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Armed violence prevention, gun control laws and the small arms trade:

Costa Rica — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law

StockpilesGun Numbers

Civilian Guns

Number of Privately Owned Firearms

The estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in Costa Rica is 400,0001 2 3 4

Rate of Civilian Firearm Possession per 100 Population

The estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) in Costa Rica is 8.61 2 3 firearms per 100 people

Number of Privately Owned Firearms - World Ranking

In a comparison of the number of privately owned guns in 178 countries, Costa Rica ranked at No. 875

Rate of Privately Owned Firearms per 100 Population - World Ranking

In a comparison of the rate of private gun ownership in 178 countries, Costa Rica ranked at No. 643

Number of Licensed Firearm Owners

ChartThe number of licensed gun owners in Costa Rica is reported to be

2015: 230,8316
1999: 152,9237

Rate of Licensed Firearm Owners per 100 Population

ChartThe rate of licensed firearm owners per 100 people in Costa Rica is

2015: 4.798
1999: 4.02

Number of Registered Firearms

ChartThe number of registered guns in Costa Rica is reported to be

2016: 235,6319
2015: 230,8316
2011: 206,9122
2006/08: 180,29510 4 11
2005: 149,4233
1998: 149,4232

Rate of Registered Firearms per 100 Population

ChartThe rate of registered guns per 100 people in Costa Rica is

2016: 4.848
2015: 4.79
2011: 4.52
2006/08: 4.16
2005: 3.55
1998: 4.02

Estimated Number of Illicit Firearms

Unlawfully held guns cannot be counted, but in Costa Rica there are estimated to be 97,0004

Estimated Rate of Illicit Firearms per 100 Population

Unlawfully held guns cannot be counted, but in Costa Rica there are estimated to be 2.278 illicit firearms per 100 people

Government Guns

Number of Military Firearms

The defence forces of Costa Rica are reported to have 012 2 13 firearms

Number of Law Enforcement Firearms

Police in Costa Rica are reported to have 5,00012 14 firearms

ImpactsDeath and Injury

Total Number of Gun Deaths

ChartIn Costa Rica, annual deaths resulting from firearms total

2012: 29315
2010: 33116
2002: 18717 18

Rate of All Gun Deaths per 100,000 People

ChartIn Costa Rica, the annual rate of all gun deaths per 100,000 population is

2012: 6.315
2010: 7.338
2002: 4.65

Homicides (any method)

ChartIn Costa Rica, annual homicides by any means total

2013: 41119
2012: 40719 20 21
2011: 47419 20 17
2010: 52719 20 17 22
2009: 52520 17 22 23
2008: 512
2007: 369
2006: 351
2005: 335
2004: 280
2003: 300
2002: 258
2001: 257
2000: 249
1999: 24517
1998: 224
1997: 210
1996: 189
1995: 184

Rate of Homicide per 100,000 People (any method)

ChartIn Costa Rica, the annual rate of homicide by any means per 100,000 population is

2013: 8.7419
2012: 8.7619 20 21
2011: 10.2719 20 17
2010: 11.5519 20 17 22
2009: 11.420 17 22 23
2008: 11.3
2007: 8.3
2006: 8.0
2005: 7.8
2004: 6.6
2003: 7.2
2002: 6.3
2001: 6.4
2000: 6.4
1999: 6.417
1998: 6.0
1997: 5.8
1996: 5.3
1995: 5.3

Gun Homicides

ChartIn Costa Rica, annual firearm homicides total

2013: 27819
2012: 26119 20 15
2011: 30019 20
2010: 349
2009: 33620
2008: 348
2007: 225
2006: 21820 17 24
2005: 19617 24
2004: 150
2003: 147
2002: 131
2001: 134
1999: 12617
1998: 118
1997: 108
1996: 95
1995: 87

Rate of Gun Homicide per 100,000 People

ChartIn Costa Rica, the annual rate of firearm homicide per 100,000 population is

2013: 5.928
2012: 5.638 15
2011: 6.568
2010: 7.73
2009: 7.54
2008: 7.92
2007: 5.19
2006: 5.118 17 24 23
2005: 4.517 24 23
2004: 3.5
2003: 3.517 24
2002: 3.2
2001: 3.3
1999: 3.317
1998: 3.2
1997: 3.0
1996: 2.7
1995: 2.5

Proportion of Homicides Committed With a Gun

ChartIn Costa Rica, the percentage of homicides committed with a firearm is reported to be

2013: 68%19
2012: 65%19 20 21
2011: 64%19 20
2010: 66%
2009: 64%20
2008: 68%
2007: 61%
2006: 62%
2005: 58.5%17
2004: 53.6%
2003: 49.0%
2002: 50.8%
2001: 52.1%
1999: 51.4%
1998: 52.7%
1997: 51.4%
1996: 50.3%
1995: 47.3%

Suicides (any method)

ChartIn Costa Rica, annual suicides by any means total

2009: 27925
2008: 262
2007: 272
2006: 30825 26
2005: 27325
2004: 277
2003: 280
2002: 246
2001: 181
2000: 244
1995: 21118

Rate of Suicide per 100,000 People (any method)

ChartIn Costa Rica, the annual rate of suicide by any means per 100,000 population is

2009: 6.125
2008: 5.8
2007: 6.125 26
2006: 7.0
2005: 6.3
2004: 6.525
2003: 6.7
2002: 6.0
2001: 4.5
2000: 6.2
1995: 5.0618

Gun Suicides

ChartIn Costa Rica, annual firearm suicides total

2012: 5315
2010: 5116
2002: 5318

Rate of Gun Suicide per 100,000 People

ChartIn Costa Rica, the annual rate of firearm suicide per 100,000 population is

2012: 1.115
2010: 1.138
2002: 1.2718

Unintentional Gun Deaths

ChartIn Costa Rica, annual unintentional shooting deaths total

2012: 215
2010: 416
2002: 318

Rate of Unintentional Gun Death per 100,000 People

ChartIn Costa Rica, the annual rate of unintentional shooting death per 100,000 population is

2012: 0.048
2010: 0.09
2002: 0.0718

Gun Deaths from Undetermined Cause

ChartIn Costa Rica, annual shooting deaths in which the cause remains undecided total

2012: 415
2010: 516
2000: 1018

Rate of Gun Death from Undetermined Cause per 100,000 People

ChartIn Costa Rica, the annual rate of unknown-cause shooting deaths per 100,000 population is

2012: 0.098
2010: 0.11
2000: 0.2418

ProductionGun Industry

Regulation of Firearm Makers

In Costa Rica, the manufacture of small arms, ammunition and/or their components is permitted only if the maker holds a valid licence27 28 29 30 31

TransfersGun Trade and Trafficking

Regulation of Firearm Exports

In Costa Rica, firearm and ammunition exports are limited by transfer control law27 32 28 33 30 34

Small Arms Exports (US$) - Customs

The annual value of small arms and ammunition exports from Costa Rica is reported by Customs to be US$33635 (2011)

Regulation of Firearm Imports

In Costa Rica, firearm and ammunition imports are limited by transfer control law27 28 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 30 34 44

Small Arms Imports (US$) - Customs

The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to Costa Rica is reported by Customs to be US$3,619,98035 (2011)

Smuggling Guns and Ammunition

Reports suggest that the level of firearm and ammunition smuggling in Costa Rica is moderate7

Regulation of Arms Brokers

In Costa Rica, the activities of arms brokers and transfer intermediaries are not specifically regulated by law45

End User Certificates

Customs regulations in Costa Rica include32 34 certification of the intended end user of any small arms or ammunition transfer, and/or a written declaration of its intended end use

MeasuresGun Regulation

Firearm Regulation - Guiding Policy

The regulation of guns in Costa Rica is categorised as restrictive46

Firearm Law

Guiding gun control legislation in Costa Rica includes the Arms and Explosives Law No. 7530 of 1995,47 31 its Regulation of 2013,48 the Regulation for the Administration, Use, and Control of Firearms by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport,49 the Agreement No. 180 of 2014 on the Import of Firearms Similar to Prohibited Firearms,50 the Agreement No. 112 of 2015,51 as amended by Agreement No. 122,52 the Circular No. 147 of 2012 on Reducing the Number of Arms Belonging to the State53 and the Directive No. 0 of 201254

Firearm Regulation Authority

Guns in Costa Rica are regulated by the Ministry of Public Security, the Armaments Directorate, the Arms Registry, the National Arsenal, and the Arms and Explosives Control Department55 56 57 58 59

Right to Possess Firearms

In Costa Rica, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law60 61 62 63 54

Restricted Firearms and Ammunition

In Costa Rica, civilians are not allowed to possess automatic firearms, machine guns, sub-machine guns, as well as rifles and semi-automatic carbines whose magazine can hold more than ten rounds (except rimfire cartridges), silencers and armour-piercing, tracer, explosive and incendiary ammunition64 65

Regulation of Automatic Weapons

In Costa Rica, private possession of fully automatic weapons is prohibited64 65 66 21

Regulation of Semiautomatic Assault Weapons

In Costa Rica, private possession of semi-automatic assault weapons is permitted under licence,67 68 with some exceptions64

Regulation of Handguns

In Costa Rica, private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is permitted under licence,67 68 69 21 with some exceptions64 65

Law Regulates Long Guns

In Costa Rica, civilian possession of rifles and shotguns is regulated by law67 68 64 65 69 21

Gun Ownership and Possession

In Costa Rica, only licensed gun owners70 63 71 72 73 30 74 21 may lawfully acquire, possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition

Genuine Reason Required for Firearm Possession

Applicants for a gun owner’s licence in Costa Rica are required to establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example personal protection,62 63 75 76 security,52 51 hunting, sports shooting72 77 and collection73

Minimum Age for Firearm Possession

The minimum age for gun ownership in Costa Rica is 18 years to possess and carry, or 14 years for hunting and target shooting while under the immediate supervision of an appropriately licensed adult78 79 80 81

Gun Owner Background Checks

An applicant for a firearm licence in Costa Rica must pass a background check which considers criminal,78 79 82 83 84 52 addiction,76 and mental health79 85 86 87 88 54 21 records

Reference Required for Firearm Licence

In Costa Rica, third party character references for each gun licence applicant are not required45

Partner to be Advised or Interviewed

In Costa Rica, licensing authorities are not required45 to conduct interviews with, or to advise an applicant's spouse, partner, or next of kin before issuing a gun licence

Domestic Violence and Firearms

Where a past history, or apprehended likelihood of family violence exists, the law in Costa Rica stipulates76 that a gun licence should be denied or revoked

Firearm Safety Training

In Costa Rica, an understanding of firearm safety and the law, tested in a theoretical and/or practical training course is required89 90 88 91 92 84 31 for a firearm licence

Gun Owner Licensing Period

In Costa Rica, gun owners must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licence every year, only for a special licence to carry a firearm for self-defence63

Licensing Records

In Costa Rica, authorities maintain a record70 89 82 85 93 94 95 31 of individual civilians licensed to acquire, possess, sell or transfer a firearm or ammunition

Limit on Number of Guns

Licensed firearm owners in Costa Rica are permitted to possess no more than three firearms intended for personal protection, but there is no limit on firearms for hunting and target shooting70 96 76 97 74

Limit on Quantity, Type of Ammunition

Licensed firearm owners in Costa Rica are permitted to possess any quantity of ammunition45 74

Firearm Registration

Civilian Gun Registration

In Costa Rica, the law requires70 89 90 94 31 82 that a record of the acquisition, possession and transfer of each privately held firearm be retained in an official register

Gun Dealer Record Keeping

In Costa Rica, licensed firearm dealers are required98 99 100 74 to keep a record of each firearm or ammunition purchase, sale or transfer on behalf of a regulating authority

State-Owned Firearm Records

In Costa Rica, State agencies are required55 101 102 103 104 to maintain records of the storage and movement of all firearms and ammunition under their control

Gun Sales and Transfers

Regulation of Private Gun Sales

In Costa Rica, the private sale and transfer of firearms is permitted100 94 76

Regulation of Dealer Gun Sales

In Costa Rica, dealing in firearms by way of business without a valid gun dealer’s licence is unlawful27 105 28 106 93 29 44

Waiting Period for Gun Possession

In Costa Rica, the minimum wait for a lawful firearm purchase to be completed is undetermined45

Regulation of Gun Shows

In Costa Rica, gun shows and temporary firearm dealing events are not regulated45 in law

Storage and Transport of Guns and Ammunition

Firearm and Ammunition Storage Regulations - Private

Firearm regulations in Costa Rica include62 107 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of private firearms and ammunition by licensed gun owners

Firearm and Ammunition Storage Regulations - Dealer

Firearm regulations in Costa Rica include105 108 109 44 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of firearms and ammunition by licensed arms dealers

Firearm and Ammunition Storage Regulations - Government

Government regulations in Costa Rica include110 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of firearms and ammunition by state entities

Firearm and Ammunition Transport Regulations

Regulations in Costa Rica include42 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of firearms and ammunition while in transit

Marking and Tracing Guns and Ammunition

Firearm Marking

In Costa Rica, a unique identifying mark on each firearm is required by law89 111 103

Firearm Tracing

In Costa Rica, state authorities carry out82 112 recognised arms tracing and tracking procedures

Ballistic Record of Firearms and Ammunition

In Costa Rica, the ballistic characteristics of each civilian firearm and its ammunition are not74 82 66 recorded in a register

Carrying Guns

Law Regulates Firearms in Public

In Costa Rica, carrying a gun in a public place is regulated by law63 75 71 84 83 86 30 21

Carrying Guns Openly in Public

In Costa Rica, carrying a firearm in plain view in a public place is prohibited113

Carrying Hidden Handguns in Public

In Costa Rica, carrying a concealed firearm in a public place is allowed, subject to a valid permit113 63 71

Gun Free Zones

In Costa Rica, private guns are prohibited in State facilities, public institutions, health and educational institutions, and in demonstrations or public meetings114

Penalty for Illicit Firearm Possession

In Costa Rica, the maximum penalty for unlawful possession of a firearm115 is three years in prison116 117

Collection, Amnesty and Destruction Programmes

Authorities in Costa Rica are known to have118 119 10 120 59 121 implemented voluntary firearm surrender schemes, and/or weapon seizure programmes in order to reduce the number of illicit firearms in circulation

Firearms Surrendered and Seized

ChartIn Costa Rica, the number of firearms voluntarily surrendered, bought back or seized by authorities is reported to be

2013: 1,834122
2012: 2,037123
2011: 2,291
2010/14: 38,000124 125 126 9
2010: 2,453127
2009: 3,333128
2006/08: 14,38210
2004: 3,241129 120
2003: 1,002129
2002: 1,047

Small Arms Destroyed

In Costa Rica, the number of firearms destroyed following amnesty, collection and seizure programmes is reported to be 10,97410 (2006-2008) and 32,000124 (2012-2014)126

Destruction and Disposal Policy

In Costa Rica, it is not state policy130 131 132 119 74 to destroy surplus, collected and seized firearms rather than return them to the secondary arms market

MeasuresInternational Controls

Regional Agreements

Central American Integration System

As a member of the Central American Integration System (SICA), Costa Rica is party to the 2007 Central American Programme on Small Arms Control and the Code of Conduct of Central American States on the Transfer of Arms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Material133

Organization of American States

On 14 November 1997, as a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Costa Rica adopted the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Explosives, Ammunition and Other Related Materials (CIFTA), a legally binding multilateral treaty of which the OAS is depository. The CIFTA Convention has since been signed and ratified134 135 by Costa Rica

Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development

The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development, was signed in 2006136 by Costa Rica.

United Nations Arms Trade Treaty

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has been signed and ratified137 by Costa Rica

United Nations Firearms Protocol

The United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition has been signed and ratified138 by Costa Rica

United Nations Small Arms Programme of Action UNPoA

UNPoA Commitment

On 21 July 2001, Costa Rica committed to a consensus decision of the United Nations to adopt, support and implement the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects139

UNPoA Implementation Monitor Score

In its UN small arms Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (PoAIM Phase 1), the Small Arms Survey scored Costa Rica against its commitments to the PoA, then ranked it at No. 115140 141 142 143 among 159 Member States

UNPoA National Reporting

Under the terms of its 2001 commitment to the United Nations small arms Programme of Action, Costa Rica has submitted one or more national reports144 145 on its implementation of the UNPoA

UNPoA National Point of Contact

In Costa Rica, a National Point of Contact to deal with issues relating to the UNPoA has been designated146 145

UNPoA National Coordinating Body

In Costa Rica, a National Coordinating Body to deal with issues relating to the UNPoA has been designated146

UNPoA Civil Society Involvement and Support

In National Reports of Costa Rica submitted to the UN from 2001 to 2010, a history of substantive cooperation with civil society in support of UNPoA activities was apparent147

UNPoA International Assistance – Donor

Funds for UNPoA implementation have not been donated145 by Costa Rica to other UN Member States

UNPoA International Assistance – Recipient

Funds for UNPoA implementation have been provided145 to Costa Rica by other UN Member States

United Nations Small Arms Register

According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, Costa Rica has not declared148 its small arms exports in one or more annual National Reports on Arms Exports.

United Nations Membership

In the UN List of Member States, Costa Rica has been a Member State of the United Nations since 1945149

Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls and Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies does not list150 Costa Rica as a Participating State

BackgroundCountry Profile

Conflict Profile

For a profile of conflict in Costa Rica, select the Link icon to open an external web page from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia at Uppsala University

Global Peace Index

To see where Costa Rica ranks, select the Link icon to open an external web page at the Global Peace Index


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