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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Guns in Spain 
6th-Feb-2013 10:05 am
The United States is debating guns and gun control. There’s no debate in Spain – and no right to bear arms. It has the toughest gun laws in Europe. The Constitution of Spain gives the State “exclusive authority” over “regulations for production, commerce, ownership or use of weapons and explosives.” (Article 149.1.29)

You can, of course, get guns: 3,516,681 weapons are in the hands of private owners, and another 320,903 belong to the police, Guardia Civil (Civil Guard, sort of a national police force), or military. Private owners possess 2,793,614 shotguns and 299,226 rifles – hunting is popular in Spain – and 191,636 revolvers or pistols, 189,785 carbines, and 42,420 other weapons. Machine guns and submachine guns are banned from private ownership. (2011 figures)

This works out to 10.4 firearms per 100 people. Spain ranks 18th in the world ranking of privately owned guns by country, and 61st in the rate of private gun ownership per population, according to GunPolicy.org.

To get a gun, you have to apply to the Guardia Civil (this is their symbol) for a license, as explained here.

You must prove that you are mentally and physically able to use weapons properly without causing danger, injury, damage, or difficulties to other people or yourself. You must know how to store, maintain, and use arms. You must store the weapon properly: in a 300-kilo safe anchored to the wall or floor. The number of arms you may possess at any one time is limited: only six shotguns and one handgun, for example.

After you buy your weapon, it will be delivered to the nearest Guardia Civil office, where you will pick it up. For long weapons, your licence will be reviewed every five years, and every three years for short weapons. The Guardia Civil will check to see that the weapon has not been altered and is stored properly. You can lose your gun license for any criminal conviction, including speeding and drunkenness.

When you buy bullets, you must present your ID and gun license, and your purchase will be reported to the Guardia Civil. You may buy no more than 100 bullets per year for short weapons and stockpile no more than 150 bullets at any time. You may buy 1000 bullets or cartridges per year for long weapons and stockpile no more than 200 at any time.

You can get a license to possess a weapon for self-defense, but you have to convince the Guardia Civil that you really need it. The Guardia Civil says only several hundred such licenses have been issued in Madrid. I have heard that most jewelry stores are armed, which would account for a lot of those licenses.

The rate of gun death in Spain is much lower than in the United States. Again, according to GunPolicy.org:

• Spain had 90 gun homicides in 2009, compared to 9,146 in the US. The rate of gun homicides was 0.2 per 100,000 people, compared to 2.98 in the US.
• Spain had 399 homicides by any method in 2009, compared to 15,241 in the US. The rate in Spain per 100,000 people was 0.9, compared to 4.96 in the US.
• Spain had 170 gun suicides in 2005, compared to 17,002 in the US. The rate of gun suicide per 100,000 people was 0.39 in Spain, 5.75 in the US. The rate of suicide by any method was 7.94 in Spain (1998) and 10.17 in the US (2001).
• Spain had 3 handgun homicides in 2008.

Of course, illegal weapons exist, more than a million according to some estimates. Organized crime groups, largely international, regularly kill rivals to settle scores, according to news reports. Despite that, the overall homicide rate remains low. Spaniards don’t seem to want to kill each other by any means for any reason.

Spain maintains a low homicide rate in spite of being exposed to the same violent movies and video games that you can get in the US. They’re popular, in fact. School bullying is endemic. “Mobbing” is group bullying in workplaces; it happens often enough to have a name. Violence at soccer games surprises no one. A recent report on domestic violence was titled My husband hits me the usual amount. Spaniards hardly behave like angels. But they don’t kill each other regularly.

Improved mental health is being proposed in the US as a way to prevent shootings, especially mass shootings. Spain’s socialized health care in theory covers mental health care, but in practice it has only one-third the mental health specialists as other European countries. The government will not release data (the party currently in power opposes socialized medicine and does not want in-depth analysis of socialized versus private care), but mental health care workers say the care is inadequate.

In practice, the care for people with mental illnesses in Spain falls on the family. The mother of shooter at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, was trying to care for her son as best she could. But no Spanish mother would have had that much firepower or could have taught her son how to use it.

Some people have said a return to religious values will help prevent gun violence. In a Gallup Poll, 49.5% of Spaniards said religion was important in their daily life, while 65% of US citizens said it was. You can compare charts on the importance of religion with rates of gun-related violence and see that there’s no obvious relationship.

Gun supporters in the US often say they need their guns to protect themselves from the government in case it turns authoritarian. Spain’s gun controls did begin during the Franco dictatorship, but they continued because ETA terrorists were systematically killing government officials and civilians, even children. ETA used guns and bombs, assassinating up to 93 people in 1980, and 829 people in all, so stopping them became paramount. ETA killed no one last year; relentless police work has undermined the organization.

Meanwhile, Spaniards became used to living at peace with each other, and despite tempestuous politics and economic disaster, no one is calling for less arms regulation. They remember their recent past too well.

Spain can offer an important lesson about what happens in a civil war. Spain’s began in 1936 with a pro-Fascist military coup. Fascism enjoyed significant popular support, as did democracy: that’s why there was a war.

Some gun owners in the US might rise up against an oppressive government, whether left- or right-wing, but other gun owners will support the government. History predicts that neighbors will start shooting each other.

More than 100,000 people still lie in unmarked mass graves in Spain as a result of the Civil War and its aftermath.

— Sue Burke
6th-Feb-2013 01:26 pm (UTC)
I have shot 150 rounds in a single pistol match.

I've been shooting handguns for over three decades and I have yet to rob a liquor store, shoot up a school or point one at a neighbor.

Bottom line: Americans have a right to possess firearms. People who don't like that have three basic options: Change the Constitution, learn to live with it, or emigrate.
6th-Feb-2013 02:58 pm (UTC) - Guns in Spain
That's the exact reply we would expect from a "weapon-freedon" fanatic.
7th-Feb-2013 10:35 am (UTC)
True, you're responsible. But the Supreme Court has recently ruled that Second Amendment rights to possess arms are not unlimited -- and we all wind up with laws in every area of life directed at idiots and criminals that make things difficult for responsible people. If you don't like that, the only option is to live outside of civilization. Hobbes didn't recommend that.

But I think the fact that Spain has a much lower gun death rate deserves some serious consideration. How did it achieve that? What are the consequences, good, bad, and annoying? And what lessons does its experience offer to the world, if the world were smart enough to care?

By the way, you can get an exemption for buying more ammunition for specific purposes, like a gun match.
16th-Jun-2019 08:44 pm (UTC)
Than expect more deaths, you moron
6th-Feb-2013 05:31 pm (UTC)
Some gun owners in the US might rise up against an oppressive government, whether left- or right-wing, but other gun owners will support the government. History predicts that neighbors will start shooting each other.

A very good point to remember. All your points were excellent ones, but that one was the one that jumped out at me.

7th-Feb-2013 10:39 am (UTC)
Yes, I think it's easy to forget that we rarely agree with our neighbors about everything, especially politics. And that there are gun owners on all parts of the political spectrum. I think the only way to avoid an oppressive government is to be involved in politics. Voting does more to preserve freedom than buying a gun.
7th-Feb-2013 01:30 am (UTC)
I wonder how many "We'll use our guns to fight tyranny" gun owners would rise up against tyranny if the dictator was right wing?
7th-Feb-2013 10:45 am (UTC)
I think that on the whole, gun owners tend to skew toward the right, and that a lot of current anti-government rhetoric proves that. For them, tyranny means government by people they don't agree with. And that's another reason why I don't believe that guns are the best defense against tyranny. Education might be a better weapon.
23rd-Aug-2016 02:53 am (UTC) - wrong
You are very wrong, gun ownership in America is a left-right thing. The left establishment has adopted an anti-gun stance against the desires of their constituents.
18th-May-2016 12:54 pm (UTC) - Just a small correction/update on the excellent Spanish gun law post

Just a small update. I am non Spanish and have lived in Spain for 15 years. For 10 of them I have had a class F2 Spanish firearms license (having previously held licenses and passed tests in UK, Germany, AND in some specific states in the USA where I also lived for a few years).

All licenses here are basically either issued for hunting, or sports/Olympic style shooting, (including black powder).

For Sports/Olympic You start the license process when you have passed both inspections as to competence in use, AND obtained a certified minimum score in a test shoot (with club and police officials watching), AND have a medical/psychological test. This gives you a class F3 license which entitles you to one handgun or carbine. You may then move on to an F2 license when you have posted high enough scores in 4+ club/regional competitions over a 1-2 year period, (450 points and above from maximum 600 per competition on a 25mtr range), which allows you to own up to 5 handguns (any calibre up to 9mm, or in special cases .40 or .45 if the club also offers IPSC discipline shooting), or a mix of 5 guns total including carbines (.22lr only). A shotgun(s) for CLAY/SKEET (non hunting), MAY be added to this mix in special circumstances. An F1 license is possible which allows a gun mix of up to 10 guns, but again, is based on passing scores in multiple competitions and being able to compete at a NATIONAL level and proving that the different calibres are required.

Hunting licenses are different entirely to F class, and require by police, law and competence testing, certification for physical/mental health, and proof of land/club where guns may be used. Typically, a small selection of larger calibre rifles and shotguns may be considered (up to 5, in some cases 10), with a .22lr pistol allowed as part of the mix. THESE DO NOT/MUST NOT INCLUDE military style assault rifles, or if of similar type, only with small capacity magazines. .223 and .308 (5.56 and 7.62 mm) are usually considered specifically military use only in Spain.

Ammunition is now allowed to be purchased up to 200 rounds of each calibre at a time, either before a competition from the club itself, or ONCE PER YEAR from a dealer. Storage at home is restricted to 200 round per calibre and 1000 rounds .22 for carbines. Storage for all ammunition AND all handguns must be in a "type 3" high security safe, affixed solidly to floors and/or walls by means of special bolts.

Does this mean gun ownership is a "privilege" here in Spain? - Yes. Does this mean I only shoot with trained people who understand firearms and safety? - yes.

Personally, having lived and shot as a sport in many different countries and cultures, I don't really feel restricted at all... Now, if I wanted to "play Rambo", or carry a gun for "defence" because I believed everyone else was, then I might...

18th-May-2016 08:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you for shedding more light on how gun laws work in Spain. And for your concern about training and safety.

I feel safer because of these laws.
23rd-Aug-2016 03:01 am (UTC) - Well
Gun laws will stop a criminal as much as a no smoking sign a smoker. In america 90% of the gun crimes happen at gun-free zones like schools, government buildings and churches. The criminals don't care about laws. in Central America, where they have strict gun-laws like Europe, residential areas where the rich live are safe, thanks to the guns and guards they can afford, but the areas where the poor live, are killing fields. Guns save lives, that is why countries have armies. That is why the politicians that vote for gun laws, exempt themselves from those laws, this is a reality in California and NY.
23rd-Aug-2016 03:47 am (UTC) - Re: Well
Well, you're wrong. 90% of gun crimes in America do not happen in schools, government buildings, and churches. Not even 90% of the mass shootings.

Yes, Central America has a lot of gun violence despite laws like Europe, but what they lack are strong governments like Europe.

I know this is going to make your head explode, but this is a fact: governments (good, strong governments, of course) keep us safe. This is why they have armies. And where the police are good, they also keep people safe. They stop criminals. The main job of governments is to keep us safe and well.

But if you believe that 90% of gun crimes in America happen in gun-free zones, there's just no point in talking to you. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

By the way, no-smoking campaigns have been great successes, even in France. Smokers do obey no-smoking signs.

Edited at 2016-08-23 03:48 am (UTC)
6th-Oct-2016 02:20 pm (UTC) - re my previous post on update to Spanish gun laws...
Thanks for your reply on my post.

Personally, I have been around firearms of all sorts of types all of my adult life in many different countries.

I have been welcomed into clubs and competitions with civilians, members of various militaries, police and SWAT type units.

THE biggest single factor in common with all of the above is NOT how well someone shoots, or which calibre, or gun, or if they "carry" or not, - it is range, gun and shooter/bystander safety. I have been "accepted" into shooting circles at different clubs or new clubs in new countries many times based upon the way I handle a gun and show that I am both trained in their use and understand safety.

I DO wish that training in use and safety were MANDATORY in ALL states of the USA, and in fact everywhere Worldwide.

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