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Uruguay has the longest democratic history and one of the lowest rates of violence of any Latin American country.1 The country possesses a relatively small military arsenal, but civilian gun ownership is very high: Uruguay has the most heavily armed civilian population on the continent. For decades, the prevalence of arms possession was not considered a priority in the country;2 however, in recent years, the levels of suicides, gun crimes and smuggling have increased.3

The country’s guiding gun control legislation dates back to 1943. Uruguay has signed and ratified the Arms Trade Treaty.4 In order to improve the effectiveness of the Programme of Action on Small Arms, Uruguay participates in meetings and informal institutional communications with regional and international agencies, such as meetings of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) Working Group on Firearms and Ammunition.5


1 Pablo Dreyfus et al., Small Arms Control in Mercosur, Viva Rio and Security and Peacebuilding Programme  (London: International Alert, 2003),

2 Aaron Karp, Surplus Arms in South America: A Survey (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2009),

3 Bertelsmann Stiftung, BTI Country Report 2022: Uruguay (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2022),

4 Philip Alpers, Amélie Rossetti and Daniel Salinas, Uruguay – Gun Facts, Figures and the Law (, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, 2022),

5 Ilhan Berkol et al., Improving the Effectiveness of the Programme of Action on Small Arms Assessing Coordination Mechanisms (Geneva: UN Institute for Disarmament Research, 2011),

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Map of Uruguay

Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, no accidental explosions have been reported in Uruguay.

Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021,

Cases of diversion

Numerous cases of diversion have been reported in Uruguay.

Table 1. Cases of diversion of arms, ammunition and explosives in Uruguay





Throughout the country

Ten attacks on police officers led to the officers’ firearms being stolen. 


Throughout the country

There were 32 attempted thefts of arms from the military barracks. In one case, a group of men stole two high-powered assault rifles from an infantry base.


Santa Bernardina

About 18,000 pieces of ammunition were stolen from the air force base and then sold to criminal groups in Brazil.


Treinta y Tres

Police officers stole more than 200 firearms from police stockpiles and sold them to Brazilian criminal groups.



Weapons were stolen from the air force base and then sold to Brazilian criminal groups.

Sources: “Uruguay Tries to Make Sense of Repeated Attacks on Police,” InSight Crime News, March 13, 2020,; “Attempted Thefts from Uruguay Military Arsenal Raise Concerns,” InSight Crime News, April 16, 2016,; “Uruguay an Important Weapons Source for LatAm Criminals?” InSight Crime News, July 14, 2015,; “Uruguayan Police Suspected of Selling Guns to Brazilian Gangs,” InSight Crime News, November 14, 2012,


To decrease the above-mentioned risks of accidental explosions and diversion, Uruguay regularly disposes of its ammunition. There is insufficient information, however, about the number of tonnes of ammunition disposed of.

Source: Aaron Karp, Surplus Arms in South America.


To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following needs have been identified for Uruguay:

  • Development or refinement of standards and procedures on stockpile management, particularly assistance related to model regulations, training workshops for public control officials, installations and security measures; and
  • Capacity development for the destruction of surplus stockpiles, particularly financial assistance.

Source: Uruguay, National Report on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) (New York: Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the UN, 2018),

Published Date: Monday 21 of August 2023