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Those wishing to obtain firearms must apply for a Firearms Owners License. This allows them to buy firearms and apply for any other firearms licenses or permits. Portuguese citizens are allowed to own firearms for hunting, target-shooting, pest control and collecting. Self defense is not considered a legal reason for owning a firearm.
Portuguese gun culture is similar to gun culture in Spain. Gun rights organizations in Portugal use sporting as their reason. Portugal and Spain also host many international shooting competitions between the two Iberian countries.
About 22.1 out of every 100 Portuguese citizens own a firearm. Portugal's main gun lobby is the Portugal Sport Shooting Association (PSSA).
Some automatic assault rifles are legal in Portugal, as Portugal along with Yemen and Pakistan is one of the few countries that allows citizens to have fully automatic weapons. This had caused concern with many other European Union and United Nations member states, who have threatened Portugal with expulsion of membership if it did not control its firearm usage among civilians.
The National Firearms Center
The National Firearms Center (Portuguese: Centro Nacional de Armas de Fogo) or the NFC was created by the Polícia de Segurança Pública, Portugal's national police. The NFC handles all licensing and regulations of firearms. It also deals with solving firearms-related crimes.
The NFC consists of Firearms Chief Officers, FCO.
The NFC also offers educational and training courses for firearms license applicants.
Firearms Owners License
A Firearms Owners License (FOL) is required for a person to purchase a firearm and any permit towards firearms. This type of license allows a citizen to purchase a rifle or shotgun. In order to apply for an FOL, a person must be a minimum of 18 years of age. They must also submit a thorough background check, mental exams as well as their intent for purchasing a firearm. Legal reasons would be target sport shooting, hunting or collecting. Self defense is not a legal reason. There is a mandatory one-month waiting period. The person is also required to interview and go through scrutiny with police. The police has final say in whether to issue or reject an FOL. A person with criminal or mental illness history may or may not be rejected, which depends on the severity of their past. An FOL must be renewed every five years. Renewal is free of charge. Failure to renew an FOL may result in not only revocation of a license as well as confiscation of all guns. However, people may contest a revocation at court, given that they had a legitimate reason for failing to comply with license renewal laws such as illness, injury or military service at the time or date of expiration. If the person is acquitted, then they will be given a seven-day grace period to renew their FOL in which their firearms will be returned to them upon completion of renewal. However if the court rejects a petition, that person will have to pay a fine and wait 365 days and re-apply for a new FOL. Confiscated weapons will not be returned. A second violation will result in not only confiscation but also a three-year wait until the person can re-apply for a new FOL as well as imprisonment. A third violation will permanently prohibit a person from re-applying for a new FOL.
A Handgun Permit is required to purchase pistols and side-arms. A person must be minimum age of 24 years old. The requirements for a handgun license is the same as an FOL, but a person must submit three references. Handgun Permits must be renewed every 4 years. Failure to renew handgun permits will result in confiscation of pistols. An non-renewed and expired FOL will render a handgun permit invalid and null. A person must have an FOL to apply for a Handgun Permit. People under 24 however are legally allowed to rent handguns for sporting use.
Sport Shooting Authorization Certificate
An FOL holder wishing to use a firearm for sport shooting at a range must apply for an SSAC, or a Sport Shooting Authorization Certificate. In order to apply for an SSAC, a person must take training classes, as well as take a physical exam proving that he or she is capable of holding and operating a firearm. Afterwards, upon completion, the applicant is issued an SSAC and the person can then go to a range and use their weapons. An SSAC must be shown at all times at the range upon request. An SSAC must also be present if the person is entering a sporting competition. An SSAC must be renewed every three years. An expiration of an FOL that is not renewed will void an SSAC of any validation.
All firearms in Portugal must be registered with the NFC, no exceptions. Firearms dealers are required to record all transactions.
Registration of a firearm is required from both the gun dealer and the person purchasing the firearm. This is meant to curb and prevent firearms trafficking. The person must also register their address, and must notify the NFC of any address changes.
A person may also not use a firearm, even with an SSAC until a Firearms Chief Officer signs and approves the registration form. All registration forms are approved, and in extreme rare cases do police ever reject a registration of a gun. People wishing to use firearms for sport shooting at a range are required to show their police-approved registration form. Anybody caught discharging an unregistered firearm will have their FOL suspended for 30 days as well as temporary confiscation of their firearms. A person may file an "Accidental Non-Intentional Discharge Petition" or an ANIDP for a court hearing for amnesty. An ANIPD is a petition stating that the violation of the registration law was of accidental means and the person had no intention of breaking the laws. If the person had a police-approved registration, but not present with them at the range, then their prosecution will be dropped to a warning on their FOL, and their firearms returned. An FOL owner is allotted a total of three warnings, a fourth violation will result in permanent confiscation of firearms. The person will also no longer be eligible to re-apply for a new FOL.
Storage and transportation laws
With an SSAC, a person may only bring their firearm to a gun range. When not in use, the weapon must be safely stored in a locker or a vault unloaded. The ammunition must be separate. When transporting the firearm, it must be in an opaque case, with the ammunition and magazine separated. Guns must also have trigger locks when not in use.
It is considered a felony to leave a loaded and unlocked firearm unattended. Doing so will result in confiscation of firearms, it will be up to the court to decide how long and whether the person being convicted will be trusted to receive his weapons back.
All firearms are inspected at the range by either a licensed instructor, or a Chief Firearms Officer.