July 30, 1999


Firearms Arrests in Mexico

Many U.S. citizens may be planning to take a trip to Mexico during this busy summer travel season. The Department of State wishes to alert gun owners to leave their guns at home when they go to Mexico. Mexico has severe penalties for taking in any type of firearm, weapon, or ammunition without first obtaining written authorization from Mexican authorities. It does not matter whether U.S. citizens are licensed to carry the firearm in the United States, or if they unintentionally transport it while driving in their vehicle, or have it in their luggage which traveling by commercial or private plane or boat. It also does not matter if visitors to Mexico are U.S. law enforcement or military officials. Mexican authorities strictly enforce laws restricting the entry of firearms and ammunition along their borders and at air or seaports.

Each year dozens of Americans are arrested or fined in Mexico in connection with weapons violations. About 35 U.S. citizens are currently incarcerated in Mexican prisons on weapons-related charges. Many of them inadvertently transported a firearm that they were licensed to carry in the United States without realizing they were violating Mexican laws.

If caught bringing in a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon, Mexican authorities may confiscate a visitor's vehicle or other personal property and place the individual under arrest. Detained Americans may spend months in pre-trial detention while their case is being investigated. If convicted, they may face several years in Mexican prison. While the U.S. consul can visit U.S. citizens in jail, make sure that they are being treated humanely, and provide a list of attorneys to assist with the Mexican judicial process, the U.S. consul cannot get U.S. citizens released from jail.

U.S. citizens who approach Mexico along the land border or who arrive by boat should check carefully to ensure that someone else has not left weapons or ammunition in the vehicle or boat. If U.S. citizen visitors realize they are in possession of firearms, ammunition, or other weapons, they should not proceed into Mexico. They should not attempt to enter Mexico —even to turn around— or go through Mexican Customs. All and border crossings have pulloffs or turnarounds on the U.S. side.

The only way to legally import firearms and ammunition into Mexico is to secure a permit in advance from the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. or from a Mexican Consulate in the United States. Mariners who have obtained a Mexican firearm permit should contact Mexican port officials before attempting to enter Mexican waters, to learn about specific procedures to report and secure weapons and ammunition.

The Department of State's December 1998 Public Announcement warns U.S. citizens about transporting firearms to Mexico —its advice remains valid.

U.S. citizens are reminded not to make a jail stay part of their travels! Instead, they should learn the laws for Mexico or any other country they plan to visit. For the latest information on travel to Mexico or other countries, consult the Bureau of Consular Affairs' home page on the Internet at: http://travel.state.gov.

(Submitted by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State Washington, D.C.)

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