IP-3-2011 (May 2011)
Author: Jonathan Edward Shaw
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The year 2010 marked the bicentennial of independence for several Latin American nations, including Colombia. Colombians celebrated the bicentennial of their nation in Bogotá’s Plaza Bolívar underneath an inscription on the building that houses the Colombian Constitutional Court that reads “Colombianos, las armas os han dado la independencia, las leyes os darán libertad” Colombians, arms have given you independence, laws will give you liberty). These words, spoken by Colombian revolutionary Francisco de Paula Santander, express the important roles of arms and liberty in Colombia.1 Thus, it seems fitting to analyze one of the fundamental freedoms that Colombia adopted at its independence and has maintained throughout its turbulent existence: the right of the citizen to possess and carry arms.
This Issue Paper provides English translations of the current laws that regulate the possession of weapons in Colombia. Part I provides a brief overview of Colombian constitutional history and demonstrates how the freedom to possess weapons for personal and collective defense is an integral part of Colombia’s history. Part II offers an English translation of relevant articles from Colombia’s current constitution. Part III summarizes the present laws that regulate weapons in Colombia, the system of permits, and how the natural right of self-defense is viewed in Colombia. Part IV presents an English translation of the full text of the three laws that regulate the possession of weapons in Colombia.