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Packing Heat: Can You Own A Gun While Living Overseas?

10 May
Dimly lit room with 12 gague shotgun shells resting on a reflective wood table

Packing Heat: Can You Own A Gun While Living Overseas?

Who's Packing? The Right To Bear Arms Overseas

The feature article in the current issue of my Simon Letter advisory service is about guns.

The movement underway in the United States right now to restrict gun ownership and certain types of guns and accessories is similar to the push for more gun controls that followed the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981.

A dozen years later, as a result of that effort, the Brady Bill was passed, requiring federal background checks on gun purchasers and implementing a five-day waiting period.

In Ireland, where I lived for more than seven years, it’s illegal for a private citizen to own a hand gun, period. You can get a permit for a shotgun for hunting… which can double as home protection. Otherwise, the only people with guns are some (not all) police officers.

While I was living in Ireland, you didn’t hear about shootings often… but you did hear about them.

However, you read weekly, at a minimum, about people being stabbed or beaten to death. The rate of stabbings and beatings probably didn’t keep up with the per-capita shooting rates Stateside, but I never did the math.

In France, where I lived for four years after Ireland and before Panama, you must be a citizen to be able to own a gun.

Why I Don't Own A Gun Overseas

In Panama these past 10 years I’ve thought often about trying to get a license to buy a gun… and, finally, a few years ago, I looked into what’s required. I was ready to put myself through the process (including the psychological exam in Spanish… which my wife thought was a risky idea) and stopped in a gun shop in Panama City to see what they had to offer.

When the shop owner explained that the reason he had but four seriously over-priced and unimpressive firearms to show me because of the continuing moratorium on importing guns into the country, I finally gave up. Why go through the lengthy and hassled process of qualifying for a license to own a gun… if I couldn’t then source a gun I wanted.

I was an avid gun owner when I lived in the States. When I was young, I had a federal license to sell guns and a small gun dealership. It was a hobby for my friends and me. We weren’t worried about protecting ourselves. We liked to go to the shooting range, and having the federal license to sell guns meant we could access and try out different kinds.

Since leaving the United States, for the reasons I’ve explained, I haven’t owned a gun anywhere I’ve lived, but I still go to the shooting range whenever I’m back. I miss being able to test myself and the challenge of learning how to handle new firearms.

“Can I own a gun living overseas?” is one of the questions I’m most frequently asked. Based on the feedback I get on the subject, it seems to me that Americans moving overseas see being able to own a gun as important for their protection in their new home…

But they also just want to know they could own a gun if they decide they want to own a gun. They grew up with the right to have a firearm, and many have written to me saying they won’t move to a country where they lose that right.

The list of countries where you can own a gun is relatively short… and the requirements to qualify for a gun permit can be extensive.

Thus the article I commissioned for my Simon Letter issue this month. I’d say this is the definitive guide to where you can own a gun… and what hoops you’ll have to jump through for that right, country by country.

I’m a gun guy… but I’ve been living in countries where I haven’t been able to own a gun for 20 years.

My point is that, as you work through your own live-and-invest-overseas plan, you have to ask yourself this question:

Is having the right to own a gun a deal-breaker? If it is, your options for where to move overseas are limited.

For me, the many advantages and upsides of living globally—specifically, the independent control over my life and my future that it brings—outweigh my interest in keeping a gun.

You need to decide which kind of freedom you prefer.

Meantime, you can access my new comprehensive guide to owning a gun overseas by becoming a Simon Letter subscriber (if you aren’t already a subscriber) here now.

Lief Simon