International Focus: Italy
Basic Laws for Ownership and Use of Firearms in Italy

by Sergio Natali for The M1911 Pistols Organization

Firearms Ownership

Here in Italy an Italian citizen who has never had problems with the law*and who has a Gun Licence or an Authorization*can own:
  • Three “ordinary weapons” (ordinary weapons are the handguns and rifles that are not strictly for sport use and which are not firearms types/models used by the Italian Army /Police.)*
  • Twelve*“sporting weapons”*(for instance, handguns with adjustable rear sights, suitable for target shooting, are considered sport pistols.)
  • No limits for hunting rifles.
  • Maximum of only 200 cartridges.


The duration of the Gun Licence for hunting and sports use has been recently reduced from 6 to 5 years.
Introduction of the category of “Sport Shooters” which will include members of a CONI (Olympic Committee) affiliated shooting range.
One must be a "sports shooter" (as mentioned above) to own demilitarized weapons such as AR-15s, AK47s for instance (although such demilitarized firearms must be limited to semi-automatic operation only).

Italy is a country traditionally considered to be very strict in arms legislation. In reality, although the rules are stricter than in the United States, in our country possession of firearms at home is not that difficult. A month ago as of writing this (as of mid-July 2019) the Government approved a law that adapted Italy to some European regulations, and doubled the possibility of holding weapons “for sports use” (a classification that includes a large number of guns and rifles sometimes do not have much to do with “sport”).

Map of Italy and its location in Europe


Italy is among the developed countries where the number of weapons is lower than the average, or median. In France and Germany, for example, there are about three weapons per ten people while in Italy, even using the largest estimates, there is about one weapon for every five people. By comparison, in the United States there are more weapons than people. (In the U.S., according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center approximately one-third—30 percent—of American households have at least one firearm.) The ratio of firearms per capita in the U.S. exceeds 1:1—there are estimated to be 120.5 firearms for every 100 people in the United States. The corresponding ratio for Italy is 14.4 firearms per 100 people. (According to Wikipedia, this places Italy at number 52 among the nations of the world.)

However, the number of weapons in a country is not a good indicator of how many citizens are “armed.” In fact, weapons enthusiasts usually have more than one weapon each; some even have dozens. Strangely enough, the number of gun licences and authorizations is not officially published by the Ministry of the Interior, but this number is provided privately by monthly firearms sport magazines.

In general, Italy is considered a country where it is not particularly complicated to buy and own firearms although it is certainly much more complicated than in the United States. To keep a weapon at home, it is sufficient to obtain an “Authorization” for the purchase and report the presence of the weapon in the home to the Police. The authorization to purchase is a document for which it is sufficient to have documentation showing your criminal record, to have a Medical Certificate attesting to physical and mental health and to obtain a first “authorization to use guns” from a recognized public shooting range. Those who have carried out military service or activities in the Police force in the last ten years do not need to fulfill this first step.

Once released, the Authorization in theory allows the purchase of up to three ordinary weapons, twelve sports weapons as mentioned above due to the recent decree approved by the Government, and an unlimited number of hunting rifles. However, this Authorization is not often used because it does NOT allow the transport of the weapon except from the place of purchase to the house, and it lasts only 30 days. After 30 days have passed it is necessary to request another if you want buy a new weapon or other ammunition than that required with the first authorization. For this reason, the “Firearms Licence” is much more often preferred, because it gives you permission not only to buy weapons, but also to transport them out of your own house.

Practical competition in Italy

There are different types of “Firearms Licence.” The main ones are those for “personal defense,” for “hunting,” and for “sports” use. The more difficult to obtain is the one for personal defense.

Once requested, it is necessary to wait about two months to receive the actual Licence. Across Italy there are about 1,600 authorized gun shops that sell a wide range of weapons. Italian law is relatively tolerant not only with permits, but also with the type of weapons that can be purchased.

In theory, the law establishes that the possession of “weapons of any kind that due to their strong potential offense are or can be destined for the modern arming of national or foreign troops for the use of war” is strictly forbidden. Weapons that “can use the same ammunition as war weapons” are also prohibited. On paper, these limitations are very strict and prohibit the use of all those weapons and ammunition that are used by the Italian Army and by the Police such as, for instance, the caliber 9mm Parabellum. Because of this limitation, the 9x21 IMI cartridge is used by civilians instead of 9mm Parabellum.

As a curious quirk of Italian law, civilian possession of firearms or ammunition in 5.56x45mm NATO is prohibited, but .223 Remington is allowed. Similarly, 7.62x51mm NATO is prohibited, but .308 Winchester is allowed.

Of course all guns must be only “semi-automatic;” all types of burst weapons are strictly forbidden. But, apart from this limitation, in Italy it is possible to buy a very wide range of weapons, including AK47, AK74, as well as AR-15, previously modified to semi-automatic operation.

This article was kindly contributed by Italian member Mr. Sergio Natali, whom the M1911.ORG team thanks greatly, for his time and effort!

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