clean it is which may mean life or death and your death and the bad guy getting your gun.
Storage is an important issue. It would be irresponsible to leave a firearm lying around whether loaded or not. Sticking it on a shelf or in a drawer really isn´t a better option. A gun safe that is heavy (too heavy for the construction guys working on the house next door to put in their backpack and take away or get out of the house easily) and bolted into a cement floor is the best option with perhaps a nightstand pistol 5 button combination safe to have the gun out of the safe and ready for action within seconds. Leaving guns around makes them targets for theft by domestic employees or burglars and also poses a risk when there are children around.
Using a firearm for self-defense is a complicated issue. Are you ready to use a gun and deal with the emotional and legal implications after the fact? Are you ready to shoot someone 20 feet away who has a knife knowing they could reach and kill you in 4 seconds? Are you prepared to shoot more than once to down your intruder knowing that if they are armed any hesitation could mean you losing your life and your weapon being in the hands of a criminal to be able to hurt more people? Do you have your gun ready in the event it is needed without exposing it to children or thieves? Are you mature enough to not be a cowboy and if you come home and someone is inside to call the police not knowing how many intruders there are? Do you know the state and federal self-defense laws and criteria so that in the event you shoot somebody that you will not go to jail due to excess force or not falling within the self-defense guidelines?
Be aware that they still may arrest you even if you lawfully shoot someone and the authorities could attempt to extort money out of you. You could still be subject to arrest, processed criminally and have to spend hundreds of thousands of pesos and months or years fighting for your freedom. One anecdotal story mentioned at a conference was one where a lawfully armed private security officer faced an armed carjacker and defended himself against the armed attacker by shooting the person then had to spend over $400,000 pesos and 11 months to make sure he was free and did not face charges and go to jail. Mind you that this was in the street and not in his home. Another extreme could be that you shoot an armed attacker with a registered gun of the proper caliber who breaks into your home at night and save your family and stop them from murdering other innocent people and the authorities take a report and you face no further action.
This year’s gun show had many (the vast majority) venders selling pellet and bb guns and airsoft (plastic pellet) guns. There were no displays or sales of firearms of any type nor ammunition sales, likely due to issues regarding being able to legally transport to the site. There were classes given on how to apply for permission to buy a gun, self-defense laws, home defense techniques and using a scope for precision shooting among other topics.
Hopefully there will be more shows with more classes describing different shooting sports, proper gun cleaning and storage as well as vendors selling safes, gun locks and cleaning kits.