Let’s Get Real About Gun Ownership in Nicaragua


UGH! I am so frustrated with the politics in the United States over gun-control. I am not sure what can be done to stop the massacres in the U.S. So, I did a little research on where are the world’s guns and which countries have the highest rates of firearm murders.

Piecing the information together, thanks to Gun Homicides and Gun Ownership listed by country, gave me a better perspective of Nicaragua and where it stands in relation to  other countries in the world.

Let’s get real about gun ownership in Nicaragua. What are the laws, the procedures, and reasons to own a gun in Nicaragua?

The average total of all firearms in Nicaragua is 350,000. The average number of firearms per 100 people is 7.7.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.29.51 AMThe average homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 people in Nicaragua is 5.92.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.32.11 AMThe percentage of homicides by firearms in Nicaragua is 42.1% or 338 firearm homicides.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.33.37 AMThe information from this article tells me that the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people own guns. Nicaragua’s rate of gun ownership per 100 people is 7.7… which is considerably lower than the U.S.

The U.S. does not have the worst firearm murder rate in the world. Honduras wins the prize with a staggering 68.43 murder by firearm rate per 100,000 people. Nicaragua, which shares a border with Honduras, has an average of murder by firearm rate of 5.92 per 100,000 people. This indicates to me that Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Central America and they must be doing something right to halt gun violence.

What are the laws of gun ownership and the procedures for registering a gun in Nicaragua?

Thanks to Darrell Bushnell ( a U.S. expat living in Nicaragua) and Paul Tiffer ( a Nicaraguan lawyer) this article explains everything you need to know about Registering Firearms in Nicaragua.

One overlooked item in this list by many countries: certification by a psychologist or a doctor to prove that the applicant is mentally and physically able to carry and handle a weapon.

An expat friend bought a gun in Nicaragua and registered it according to the laws of Nicaragua. His psychological examination was done in Spanish with a certified psychologist.

I understand that gun-control and registration vary from state to state in the United States. However, it is of my opinion, that if the federal government enacted a law that specifically required a psychological and physical examination for prospective and legal gun owners,  then we could better track the people with mental illnesses applying for and/or registering already owned guns. This appears to be a practical solution to reduce gun violence in Nicaragua.

I also find it interesting that a gun must be concealed at all times in Nicaragua. There are no special licenses for concealed weapons.

Why do people own guns in Nicaragua?

First, the majority of Nicaraguans do not own guns, at least not legally registered guns as reported in the statistics. How would one find the number of illegal guns possessed throughout the world? They can’t gather statistics on guns that aren’t legally registered.  The population of Nicaragua is 6.17 million people. The average total of all firearms in Nicaragua is 350,000 with the average number of gun owners being 7.7 per 100 people.

Guns are expensive to buy in Nicaragua. The registration and licensing procedures are time-consuming and expensive for the average Nicaraguan. 48% of the population lives in poverty and 40% of the population lives on less than one dollar a day.

Nicaraguans cherish their machetes. They use their machetes for work, for protection, and for safety. They are cheap and readily available. Now, if I could find homicide rates by machete for Nicaragua, I suspect they would be very high, certainly higher than homicide rate by firearm.

What do responsible gun owners do with their guns? I really don’t know the answer to that because there are so few people that I know who own guns on Ometepe Island.  Our expat friends who have legally registered guns use them for protection. We have a pellet/BB gun that we use for shooting rats in our garden. I only know of one incident where a legal gun-owner in Nicaragua used a gun to protect his family from a home invasion. The perpetrators entered the home with guns, and were shot with the homeowners’ legally registered guns in their attempts to strangle and possibly rape the homeowner.

Paul Tiffer concludes by saying, “You may buy or own as many guns as you wish but you will need a separate permit for each one. You should use a lawyer or perhaps a friend in the police department to help you walk through the process. Having a firearm without a permit is automatic confiscation, jail time and a fine on top of it.”

This information was an eye opener for me. I hope you find it helpful.

If you live abroad, do you know the legal process to buy and register a gun? What are the statistics on homicide rates by firearm where you live?

32 thoughts on “Let’s Get Real About Gun Ownership in Nicaragua

  1. Your stats are very comprehensive, however the ‘homicides by firearms’ rate can be very misleading. You should just use the ‘overall homicides’ rate, because that more accurately indicates the violence level in the country. You did say that the number of murders by other means (you said machetes) must be quite high in Nicaragua, and that is correct. Knives (stabbing), various bludgeoning weapons, and bare hands (strangulation & beating) are also common murder weapons in Nicaragua (and all the rest of the world too).

    Why should you use the general homicide rate versus the firearms homicide rate? Because many countries with low firearms ownership have low firearms homicide rate, but high overall homicide rates. The conclusions you would draw from the numbers would be misleading if you do not use the right sets of numbers.

    The USA has the highest firearms ownership rate and a below average overall homicide rate. Nicaragua is the opposite. Another factoid for you: In both countries, gang violence and drug trafficking violence accounts for a large percentage of the homicides. The obvious conclusion when you look at the data in this way is that people and their culture are the cause of murder, not the guns (or the number of guns), because people will, and do, kill each other with whatever weapon that may be available to them (including bare hands). Gun control is not the solution to violence, because people are the cause of violence, not guns.

    • Thanks for your information, Bob. I do think we have to look at statistics carefully. They can be skewed in so many ways. Since this was a post about gun ownership in Nicaragua, I wanted to narrow it down to homicides by firearms. Thanks for your comments, Bob. At least we are beginning to talk about these issues and maybe we can form some conclusions as to what we can do to curtail gun violence.

  2. A very stat filled blog. At first while reading it I thought, what the heck? Did she really mean to title it Let’s Get Real About Gun Ownership in USA.
    Gun control anywhere is only part of the solution.
    And I don’t think anyone can paint the world with one brush.

    • Thanks for your comments, Ed. I find it really interesting to compare stats on homicide by firearms throughout the world. And it fascinated me to compare the USA with Nicaragua. You are right, gun control anywhere is only part of the solution. There are many variables. But, I’m really happy to see that this post has initiated thoughtful questions and solutions to our problems with guns throughout the world.

  3. Debbie, I’m reading this with such a heavy heart. First there was the horrible shooting in Oregon, and two nights ago there was yet another terrible act of violence here, in Portrerillos near Boquete. The maleantes invaded the home of a 67-year-old expat, robbed her, and then stabbed and shot her twice. She had emergency surgery and is now in intensive care.

    I find your stats on gun ownership in Nicaragua very interesting and I’d love to do a comparison study for Panama. With the recent upswing in home invasions, it seems that gun violence is becoming much more common here (it was practically non-existent before). There are a lot of theories about it – gang infiltration from the north (including the U.S.) being one. Another theory is that expats are buying guns to protect themselves, and bad guys are stealing them – thus putting even more guns into circulation. The Panamanian government is in the process of relaxing its requirements for gun ownership here, which makes me very, very nervous.

    I’m not sure how all of this parses with your statistics showing the U.S. to have one of the highest rates of gun ownership, and yet is nowhere near the top for gun-related homicides. But in my heart of hearts I feel there are too, too many guns in circulation and it’s tooooo easy for the wrong people to get their hands on them and do terrible things. Beyond that, I don’t have any answers. It’s all so frustrating.

    • Susan, thanks for sharing the tragic experience in Boquete, Panama. I, too, am very worried and distressed by the increase in gun-related deaths and injuries, not only in the U.S., but all over the world. If you go to the link at the top of the page, you can explore the statistics for Panama ( Gun homicides and Gun Ownership, listed by country).
      I am thrilled to see that my post created a thoughtful and profound discussion on the causes, the effects, and possible solutions for homicides by firearms throughout the world. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Thanks for the eye-opening statistics! We share your frustration regarding gun violence in the US and the political stalemate that results each time we have a mass shooting with the gun owners vociferously defending their right-to-ownership against the useless backdrop of politicians mouthing platitudes. Having worked several years at an inner city hospital where gangs milled around the parking lots and the holidays seemed to be include several beatings, stabbings and shootings I’ve recognized the irony that the US is “safe” and travel to foreign countries is dangerous. Wherever we are we need to be aware of our surroundings and listen to our “spidey sense” when things seem a little off. Luckily for all of us the majority of good people far exceeds the people who are violent. Anita

    • “gun owners vociferously defending their right-to-ownership against the useless backdrop of politicians mouthing platitudes.” That is my biggest frustration, Anita. Heidi also commented on the irony, when she told people she was moving to Nicaragua and they responded that it is soooo dangerous there. We have to be myth busters, Anita. We have to tell the world that these mass shootings and homicide by firearms are increasing world-wide. More in-depth positive discussions like this are what we need to have, instead of ” stuff happens” and leave it at that until the next mass shooting.

    • well knowing where you are is 50% of survival intercity shootings are a criminal effect if they posted how many had police records Pryor to the shootings you would have more viable numbers to include them in normal society. Not country totals is just a sham. why not ask how many Iowa farmers shot other Iowa farmers far better question.

  5. Good post, Debbie, on something that’s very much on our minds lately in the U.S. Two things I’d like to add. First, that the U.S. uses some ridiculously high proportion of the world’s supply of psychotropic drugs. Side effects such as depression, paranoia and rage are not widely publicized and “informed consent” isn’t always. Second, a smart psychopath can fake a weapons interview and/or psychological test. True, most tests have lie scales, but if they do the groundwork, they could give the right answers to look good enough to get approved for a firearms license. So I’m 100% on board with making it more difficult to obtain a weapon legally (of course, how do you police weapons obtained illegally?!), but I don’t see it as a very complete solution. Oh, and a third thing: the U.S. has one of the highest income inequality rates in the world. That’s something that can foment resentment in someone who perceives themselves as disadvantaged, and is a little mentally unstable. I think this is true of some of these mass shooters. Mental instability, psychoactive drugs, easy availability of deadly weapons, and feeling disadvantaged: a deadly combination.

    • I read a study last night about the link between psychotropic drugs and homicide risk. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150601082529.htm
      Apparently, it is the first study of its kind in the world. I agree 100% with what you say. The problem is that we need to start somewhere to solve the problem, but where? I am angry and unsettled. Enough is enough. Although my post is mainly about gun ownership in Nicaragua and correlating statistics of homicides by firearm rates throughout the world, my hopes are to initiate a thoughtful discussion about gun violence, causes and effects, and possible solutions. We cannot continue with the attitude of “stuff happens.”
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and knowledgeable response. As always, it is spot on.

  6. I JUST RETURNED TO FLORIDA AFTER 10 DAYS GREAT DAYS IN MATAGALPA , TURNED ON THE TV TO HEAR THE WEATHER AND ,,,,,BANG….ANOTHER SHOOTING IN OREGON. WTF..!!!!!!
    Everyone asks me why I want to move out of the states and move to sooooooo dangerous Nicaragua….now all I say, because it just got to be soooo boring with that same dumb ass question… is that its a pity most everyone in the states is soooooooo stupid,,,look around people ,,you’re being veryyyyyyyyy mislead ,,,,and get your heads out of your ass, before its toooooo
    late!!!!

    • Heidi, what I find most interesting in my research on legal gun ownership throughout the world is that although the USA has the most legal gun owners per 100,000 people, it is not ranked the highest nation in homicides by firearms. In fact it is 28th in the list. So, the number of guns a country has does not seem to correlate to the number of homicides by firearms. Countries like Norway, Finland, and Switzerland who have very restrictive gun policies, have the highest rates of mass shootings. The USA, which is less restrictive on gun-control has a high rate of mass shootings. So, again, the homicide rate by firearms doesn’t seem to depend on if a country has strict or weak gun-control regulations.
      My point is that there are so many variables to take into consideration in the area of gun regulations. No matter where you live in this world, we have to work together to solve our problems with gun violence.
      Be it Nicaragua, where people who want to register guns are required to take a physical and psychological exam, or the USA, where we have a gun loving culture where too many restrictions are frowned upon. There has to be compromise and many thoughtful discussions on ways to reduce gun violence throughout the world.
      By the way, I think Nicaragua is on the right path to decreasing gun violence. We can’t ignore the mental health issue in the United States any longer. I think that the mental health of a gun owner plays a significant part in the mass shootings we are experiencing. Trained and licensed psychologists can identify mental health concerns of potential gun owners, as well as track and record those who may not be mentally stable enough to own a gun. At least it is a beginning. OK, sorry for my rant.🙂

      • “Countries like Norway, Finland, and Switzerland who have very restrictive gun policies, have the highest rates of mass shootings.” Where did you find this ? I never ever heard of any mass shooting in Finland or Switzerland! The only known one is the one with the more than 80 children on an Norwegian island by this right-wing lunatic.

        Someone mentioned the drugs – and I think this is also an important point: I recently read in “Natural Medecine” that all mass-shooters had taken psycho-drugs before the act and that this seems to be hidden by the pharma industry: I do not know if this is true – but the German copilote who crashed the German Wings machine into the Alps, killing 200 people, also was prescripted psycho-drugs in the time before the crash.

        I had been living in Madagascar for 11 years which was always a very peaceful country. But since a coup in 2009 everything degraded totally, and there were way too many arms in the country: Very often the police and military rent their Kalachnikows to bandits and even cooperate with them. To defend themselves against the more and more frequent attacks by 8-10 heavily armed bandits, private people also start to equip themselves with firearms.

        Guns lead only to a proliferation and escalation of violence and even more guns. Therefore I like the strict Nicaraguan regulation and hope there are not too many gringos who import their gun-love!

        • Thanks for your thought provoking comments, Panfilms. I, too, feel that the strict Nicaraguan regulations on firearms are helping Nicaragua. Here is the link for the information about the top ten nations in the world for mass shootings. http://www.ijreview.com/2015/06/348197-obama-said-mass-shootings-dont-happen-in-advanced-countries-like-in-us-one-chart-proves-him-wrong/
          I was curious about the mass shootings in Finland and Switzerland, too. The Kauhajoki school shooting in Finland occurred on 23 September 2008. 22-year-old student Matti Juhani Saari, shot and fatally injured ten people with a Walther P22 semi-automatic pistol, before shooting himself in the head. One example for Switzerland, On Feb. 22nd, 2013, a mass shooting occurred at wood-processing plant in Menznau, Switzerland, which left four people — including the shooter — dead and six others injured. An employee armed with a Sphinx AT380 weapon opened fire on his co-workers in the company’s cafeteria, came only weeks after another shooter killed three people and wounded two others in the southern Swiss village of Daillon in early January. This was really interesting, too. Shooting is a popular pastime in Switzerland, gun ownership in Switzerland is among the highest in the world, trailing behind only the U.S. and Yemen.
          So, once again, these problems are not unique to the USA. I’ll end with a funny story while sitting on a park bench in Langenbrunner, Switzerland. An older gentleman was sitting on the park bench with my husband, while they were waiting for their wives ( I was one) to finish shopping. They discussed a variety of things, and then the man asked my husband, “Do you like hunting and shitting in the USA?” We are big hunters and shitters.” My husband had just taken a big gulp of juice, and instead of swallowing it, he sprayed it all over the man ( accidentally) because he couldn’t stop laughing. When I returned Ron was cleaning the juice off the man and they were both laughing so hard they almost fell off the bench.

  7. Thank you Debbie. I believe the population of Nicaragua in more in 6 million range. Do you know what the firearm murder rate is in the US and how it compares to that of Nicaragua? I have always felt safe in Nicaragua and have never been the victim of a crime, even when walking around in disinfranchised inner city in Managua. I suppose that is due in great part to Nicaragua’s low crime rate. As usual, love your posts.

    • Ernesto, I corrected my typo for the population. I am so grateful that everyone caught it. Oops. The firearm murder rate in the U.S. is 2.97 per 100,000 people. It is very low. In fact it is ranked 28th in the world. I have never felt threatened in Nicaragua and use taxis when going out at night alone, which I hardly ever do.🙂

    • US street crime rates have been declining since the 1970s. I have been thinking of writing an Onion article about white people fleeing the decline of crime in the black community by moving to Central America.

  8. Debbie I think the population of Nicaragaua is slightly more than six million not sixteen million. Is this a typo or are all the stats based on sixteen million?

  9. Lo Debbie, Hope you don;t mind my posting your articles to fb, some of my friends like hearing about Nicaragua etc, thanks again, Eric

  10. Statistics will only ever tell part of the story, of course. Who knows how many guns are owned illegally in the US, Nicaragua, or anywhere else? Any incidence of mass shootings in Nicaragua, Debbie? It’s to the point here, now, that you take a chance going to school or to the movies.

    • Good point, Sandra. When researching statistics of homicides by firearms throughout the world, they only take into consideration the legally registered guns. I don’t have a clue how the statisticians would gather information on illegal guns because there aren’t any records. Is there a way? I am not aware of the number of mass shootings in Nicaragua, but I suspect it is very, very low.

      • The murder rates in the US are vary tremendously by region. Some large cities have murder rates as high as 40 per 100,000; many suburbs have almost no murder or crime of any kind (my parents lived in suburbs and the only burglaries we had to deal with were off a recreational boat moored out from town). Nicaragua over all has a higher murder rate than the US over all, but as with the US, it’s not the same in all areas.

        Being the safest country in Central America (crime rates are going up in Costa Rica and murder has been going down here) DOES NOT mean the country is safer than the average middle class suburbs in the US.

        The myth of here being safer than the US to be a persistent and often costly myth for people, especially if they’re drawn to San Juan del Sur which does have nasty and confrontative crime at least once a year since I’ve been here.

        Less violent crime? True outside San Juan del Sur.

        Everyone living out in coffee country has stuff stolen, normally by the help, mostly petty stuff. One expat had a water pump stolen and when he fired the thief, the thief took him to the labor relations court (the expat did win on the firing but the guy didn’t do time for the theft), a laptop (recovered by being bought back when a technical asked to work on the laptop got in touch with the owner), and other stuff.

        You can live well enough here taking the same care you’d take to live in Philadelphia or New Orleans.

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