Owning Guns in Belgium – What’s the Law?

A look into the legislation for weapons and permits in Belgium.

A few days after a tragic shooting took place in a school in Florida, another debate was launched on the regulation of arms acquisition in the United States. It seems Donald Trump is unlikely to pursuit restrictions on arms as he raised no problem about the current legal framework. Today, Mr. Trump suggested to arm teachers with guns in an attempt to prevent mass shootings, a move certain to prove fiercely divisive.

Proponents of stricter gun regulation in the USA often point to Europe and it’s low gun-crime due to the strict measures in obtaining firearms; so what is the law surrounding firearms in Belgium? Do the citizens have the ability to own guns?

The Belgian legal framework is rather rigid, whatever the case, and with regards to weapons permits, there are several categories in which users must comply with to get a weapon. Gunsmiths, collectors, hunters, and marksmen may be given specific acceptions when it comes to the purchase and use of a weapon. If you’re an ordinary citizen, general conditions apply.

The conditions are firstly about distinguishing three categories of weapons: the prohibited weapons (such as antipersonnel landmines, military weapons, flick knives), the weapons subject to restriction (i.e., guns or rifles) and the free-access ones (certain bayonets and neutralised arms). Should you fill some minor criteria, there are no restrictions on purchasing free-access weapons.

The main point is therefore about purchasing weapons subject to conditions. The “Services provinciaux des armes”  will check whether a citizen fits the criteria for ownership. The applicant must not be under 18 years-old, must have no criminal record, must not be mentally unstable, and must not live with someone who would be restricted to weapons. After filling in the additional documents, the “Services provinciaux des armes” will answer within four months. If approved initially, you will need to undergo theoretical and practical tests to assess whether you can be entitled to have weapons.

But the main issue surely lies within the reason. If you’re not a hunter or a marksman, which legitimate reason should give you the right to purchase an arm?

More information about the Belgian legal gun framework (French and Dutch)