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Summary

The principle legislation relating to firearms control in Egypt is Law No. 394 of 1954.  The Law prohibits the acquisition or possession without a permit of smooth-barrel guns, pistols, and shotguns.  It also sets forth exemptions from the need to obtain a permit to acquire or own a firearm for specified categories of persons, and forbids the licensing of firearms in some cases.  Furthermore, Law No. 394 prohibits the manufacture, import, trade, and repair of weapons, firearms, and their ammunition without a license.  In 2012, article 26 of the Law was amended to enhance the penalties for acquiring and possessing unlicensed firearms and ammunition.  In the same year a presidential decree created a temporary amnesty program for individuals in possession of firearms without a permit. 

There is apparently a lack of enforcement of Law No. 394 due to the deterioration of the security situation after what is known as the “January 25th Revolution.”  One of the key factors leading to the spread of unlicensed weapons in the black market is the rise of smuggled firearms.

In an effort to combat the proliferation of unlicensed firearms, the Egyptian authorities have adopted an array of initiatives and programs.  Those initiatives are aimed at confiscating unlicensed guns and guns stolen from police stations, arresting the smugglers and dealers of illegal firearms, and encouraging individuals possessing unlicensed weapons to surrender those weapons.[*]

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Firearms Licensing Requirements and Restrictions on Use

The principle legislation on firearms control in Egypt is Law No. 394 of 1954.[1]  The Law prohibits the acquisition or possession without a permit of smooth-barrel guns, pistols, and shotguns.[2]

The issuance, withdrawal, and revocation of licenses for firearms permitted under Law No. 394 are the prerogative of the Minister of the Interior.  The chiefs of security in the provinces act on the Minister’s behalf in licensing firearms, while local police chiefs issue permits to possess “white weapons,” such as bayonets, daggers, lances, switchblades, and pointed canes.  The chiefs of security also have the authority to decide which types of firearms will be licensed and the duration of the license. 

Normally, permits are issued for three-year periods and are renewable for three-year periods.  Tourists, however, are issued temporary permits to carry firearms for six-month periods.[3]  All permits are personal; Law No. 394 prohibits the transfer of weapons and firearms to persons who are not licensed to acquire or own weapons and firearms.[4]

Applications for permits must be accompanied by a police record and include the photograph and signature of the applicant.  The permit itself contains the name, age, profession, nationality, and residence of the licensee; a description of the firearm and the purpose for which it is licensed; the date of issue and expiry of the permit; and any conditions imposed on the use of the firearm.  A licensee may occasionally be required to resubmit information and records previously provided with the application for a permit and to notify the authorities of a change of address.  When a licensee loses or relinquishes his firearm by sale or other form of transfer to another licensee or gun merchant, he is required to inform the authorities and hand them his permit for endorsement. The new owner must present the firearm to the authorities for identification purposes.[5]

Law No. 394 prohibits the carrying of weapons and firearms in public places, particularly those where liquor is served; gambling casinos; and where conferences, meetings, and festivals are held.[6]

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Exempt Persons

Law No. 394 of 1954 sets forth exemptions from the need to obtain a permit to acquire or own a firearm for specified categories of persons; however, these individuals are required to notify the police within one month of the acquisition of a firearm.  The first category of individuals includes

  • present and former cabinet ministers;
  • active military officers and certain senior government officials, appointed by presidential decree;
  • former military officers and government officials of the rank of major general and director general;
  • present and former regional governors and directors;
  • members of the diplomatic and consular corps, both Egyptian and foreign, on condition of reciprocity for Egyptian diplomats;
  • certain officials of the Intelligence Service;[7] and
  • present and former members of the People’s Assembly (lower chamber) and Shura Council (upper chamber), who must also provide their local police station with information concerning the number and description of the firearms they own.[8]

The second category of persons exempt from the provisions of Law No. 394 concerning the acquisition and ownership of firearms are village chiefs and rural estate elders, with one firearm permitted per person, as well as members of the armed forces and police as far as government-issued firearms and weapons are concerned.[9]

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Restricted Persons

Law No. 165 of 1981, which amended Law No. 394 of 1954, forbids the licensing of firearms for persons who

  • have not reached twenty-one years of age;
  • have been convicted of a felony or sentenced for a criminal ac or for the illicit use of a firearm, are under parole supervision,
    or have been convicted of trading in explosives or drugs, among others; or
  • suffer from a mental or psychological malady, are vagrants, or are physically incapable of owning and using firearms  (i.e., have poor eyesight or other physical weaknesses that would impair the safe and secure use of a firearm).[10]

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Prohibited Weapons and Equipment

Specified categories of firearms and related equipment, such as automatic assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), gun silencers, and telescopic equipment used with weapons are prohibited.[11]

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Regulation of Manufacturers and Dealers

Law No. 394 of 1954 prohibits the manufacture, import, trade, and repair of weapons, firearms, and their ammunition without a license.[12]  Moreover, the Law imposes restrictions on the location and conditions related to establishments manufacturing or trading and repairing firearms.  For instance, article 15 stipulates that individuals engaged in the sale or repair of firearms must meet certain qualifications.  Article 13 prohibits any trade in or repair of firearms in rural areas.  Article 18 bans the sale and repair of firearms and ammunition in one location.  Article 20 establishes limits on the number of such establishments in each district and province of the country.  Article 24 restricts the transfer of firearms and ammunition from one place to another without a permit.

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Offenses and Penalties

In 2012, Law No. 6 of 2012 amended article 26 of Law No. 394 of 1954.  This article was amended to enhance the penalties for possessing and acquiring unlicensed firearms and ammunition.  It punishes individuals that acquire or possess without a permit those firearms described in Schedule 2 of the Law, such as shotguns, with a prison term and a fine that may not exceed EGP5,000 (approximately US$782).  The punishment increases to a fine not exceeding EGP15,000 (about US$2,347) and a term of hard labor if the firearms in question are among the weapons described in part 1 of Schedule 3, such as pistols of all kinds and guns with rifled barrels.  The amended article also enhances the punishment for acquiring or possessing the firearms described in part 2 of Schedule 3, such as machine guns, automatic assault rifles, and explosives, to include life imprisonment with hard labor and a fine not exceeding EGP20,000 (about US$3,129). 

Similarly, under the amended article 26, the acquisition and possession, without a permit, of ammunition for all types of weapons mentioned in Schedules 2 and 3 is punishable by a prison term and a fine not exceeding EGP5,000 (about US$782).  If the accused has a previous criminal record, the punishment must be life imprisonment and a fine that may not exceed EGP20,000 (about US$3,129).

Likewise, the amendment penalizes individuals committing the crime of acquiring or possessing in public places non-permitted weapons (and related ammunition) or explosives with hard labor or life imprisonment with hard labor, and a fine that may not exceed EGP20,000 (about US$3,129).  The term “public places” includes modes of public transportation and places of worship.  If an individual intended to use those weapons or ammunition in any act against public order and security or to undermine the system of government, the constitution, national unity and social harmony, he must be punished by the death penalty.[13]

Under article 28 of Law No. 394, the penalty for the manufacture, import, sale, and repair of firearms listed under Schedule 2 of the Law without a license is imprisonment and a fine of between EGP500 and EGP1,000.  The punishment is imprisonment with an enhanced penalty of hard labor for the crime of manufacturing, importing, selling, and repairing firearms listed in Schedule 3, part 1 of the Law.  In the case of firearms listed in Schedule 3, part 2, the punishment is life imprisonment with hard labor.[14]

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Amnesty

Presidential Decree 90-2012 of 2012 amended article 31(a) of Law No. 394 by creating an amnesty for individuals who acquire or possess firearms without a permit.  Under this Decree, individuals who surrender their illegal weapons to the police will not be charged.  Amended article 31(a) provides that individuals possessing or acquiring firearms or ammunition mentioned under Schedules 2 and 3 of the Law without a permit will have amnesty.  There will be no charges or convictions if those individuals surrendered the unlicensed weapons and ammunition to the Directorate of Police or police station within 180 days from the enforcement date of Decree 90-2012 (October 14, 2012).  Individuals who stole firearms and hid them are also exempt if they return the stolen firearms during the 180-day grace period.[15]

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Enforcement and Current Practices

The Scope of the Problem

Apparently, Law No. 394 is not being enforced at present due to the deterioration of the security situation in Egypt following the “January 25th Revolution”[16]— the popular uprising that began on that date in 2011, which led to the downfall of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.  Ordinary citizens rushed to purchase all types of firearms, such as shotguns, homemade rifles, pistols, and automatic weapons, in the face of the security vacuum created in the months after the January Revolution.[17]  Reflecting the lack of enforcement, an illegal arms manufacturer recently acknowledged his trade in an interview with The Egyptian Gazette and stated that, unlike before, he is not afraid of being raided by the police.[18]

In spite of the enhanced sanctions against individuals possessing or acquiring firearms illegally, the trade of unlicensed firearms has increased at an alarming rate.  Illegal firearms circulating in the markets are smuggled, made at home, or stolen from the police.[19]  The high demand for unlicensed firearms, despite their illegality, has caused their prices to double and triple in some cases.  For instance, the price of a smuggled AK47 has reached EGP60,000 (about US$9,000) in some cases, compared to the previous cost of EGP15,000 to EGP20,000 (about US$2,347–$3,129).  Locally-made shotguns that take 16mm and 12mm cartridges, which previously sold for EGP300–500 (US$46–$76) now cost EGP1,000 to 2,000 (US$153–$307).[20]  Stolen police pistols are priced from EGP200–300 (US$30–$46).  Finally, the price of a new, locally-made 9mm handgun, known as a “Hilwan,” reached EGP16,000 (about US$2,457), compared to EGP4,000 (US$616) previously.[21]

Shotguns and homemade rifles are used on the streets on a daily basis against law enforcement personnel and private citizens.  For example, street vendors used homemade rifles to shoot at the police in one of the main squares of Cairo in October 2012.  This shooting incident led to the injury of two policemen and the death of one street vendor.[22]  In another incident in December 2012 where firearms were used among private citizens, shotguns caused the death of ten people during clashes between the supporters and opponents of current Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.[23]

According to news reports, the number of unlicensed weapons in Sinai increased by 50% after January 25, 2011.  Unlicensed firearms are commonly used by tribesmen and tribal chiefs in Sinai to protect their land and families.[24]   Illegal firearms are also used in Sinai by a group of individuals calling themselves “Global Jihad.”  In recent months, those jihadists carried out multiple terrorist attacks against Egyptian police and army personnel operating in the region.[25] 

Routes of Smuggled Firearms

One of the principle factors leading to the spread of unlicensed weapons in the black market is the rise of smuggled firearms.  There are two main routes for smuggling firearms into Egypt: Libya (the western border) and Sudan (the southern border).

Media outlets have reported that there was a significant surge in the number of smuggled weapons from Libya after the overthrow of Muammar al Gahdafi’s regime.  Smuggled weapons not only include light firearms, such as automatic and sniper rifles, but also heavy weaponry.  These types of weapons include heavy projectiles, rocket-propelled grenades, Grad rockets, and anti-aircraft ammunition.[26] 

Similarly, firearms dealers took advantage of the armed conflict in Darfur and Chad by smuggling illegal weapons to Egypt.  According to news reports, firearms and ammunition are smuggled from Sudan and Chad through southern Egypt.  Bedouin tribes cross the desert from Chad to Sudan with all types of weapons left over from tribal warfare.  They then bring the weapons across the Egyptian border.  Once these weapons arrive in southern Egypt, they are shipped to Cairo to be sold.[27] 

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Programs and Initiatives Addressing Unlicensed Guns

In an effort to combat the use of unlicensed firearms, the Egyptian authorities have adopted an array of initiatives and programs.  Those initiatives are aimed at confiscating unlicensed guns and guns stolen from police stations, arresting smugglers and dealers of illegal firearms, and encouraging individuals possessing and acquiring unlicensed weapons to surrender those weapons.

In recent months, the Ministry of Interior (in charge of homeland security) stepped up its campaign against dealers of unlicensed firearms.  For example, the Minister of Interior reportedly declared in August 2012 that police forces were able to confiscate 20,000 unlicensed weapons in Sinai in the previous months.[28]  As of January 2012, the Ministry of Interior announced that it was able to locate and confiscate 5,415 pieces of firearms that were stolen from police stations, according to news reports.  Law enforcement personnel also succeeded in confiscating 11,768 unlicensed firearms from private citizens.[29]

Members of the police force worked closely with the army to intercept shipments of smuggled, illegal weapons and to arrest smugglers.  For example, border guards and police forces in the western border areas created various security checkpoints on the highways and patrolled the desert areas located closest to the borders.  In a recent incident, security officials were able to confiscate 108 Grad rockets (ground-to-ground missiles) and 400,000 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition.[30]

The Egyptian government has adopted various amnesty programs to encourage citizens to surrender their unlicensed firearms.  In September 2012, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi announced in media outlets the amnesty program mentioned above that was created by the amendment of article 31(a) of Law 394 of 1954.[31]  In June 2011, the Minister of Interior announced that the Ministry would offer financial awards to individuals who surrendered their unlicensed weapons.  He also promised that the Ministry would facilitate administrative procedures related to the issuance of licenses for weapons.[32]  Likewise, in an effort to curb the use of unlicensed firearms, in August 2011, the Minister of Interior issued a decision that exempts those who surrender their unlicensed and stolen police weapons from legal accountability and grants them licenses to carry firearms for the purpose of self-defense.[33]

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Prepared by George Sadek
Senior Legal Information Analyst
February 2013

*A previous version of this report was prepared by George N. Sfeir of the Law Library staff in August 1997.


[1] Law No. 394 of 1954, Al Jaridah al Rasmiyah [Official Gazette] No. 53 bis of July 8, 1954.

[2] Id. art. 1, sched. 2, sched. 3 pt. 1, & sched. 3 pt. 2, respectively.

[3] Id. arts. 2–4.

[4] Id. art. 3.

[5] Id. art. 4.

[6] Id. art. 11.

[7] Id. art. 5.

[8] Law No. 162 of 2003, 50 Al Jaridah al Rasmiyah 2003, Dec. 12, 2003, p. 2.

[9] Law No. 394 of 1954, art. 5.

[10] Law No. 165 of 1981, 42 Al Jaridah al Rasmiyah 1981, Dec. 12, 1981, pp. 4–8.

[11] Law No. 394 of 1954, art. 1.

[12] Id. art. 12.

[13] Law No. 6 of 2012, 2 Al Jaridah al Rasmiyah 2012, Jan. 12, 2012, pp. 5–8.

[14] Law No. 394 of 1954, art. 28.

[15] Presidential Decree 90-2012, 41 Al Jaridah al Rasmiyah 2012, Oct. 14, 2012, p. 3.

[16] Mohammed Elmeshad, Smuggled, Stolen and Homemade, Guns Flood Egypt’s Streets, Egypt Independent (June 26, 2011), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/smuggled-stolen-and-homemade-guns-flood-egypt%E2%80%99s-streets.

[17] Id.

[18] Mohssen Arishie, Panicking Egyptians Snap up Homemade Guns, The Egyptian Gazette (May 30, 2012), http://213.158.162.45/~egyptian/index.php?action=news&id=18688&title=Panicking%20Egyptians%20 snap%20up%20home-made%20guns.

[19] According to news reports, more than 11,000 firearms were stolen from police stations and prisons when they were stormed by gangs and thugs on January 28, 2011.  Minister of Interior: New Regulation to Deal with Unlicensed Firearms, Al Ahram Newspaper (Jan. 7, 2012), http://digital.ahram.org.eg/articles.aspx?Serial= 759289&eid=145 (in Arabic).

[20] Elmeshad, supra note 16.

[21] Dena Rashad, Sticking to One’s Guns?, Al Ahram Weekly (June 15, 2011), http://weekly.ahram. org.eg/2011/1051/eg72.htm.

[22] Police Shoot Street Vendor Dead, Al Masry al Youm (Oct. 15, 2012), http://www.egyptindependent. com/news/police-shoot-street-vendor-dead.

[23] Report: Live Ammo, Bird Shot Killed Protestors at Presidential Palace, Egypt Independent (Dec. 21, 2012), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/report-live-ammo-bird-shot-killed-protesters-presidential-palace.

[24] Interior Minister: Sinai Citizens Have Role in Protecting Egypt’s Borders, Egypt Independent (Aug. 10, 2012), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/interior-minister-sinai-citizens-have-role-protecting-egypt-s-borders.

[25] Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Egypt’s President Condemns Deadly Attack in Sinai, CNN (Aug. 8, 2012), http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/06/world/africa/egypt-violence/index.html.

[26] Police Find Prohibited Firearms, Ammunition Northeast of Cairo, Egypt Independent (Apr. 06, 2012), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/rpg-and-ammunition-found-fayed-news-2.

[27] Elmeshad, supra note 16.

[28] Egypt Independent, supra note 24.

[29] Al Ahram Newspaper, supra note 19.

[30] Authorities Intercept Weapons Smuggling from Libya, Egypt Independent (Nov. 21, 2012), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/authorities-intercept-weapons-smuggling-libya.

[31] Magdy Samaan, Egyptians Will Not Hand Over Weapons to Morsi, The Atlantic Council (Sept. 21, 2012), http://www.acus.org/files/Samaan%209.21.pdf (in Arabic), and http://www.acus.org/?q=print/71739 (in English).

[32]Interior Ministry Declares Firearms Amnesty Until End of June, Egypt Independent (June 22, 2011), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/interior-ministry-declares-firearms-amnesty-until-end-june.

[33] Yousry el Badry, Interior Ministry to Grant Arms Licenses to Those Who Hand in Stolen Weapons, Egypt Independent (Aug. 13, 2011), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/interior-ministry-grant-arms-licenses-those-who-hand-stolen-weapons

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Last Updated: 09/16/2014