Sorry for the delay on the Spain Sunday but we were out and about doing some investigative journalism (we went to a gun store! More on that later).
Since last month we’ve been getting some questions from folks at home about gun control in Spain. So we found out.
Guns in Spain
Greetings from the gun capital of Spain! Spain has 3 million registered arms ( which belong to 1.1 million civilians). Most are for hunting with some for competitions, target practice or as collector’s items. Of all these 3 million guns Andalusia has the most of any other community – 611,987 – most of which are for hunting. So our province has 20% of all of Spain’s guns.
Andalusia is just big for hunting. Of the 1,647 registered crossbows (yes you register guns and crossbows here) Andalusia has the most of them, too.
According to El País “[Spain] ranks a long way behind the United States and even the rest of Europe (where Finland, Germany and France are leaders). Globally, Spain ranks 61st out of 178 countries in terms of weapons per inhabitant.”
When you think about 3.3 million guns in Spain but 5 million NRA members in the USA you can see the difference.
Still 1 million gun owners is pretty good for a population of 46 million.
Gun laws depend on the gun. Here are the types (or tipos) for licensing:
- Type B – pistols and revolvers
- Type E- weapons for sports shooting and hunting
- Type D – long rifled weapons for big game
- Type C – weapons for self defense
- Type AEM -minors (14-18) for hunting or competitions
- Type AE – collectors guns which won’t be fired
- Type AER – collectors guns which will/can be fired
- Type F – guns for shooting competitions
Each type has different laws, storage regulation and paperwork. And gun laws here are about what an American would probably expect from Europe. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Generally:
- You have to be 18 (although the minimum hunting age is 14 so you can get a firearm registered through a parent that you, a 14 year old can use, though not possess)
- You have to pass a written test appropriate for your type
- You might have to pass a physical test to “verify the ability to handle and use the weapons.”
- You might have to demonstrate an actual need (Type C, self defense)
- certificate of “psychophysical” aptitudes (if you are mentally and physically able to use a weapon)
- You need to submit your criminal record
- You have to submit a criminal record specific to child sex crimes (different than the normal criminal record)
- You have to submit your national number (or a foreigner can submit their TIE)
- You have to prove you bought the gun and the license for the gun
- You have to prove you have a hunting license if you’re going to hunt with it
- If you’re going hunting you’ll also need health insurance
If you do all these things you will be licensed for your type. If you have different guns you’ll have to get the different license and follow the appropriate laws for all of the different types.
Yes the license expires. In the case of many licenses they expire based on age (over 65 you have to re-license every 2 years) while others expire based just based on time, for example every 5 years. So you’ll have to do this multiple times (prove you’re still mentally and physically sound or you still know how to use a gun) to stay legal.
How many can you own? What are illegal?
There are some limits on the amount of guns you can own. You can have 5 guns under license D (the long rifled guns for big game). Other types limit you to 1 or 2 (pistols, I believe). Automatic weapons, firearms disguised as other objects, incendiary, expanding, armor piercing are illegal for all citizens. Firearms “designed for war use” (fully automatic, firearms with a caliber of 20 mm or higher, and all those considered for war use by the Ministry of Defense) are also illegal.
A Visit to the Gun Store
We went down to our friendly local gun store just to look. A man had just bought a gun and was bringing it (in it’s case) to his car outside.
Besides all the camouflage gear, fishing poles, knives , dog food, dog crates, dog first aid kits, and dog toys there were guns in the gun store. It’s really a farmer/rancher store. It’s got some feed and mostly stuff for recreation (and dogs, not sure if I mentioned that). We intended to just look but the guy was nice. We actually introduced ourselves as Americans so he wanted to answer our questions.
He let us look at their written test handbook:
1. Is an automatic rife is covered by a D Licence of Weapons? B. No because weapons of war are prohibited for individuals.
2. For the issuing of a weapons licence, what is the minimum age of the purchaser? C. 18 Years old
3. How many type D weapons licenses can you own? B. One (but the license itself allows you to have 5 firearms. So 1 license, 5 guns).
The book gives you the answers in bold to study. So you don’t have to learn anything, just memorize the answers. Also they’re all common sense if you’ve read just this blog post.
Is there an NRA? Hell yes. There is the Asociación Nacional del Arma. (National Association of Firearms -ANARMA ) and they want to “Defendiendo los derechos de los legítimos usuarios de armas en España” “Defend the rights to legitimate use of firearms in Spain.” So about the same goal as the USA’s NRA. They don’t have many members, however, El País says only 2,000 people are registered (.02% of gun owners in Spain).
The US and Spain are not so different with discussions. After the 2015 terrorist attack in Paris (the Eagles of Death Metal concert and coordinated cafe attacks which left 132 people dead) the European Commission proposed a general ban on the possession of semi-automatic weapons in all of Europe. Spain’s NRA (ANARMA) said the ban would only affect hunters and 100,000 semi-automatic weapons would be confiscated in Spain if the proposals became law.
“Instead of focusing on the black market, which is where the terrorists get their weapons, they attack the legal weapons market,” ANARMA said. So Spain’s NRA does work to protect gun rights.
In the end the EU ended up actually targeting the black market. Different EU states had “decommissioned guns” that were collectors items. These collectors items could be sold as collectors guns but easily turned back into functioning guns. This was the case in the 2015 terrorist attack. So now the EU has stricter definitions of collectors guns to prevent the black market from reactivating guns. This gun “flipping” was easy – buy a gun for $500, turn it into a functioning gun and sell it back for $2,000 unregistered.
Spain had its fingers in this. In 2015 a raid in Alicante (south east Spain) confiscated 100 AK-47, VZ61s, VZ25s and Rak PM63s. This was the same dealer who was flipping guns for terrorists (which had used them in the 2015 Paris attacks and a train attack in 2015).
Spain seems keen on flipping guns. They flip blank guns (for movies and sports) into actual functioning guns. About 500 of these flipped blank guns were confiscated in 2015 and 2016. ANARMA says it’s not enough to be a problem.
Like the US (and anywhere) if people want guns badly enough they will create/flip or buy them on the black market.
Gun Crime in Spain
Spain’s rate of homicide by firearm is 21%. In February a man was shot in the stomach and killed in Almeria . They were arguing outside a bar, a man left and returned with his gun. A Colombian man was shot 10 times outside of a school in Madrid this month connected with drug dealing (he died). A man was shot in the arm in Malaga province this month but only injured. That’s all I can find for the year of 2018. 2 people murdered with guns.
In 2016 a total of 292 people were murdered in Spain. Not just with guns, but generally murdered. So it’s hard to really say with the gun rate. Spain has the 2nd lowest homicide rate in Europe.
It happens, but it’s rare.
Guns for Self Defense
According to the Library of Congress in Spain “firearms licenses for personal security are restricted to those who can prove that a real danger to their security exists.” An online article from El Pais gives an example of who might be allowed to have one “A jeweler by trade, he was the target of a number of violent attacks several years ago, and was subsequently declared “at risk” and issued a B license by Spanish police – a license that allows him to carry a firearm for self-defense … 8,000 Spanish civilians licensed to carry a firearm for self-defense. Those applying must prove they are at real risk of attack. Most of these people are politicians, jewelers, gun-sellers, judges or magistrates, soccer players and former military personnel. The weapons they carry must be kept hidden at all times.”
But later the article says:
“Some Spaniards who have been refused a B license end up buying a target-shooting pistol instead, which perhaps accounts for the fact there are 70,000 of these in Spain. They then drop by the range-shooting club regularly to get their documents stamped, verifying the weapons are for leisure use only.”
You cannot (and usually do not need) a gun for your protection here. The United States has many home safety laws but many, many places do not. In South Korea you could only do as much damage as the intruder did. So if someone broke into your house in Korea and you hit him and broke his nose you are at fault because he didn’t hurt or attack you (even though he was in your house). Yes that’s extraordinarily annoying that someone is in your house – but you need to call the cops, not injure or kill the guy. In Spain if someone were to enter our house we would basically have to ask them to leave, call the cops and see what happens. If you need to defend yourself, by all means, do. But Spain says your response needs to be proportional to the threat. This is wildly different from the USA’s castle laws.
Guns for Hunting
When we were hiking in the Sierra Nevadas we almost accidentally entered a few hunting areas. These areas were marked with bright yellow flagging and signage indicating it was a hunting area. When we go walking on the Via Verde every afternoon we see signs reminding people not to hunt in this area.
This would be like walking down the river path downtown and seeing signs “please don’t hunt here” well duh, we’re practically in the middle of the city. But because it winds through farmland (where there are many good bunnies to hunt) they have to ask people not to hunt.
Downtown by my school there is a land rover with these stickers:
Bird hunting sticker and a “Real Federación Española de Caza” sticker. This is the Royal Federation of Hunting group (which seems to have more people than the ANARMA group).
Hunting is big here, which is why we have at least one gun store in Martos (possibly more). Chris’s coteachers hunt frequently. 2 or 3 of the 11 in his adult conversation class hunt. What do they hunt? Rabbits. Mostly.