When choosing a place to live, it is important for some to know the laws for gun use and ownership of their future home. This post will cover the prevalence of guns in Croatia as well as gun restrictions, laws and information regarding permits.
Speaking as an American afraid of getting popped at a Starbucks whenever I visit my mother country, I am personally not a fan of guns. But I am a fan of information so here is what you can expect with regards to guns in Croatia. To be honest, America could take a cue from Croatia when it comes to common sense gun laws, but it seems purple pigs might sooner fly.
This post only relates to firearm ownership for private citizens. There are special regulations reserved for police officers, members of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia, judicial police, other state bodies and security guards, which will not be covered below.
Gun Ownership in Croatia
According to available data, around 150.000 people legally own approximately 250.000 personal weapons. It is estimated that there are about 500.000 illegally owned weapons meaning they were not procured legally and are not registered.
What is considered a weapon in Croatia?
Croatian law is clear about what is considered to be a weapon and how such weapons can be used. The following four categories are recognized as weapons:
- Category A Weapons – prohibited firearms such as:
- Explosive military missiles and launchers
- Automatic and semi-automatic firearms
- Military and police weapons
- Weapons with silencers
- Explosive devices, etc.
- Category B Weapons – firearms for which you need to be issued a permit to use and own such as:
- Various guns and rifles that can be used in hunting, sports and for personal protection
- Category C Weapons – firearms and weapons that need to be reported to the authorities such as:
- Any firearms that have been restructured to fire munitions without missiles
- Non-harmful irritating substances
- Other active substances or pyrotechnic ammunition
- Acoustic weapons
- Weapons that are collectibles and/or no longer function
- Category D Weapons – weapons that one do not need to be reported to the authorities such as:
- Weapons with a coil force of 450 N or less
- Electric stun guns
- Mace sprays with permitted non-toxic substances
- Cold weapons
- Paintball guns
In summary, all weapons from Category A are prohibited. For weapons from Category B, you must prove grounds to be issued a corresponding permit from the component authority.
Who can own a weapon in Croatia?
Possession of weapons is permitted to all people who legally reside in the Republic of Croatia on the basis of temporary or permanent residence with a valid permit AND who fulfill the following conditions:
Conditions for Weapon Ownership:
- You may own a gun for hunting, sport or for personal reasons, but you need to provide proof with documentation, a certificate and/or evidence that you are an active hunter, that you passed a hunting exam or that you are a member of a club for recreational shooting.
- Ordinary citizens have to be older than 21 to file for a permit. In case of employees of judicial bodies, security guards, active hunters and proven recreation, the minimum permissible age limit for obtaining a permit is 18 years.
- You can’t be charged with any violent crimes or be involved in proceedings as the accused for any type of a violent crime.
- You can’t be charged with any offenses with elements of violence or be involved in proceedings as the accused for any type of offenses with elements of violence.
- You must have secured conditions for safe housing and guarding of weapons, which must be proven with a written statement.
- During a health evaluation, it has the determined that you are of sound body and mind. This certification is a combination of evaluation provided by your chosen primary health care doctor and an elected doctor of medicine with a specialization in psychiatry.
- You have to be able to prove that you possess relevant technical knowledge and skills for the proper use of weapons and you are aware of regulations governing possession of weapons.
Full text of the latest legislation is only available in Croatian language and can be accessed here.
How to get a gun or weapon permit in Croatia
To apply for or inquire about a weapon permit, go to the administrative police station closest to your place of residence.
To purchase a weapon from Category B, you must first be issued a valid permit. This is an example of the form that has been used in the past. The latest version of the form will be available at the police station.
Once that permit is issued and you have purchased the weapon, you must register it within 8 days. An example of the registration document can be found here. Please note that the new legislation that came into effect on October 24, 2018 may require new forms. The above is only an example.
If you require a permit because you are an active hunter or an athlete that requires use of weapons, your associations and/or clubs will be able to advise you regarding necessary documents and certificates you will need to obtain.
If applying for a gun permit on the basis of personal security, you must prove to your local police station that your personal security is compromised or that it could be compromised to such an extent that the only way for you to be safe would be through owning a weapon. The ultimate decision to issue you a permit shall be given by a committee established by the head of the competent authority (usually the police station).
At any point during the process, your petition can be denied. You cannot submit an appeal of the decision issued by the competent body, but you may initiate an administrative dispute.
If you were able to obtain all necessary permits and acquired your weapon, be aware that the competent authority has the obligation to reevaluate your situation once every five years. The main purpose of this is to re-establish whether you still meet all the requirements of your original application.
There are likely fees associated with the above applications, but we were not able to find that information.
What is against the law
The law describes numerous offenses considered to be criminal violations.
It is against the law to:
- Purchase, possess, collect or sell weapons if you do not hold valid permits to handle them
- Sell weapons to a person that doesn’t hold a valid permit, even if you as the seller hold a permit
- Possess ammunition for weapons from Category B if you do not possess the permit to
No matter if you possess the relevant permits or not, it is against the law to:
- Carry or use weapons in any way that were obtained for collection purposes
- Carry a weapon into public institutions where prohibition is clearly stated
- Enable a weapon for a use that it was previously disabled or not intended for
- Keep weapons and ammunition in a manner that is unsafe and insecure
- Endanger others during the cleaning, maintenance and reloading of weapons
- Use of weapons in places where the safety and health of other people may be endangered
- To allow children access to weapons (in cases of sport or hunting associations, special regulations apply)
- Cross the state borders while in possession of weapons and ammunition without reporting them to border police
- Sell the weapons and ammunition across the state borders, without informing border police
Violating any of these regulations (of which there are more) may result in a fine ranging from 5.000 to 40.000 kuna or a sentence of up to 60 days in prison. See Articles 71, 72, 73,74 for a complete list of violations. Ignorance will not get you out of anything.
Where can you buy a weapon in Croatia
Weapons, ammunition and all accompanying accessories in Croatia can be bought in specialized physical shops, online stores and even on Njuškalo.
Category B weapons and ammunition may only be sold or handed over to those who have valid permits or to another authorized arms dealer so use your common sense if you are buying weapons on websites like Njuškalo.
Our research found these legitimate shops:
All of them have clearly stated on their websites that for weapons and ammunition from Category B, the person buying them has to obtain them personally, in the physical store using an I.D and all valid permits.
Gun Laws in Croatia, Then & Now
For a number of years, public discussions regarding possession of weapons in Croatia were centered around the illegal possession of weapons.
In many cases, this illegal possession was in reference to soldiers that kept their weapons after the Homeland War. Since the war, there have been several nation-wide actions, when such weapons could be turned in to the authorities, with no repercussions.
The newest law represents a shift from that discourse. The aim of the newest law is to make the procedure of obtaining a legal weapon simpler for everyone involved.
The biggest change from the previous law is that the health evaluation would need to be done only once for those younger than 70. If older than 70, the health evaluation must be completed once every five years from when the person applied for their first permit.
In the previous law, the health evaluation was required every five years for everyone. With the new law, the responsibility a person’s fitness to own a weapon as it relates to health has been shifted from the person owning a weapon to their primary provider of health care. As it is stipulated now, primary health care providers must alert authorities if there is a change in their patients, which they think makes them no longer fit to own and operate a weapon.
The new law also eliminates some of the old practices. Police officers will no longer perform interviews with friends and relatives of the person submitting the application or perform initial inspections of how the weapon will be kept.
Even though some representatives assessed the new law as defective and implausible, it has only just come into full effect. It will take time to fully assess the impact of the changes.
What do you think of gun laws in Croatia? How do they compare to your home country?