HomeNewsEcuador Eases Access to Guns Amid Spike in Violence

Ecuador Eases Access to Guns Amid Spike in Violence


Ecuador is allowing civilians to carry guns in response to growing insecurity, potentially worsening the country's violence by giving criminals greater access to weapons.

President Guillermo Lasso announced a decree on April 1 that lifts a 12-year-old ban on civilians carrying firearms.

"Ecuadorians, we have a common enemy: delinquency, drug trafficking, and organized crime," he said.

SEE ALSO: Ecuador's Navy Grappling With Mounting Evidence of Criminal Collusion

Those who seek to carry a gun must be over 25 and pass a psychological evaluation, a drug test, and receive a certificate of skill in handling and using firearms. Anyone with a criminal record or history of domestic violence remains banned from purchasing a firearm. Ecuador's pre-existing gun law specifies that civilians may only own "personal defense" weapons, meaning specific types of pistols, revolvers, and shotguns.

The president's announcement comes amid a period of extreme violence in the country. Last year, murders in Ecuador rose more than 80%, with experts pointing the finger at the country's drug trafficking groups.

Over the last two years, gangs have driven a dramatic rise in bloodshed in prisons, set off car bombs in major cities, and slaughtered judicial officials. As well as inflicting violence, gangs have sought to terrorize the population with acts like hanging bodies from overpasses.

InSight Crime Analysis

The removal of weapons restrictions comes in response to growing security fears among Ecuador's civilians, but similar strategies have gone awry elsewhere in Latin America.

In Brazil, loosened gun laws led to some legally purchased weapons falling into the possession of criminals. The same could happen in Ecuador, said Carla Álvarez Velasco, professor at Ecuador's National Institute of Higher Studies (Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales - IAEN Ecuador).

"They are using gasoline to put out the fire," Álvarez Velasco said.

SEE ALSO: Murder Record Broken in Northern Ecuador as Gang Feuds Fuel Violence

The situation differs somewhat from that in Brazil. There, loosened laws saw gangs accessing legally bought, high-powered weapons such as assault rifles. But Ecuador's rules limit citizens to carrying only weapons of "personal defense," meaning criminals will not be given a new avenue to acquiring military-grade weaponry.

Nevertheless, criminals in Ecuador can access firearms that are prohibited for civilians via arms trafficking from other countries in the region and security forces trafficking weapons to gangs. Reliable estimations of how many guns are already in the country are hard to come by. Assemblymember Esteban Torres, who has voiced support for removing weapons restrictions, claimed in December 2020 there were between 350,000 and 400,000 illegal firearms in the country.

Notably, the restrictions lifted by Lasso were put in place in 2011 by former President Rafael Correa during a time of increasing violence. Ecuador's murder rate dropped precipitously in the years following the band, reaching a low of 5.7 per 100,000 in 2017. But violence has skyrocketed in recent years, pushing the murder rate to a record 25.7 per 100,000 last year, as a result of gang competition over drug trafficking routes and other criminal economies.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Corruption, no supervision, and poor legislation have led to Latin American military weapons ending up in criminal hands.


Paraguay will hold its presidential elections on April 30. Here, we break down how each candidate will tackle political corruption.


Corruption and a lack of traceability allow military munitions to flow into the hands of criminals in Paraguay.

About InSight Crime


Open Position: Social Media and Engagement Strategist

27 MAY 2023

InSight Crime is looking for a Social Media and Engagement Strategist who will be focused on maintaining and improving InSight Crime’s reputation and interaction with its audiences through publishing activities…


Venezuela Coverage Receives Great Reception

27 MAY 2023

Several of InSight Crime’s most recent articles about Venezuela have been well received by regional media. Our article on Venezuela’s colectivos expanding beyond their political role to control access to…


InSight Crime's Chemical Precursor Report Continues

19 MAY 2023

For the second week in a row, our investigation into the flow of precursor chemicals for the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico has been cited by multiple regional media…


InSight Crime’s Chemical Precursor Report Widely Cited


We are proud to see that our recently published investigation into the supply chain of chemical precursors feeding Mexico’s synthetic drug production has been warmly received.


InSight Crime’s Paraguay Election Coverage Draws Attention 

5 MAY 2023

InSight Crime looked at the various anti-organized crime policies proposed by the candidates in Paraguay’s presidential election, which was won on April 30 by Santiago Peña. Our pre-election coverage was cited…