Letter Re: Gun Ownership in Chile

Hello JWR,
I hope everything is going well for you and your family! Every day that passes makes me realize how blessed I am to be out of the states and living at a great retreat location in Chile.
I was reading your site yesterday and saw your article asking for information about foreign gun laws. I recently purchased a new shotgun in Chile and will share that experience with you. First, I don’t think most Chileans follow the gun laws here. The law is that you must register every weapon you own, and registration is limited to three per person, but no limit per family. That means I could register three in my name, three in my wife’s name, etc. Laws state you must keep your weapon in your home and if you transport in somewhere else, you must ask for permission and get a form to do so. If you are stopped by the police and have a weapon without the transport form, they have the right to seize it. (I have been stopped many times for a registration check, and they have never searched the vehicle or asked about weapons, so this is a very remote possibility in normal times, IMHO).

From those restrictions, you can see why I feel most Chileans don’t follow the law. I wanted to ship down my grandfather’s old Mossberg, but since it didn’t have a serial number, and the associated government paper hassle, I just bought a new one here. When buying from a dealer, you have to follow the rules, and being a foreign national residing here, I went along (for my first). I wanted a basic Mossberg pump action 12 gauge, and the dealer informed me I had to pass a hunting exam before I could buy the gun. He gave me some example tests, true-false questions, and I went to register for the test. Not being a native spanish speaker, I was a little worried about the exam. It cost about $24 US to get a study book and pay for the test. The exam covered all the separate hunting laws for the country, broken down by state. I had to know the dove daily limits for a region 1,500 miles from my house! Unbelievable. I managed to luck through the test and pass with a 70%, even though none of the test questions given to me by the dealer were on the test- wouldn’t you know it!

Once I had my hunting license I returned to the gun dealer/ sport shop. I paid for the gun, and then they took me to the local Chilean army office to register it. On the way, the dealer casually mentioned I had to take a test there to ensure I knew the proper care and maintenance of the shotgun I was buying! I had no idea what those names were, so I had about 10 minutes to learn what a sight, breach, stock, etc were called in spanish, and I lucked my way through another multiple choice test on basic maintenance, and how many shells I was able to buy at a time, etc. What a pain! Now you see why I think most chileans skip this law. Everyone was quite nice and helpful, it was just the process that stank.

The next step was needing the police to check my residence on the application to ensure that I lived there. Well, I live 150km from this town, and I could not take possession of my gun until my residence was checked. For this reason I used a friend’s residence in the town. I was checked out and returned the next morning for my shotgun. What an ordeal. Total cost, not including the shotgun itself, was about $60 US. Fortunately, now I have my legally registered shotgun, even though it is registered at a residence far far away, so it would take some searching to find me if the officials were so inclined. Obviously my next weapons purchase will be from an locals to skip the whole bureaucratic nightmare. Since I live way off the beaten path and know the local police, I am not worried, but the national system here is set up for potential confiscation if necessary- remnants of the 1970’s and the civil war/Pinochet days.

Hope you find this informative. Chile is a great country for old German rifles and such like. I look forward to getting a Winchester .44-40, .357, and other weapons off of the grid. I’ve actually had my folks bring down boxes of rifle shells and deer slugs in their airline luggage- no problem with customs. In other news, I now have my pigs, chickens, and the sheep are on the way! Fresh eggs and ham through any crisis! Best wishes. – Bruce