Americans often ask if they can purchase firearms in Panama. Yes, foreigners who are legal residents in Panama can purchase guns here. However, there are only a few gun stores in Panama City and the selection is sparse compared to the United States. While fully automatic weapons are illegal in Panama, one can purchase semi-automatic guns, rifles, revolvers, and shotguns. Ammunition is readily available for the types of guns sold here.
Expect to pay nearly twice as much for guns than in the U.S. Ordering a gun from the U.S. can take at least three months to arrive at the gun store.
To purchase a gun in Panama one needs to go to a gun store with proof of legal residency, select a gun and pay for it. Then urinate in a sanitized cup which will be tested for drugs. The gun store has the required government forms to fill out. One form will include having a fingerprint taken of the right index finger. A government health clinic will take a blood sample for DNA analysis. Visit a psychiatrist for a short interview and a medical report showing the applicant is mentally fit to own a gun. Return to the gun store with these documents and two passport size photos and the gun store will forward the documents to the national police. The gun will be ballistic tested by the national police. It will take at least three months to obtain the gun permit.
Unlike the U.S., Panama will have the gun permit owner’s DNA, a fingerprint, photo, and the gun’s ballistic test results on file. That way if a bullet is located inside a body or at a crime scene the ballistic match will lead to the weapon’s owner. This is why it is imperative to report any lost or stolen weapons to the national police right away. Otherwise, the recorded owner will be arrested if the weapon was used in the commission of a crime.
The gun permit is a triple folded green cardboard paper pocket sized document which includes one photo, one fingerprint, listing the weapons by make, model & serial number and can be purchased in yearly increments for a maximum of five years. Each year costs $11 for a maximum $55 for a five year permit.
Up to 10 guns can be purchased with one gun permit listing all of them along with their make, model, and serial numbers.
Ammunition can be purchased after receiving the gun permit. Armor piercing ammo is illegal, but hollow point and high velocity bullets are legal.
Owning a gun and having a permit to carry it requires greater caution when using it than in most states in the U.S. because Panama doesn’t have a “right to bear arms” in its Constitution or laws protecting one’s right to defend himself outside of the home. Foreigners have been convicted and sent to long prison terms for shooting fleeing burglars outside the home.
Before purchasing a gun, talk to a knowledgeable attorney about Panama’s laws regarding owning and using a firearm. Also, check out another article on buying guns in Panama, or visit our section on Panama relocation.