Part of being a prepper is being able to defend yourself and your family from threats. Many preppers feel more secure with a supply of firearms and wouldn’t dream of having to give them up. However, if you are planning on becoming an expat prepper, the gun laws of the country you are moving to might be prohibitive.
There are many challenges with being an expat, let alone challenges with being an expat prepper. If you are from a country that cherishes its gun rights, like the United States, the idea of living without guns may be difficult to imagine. Americans to figure out how to defend yourself in such a country might be overwhelming.
After all, 46% of the world’s civilian-owned guns are the property of US citizens. Guns are not illegal in all countries. However, it may be more difficult to obtain permits if you are not a natural-born citizen of that country. Let’s look at a few countries’ gun laws.
Canadian Gun Laws
In Canada, guns like traditional hunting rifles are classified as non-restricted. Restricted firearms are those like handguns, and automatic weapons are prohibited entirely. To carry a “non-restricted” firearm you’ll need to take a firearms safety course, pass a test, submit to a background check, and provide reference interviews.
For restricted firearms, you’ll need to take an additional course. Carrying guns primarily for self-defense against humans is prohibited; although you can get a wilderness carry permit for protection against wild animals. You can bring a non-prohibited gun into Canada with a temporary permit for 60-days as a non-citizen. This is primarily to accommodate hunting tourism.
Australian Gun Laws
In Australia, you are required to show a genuine need for a particular kind of gun and take a safety course to get a license. Self-defense is not considered a genuine need. You’ll also need to demonstrate you are a “fit and proper person” as well as prove your identity with specific forms of identification. The importation of weapons is controlled by the federal government.
Israeli Gun Laws
Gun laws are more lenient in Israel since military service is compulsory. At conscription, new recruits go through psychological screening and are given weapons training. Private handgun licenses can be obtained by any citizen who has gone through this combat training. You must be a resident for at least three consecutive years; speak passable Hebrew; pass a criminal, health, and mental history check; have a reason to carry a weapon; have an acceptable gun safe; and pass a training course and retake that course every three years as long as you have a permit. Those who wish to have a gun for self-defense can only own one handgun and may only purchase 50 cartridges every year.
United Kingdom Gun Laws
The United Kingdom has some of the strictest gun regulations in the world. Unless you live in Northern Ireland, handgun possession is prohibited. Not even the police carry guns. Automatic and semi-automatic firearms are banned. To apply for a permit, you must demonstrate you have had no criminal convictions, no alcohol or drug-dependence, no history of depression or other nervous disorders, do not have epilepsy, a good reason for having a gun, and have a secure gun safe. Personal defense is only acceptable as a reason for gun ownership in Northern Ireland.
Mexican Gun Laws
In Mexico, legal residents and citizens can carry guns but are subject to certain regulations.
To obtain a permit, you must have no criminal record, proven income and residence, gone through compulsory military service, pass a drug test, have a job, and have a justifiable reason. You are permitted one handgun for self-defense and must be purchased from the Ministry of Defense.
Other Ways to Defend Yourself as an Expat Prepper
If you’re contemplating a seasonal or permanent move to another country, the reality is you may have to go without firearms. That doesn’t mean you’re left entirely defenseless, however. There are other options you can consider.
Tasers and Stun Guns
Although legal in most of the United States, other countries have a less lenient view of these non-lethal weapons. Civilians are not authorized to own or use any sort of electroshock weapon in most countries, although police officers and military personnel may have access to tasers as part of their weapons arsenal.
Don’t think you can be sneaky about carrying a taser or stun gun either. In the UK, if a taser is discovered disguised as another object, such as a flashlight or cell phone, you’ll get 5 years in prison. If you own want in its original design, it’s 10 years and an unlimited fine.
Stun guns are a viable, non-lethal option in the U.S., regardless of any expat plans. A good stun gun, like the Vipertek VTS-989, costs less than a box of ammunition, is rechargeable, and also has an LED light!
Pepper spray is also known as capsaicin spray and can be categorized along with dog control and anti-bear sprays. These sprays work by temporarily blinding the animal or person that gets it in their eyes. It is painful, causes the eyes to become inflamed, and can cause shortness of breath.
Pepper spray is illegal to carry in even small amounts in some countries including the UK, Iceland, Sweden, Belgium, China, and Denmark. Having pepper spray in a country where it is banned may result in a fine, prison time or even deportation, so do your research.
Switzerland, Germany, India, Finland, and Portugal allow you to carry pepper spray if you have a special license to do so. Some countries, like Canada, may allow you to carry it but if you use it against a person you can be charged with assault, fined or sent to jail.
Like the stun gun above, pepper spray is also a viable, non-lethal self-defense option right in the U.S. SABRE Advanced Pepper Spray is not only compact, but costs less than a hoity toity coffee at Starbucks!
You may have some wiggle room in the tactical baton category. Although there are restrictions in some countries, odds are if you aren’t carrying it about in the street, no one will make a fuss about your possession of one.
There are some exceptions, however. Canada prohibits spring-loaded batons. Ireland has banned telescopic truncheons. The UK enacted the Offensive Weapons Act in 2019 which took away the legality of tactical batons even when kept at home.
It’s common in Mexico to stroll through the countryside with a machete and nobody bats an eye. We keep an extra machete in our truck and on the front of the motorcycle for situations that may arise. Not all countries are as lenient with knife laws though.
There are no restrictions on knife possession as long as they are not used to commit a crime in the Czech Republic. Fixed blade and folding knives can be bought in France but not carried. If they are kept in a vehicle, they must be in a locked compartment.
Ex-Pat Self-Defense if All Else Fails
If you are still uncertain about the legality of a tactical baton, taser, pepper spray, or knife after reading the laws of the country you are living in, it may be better to choose a tactical flashlight or solid baseball bat as your primary self-defense weapon.
Want more information? This Wiki page actually has a great overview of gun laws by nation.
Of course, your biggest self-defense strategy isn’t any particular item at all – it’s your mind. Be smart, maintain situational awareness, employ the gray man concept, and be vigilant. This applies whether you’re in a foreign country or not.