Firearms regulation in South Africa

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In South Africa, the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 regulates the possession of firearms by civilians. Possession of a firearm is conditional on a competency test and several other factors, including background checking of the applicant, inspection of an owner's premises, and licensing of the weapon by the police introduced in July 2004. In 2010, the process was undergoing review, [1] as the police were not able to timely process either competency certification, new licences or renewal of existing licences. Minimum waiting period used to exceed 2 years from date of application. [2] The Central Firearms Registry implemented a turnaround strategy that has significantly improved the processing period of new licences. The maximum time allowed to process a licence application is now 90 days. [3] [4]


Current law

In South Africa, citizens or permanent residents (over the age of 21 years generally, but if need can be shown then technically no age limit applies) who wish to own firearms are required to obtain a licence per individual firearm, and may possess a maximum amount of only four firearms, and a maximum of 200 rounds of ammunition per license. Should the individual acquire 'dedicated status' conferred by registered shooting club, the individual can theoretically license an unlimited amount of firearms and ammunition limits also then fall away. [5]

Prohibited firearms

Prohibited firearms are:

Semi-automatic rifles and shotguns

Semi-automatic firearms are not prohibited under law. However, semi-automatic long guns are only permitted with a business licence, restricted firearms licence for self-defence, and dedicated hunting and shooting licences. There is no official magazine capacity restriction for semi-automatic rifles. [5]


Handguns of all firing actions (except fully automatic) are legal under all licences. There is no magazine capacity restriction for handguns. [5]

Carrying of firearms in public

Carrying legally owned firearms in South Africa is legal under all licence types and requires no additional permit. No person may carry a firearm in a public place unless the firearm is carried:

A firearm contemplated in subsection

Prohibited places (Firearm-free zones)

In South Africa, private guns are prohibited by law as per the Control of Access to Public Premises and Vehicles Act of 1985 (CAPPVA), in government buildings. [6] The Firearms Control Act of 2000 does allow for firearm-free zones, but this must not be confused with the mandate of the CAPPVA of 1985, which has effectively made all government buildings and vehicles firearm-free by law without the input of the FCA which came about almost two decades later. According to the Firearms Control Act of 2000 under Section 140, firearm-free zones can be applied for and must be granted FFZ status by the Minister of Police. [7] It is worth noting the difference between Gun Free Zones (GFZ) and a Firearm Free Zones (FFZ). GFZ's are more voluntary and according to Gun Free SA "It is a civil offence to contravene the Gun Free Zone status of a premises, which means that anyone found breaking that law can be prosecuted under the laws that prohibit trespassing. Signs tell people entering this type of Gun Free Zone that the space is gun free. People entering this space are not asked to declare if they are carrying a gun and are not searched for a gun. While guns are not taken away from people, they know that guns are not welcome". [8] [9] FFZ's on the other hand are enforced by law and carry severe penalties of up to 25 years in prison. According to Section 140 of the Firearms Control Act of 2000, police may without warrant, search any building or premises if there's reasonable suspicion that a firearm or ammunition may be present within an FFZ; search any person within an FFZ; and seize any firearm or ammunition present within an FFZ. [10] On the 7th of May 2004, the Minister of Police issued the notice 749 of 2004 in the Government Gazette of new legislation that declared all schools and other learning institutions, including institutions for higher education, as firearm-free zones in terms of Section 140 of the Firearms Control Act of 2000, which came into operation on the 1st of July 2004. [11] To date, there have been no firearm-free zones declared by the Minister.

Licence types

Licence to possess firearm for self-defence

This licence under chapter 6 section 13, allows the holder to possess any:

The Registrar may issue a licence under this section to any natural person who:

Licence to possess firearm for occasional hunting and sports-shooting

This licence under chapter 6 section 15, allows the holder to possess any:

The Registrar may issue a licence in terms of this section to any:

Licence to possess firearm for dedicated hunting and dedicated sports-shooting

This licence under chapter 6 section 16, allows the holder to possess any:

The Registrar may issue a licence in terms of this section to any:

Licence to possess firearm for professional hunting

This licence under chapter 6 section 16

Licence to possess firearm in private collection

Permit to possess ammunition in private collection

This permit allows the holder to possess any:

Licence to possess firearm, and permit to possess ammunition, in public collection

Licence to possess firearm for business purposes

This licence allows the holder to possess any:

The Registrar may issue a licence in terms of this section to:

The Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 & Regulations, together with amendments and regulations form the legal framework for gun ownership in South Africa. All current firearms owners, approximately 2.6 to 3 million according to the SA Central Firearm Registry (which is less than 6% of the population), are required by the Act to re-register their firearms . Its constitutionality is currently[ when? ] being challenged in two high-profile cases.

The South African Hunters Association has successfully challenged the transitional provisions to the implementation of the act, meaning that the full implementation of the Act has been placed on hold for several years now. The government has failed to challenge the interim ruling of North Gauteng High Court Judge Bill Prinsloo. The South African Gunowners Association (SAGA) have applied to have Bill Prinsloo's interim judgement confirmed and made permanently binding. Other parties including Gun Owners of South Africa (GOSA) have raised constitutional challenges to aspects of the FCA in particular the government's non-compliance with compensation aspects of the law. The argument is that if a citizen is deprived of property, e.g. the surrender of a firearm, due to compliance with the act, the government must compensate the citizen for lost property, as is provided for in the act.

The Black Gun Owners Association of South Africa (BGOASA) is challenging the loss of revenue and employment, and is seeking compensation for the loss of income. Furthermore, it is challenging the political motivations of the act as Abios Khoele, chairperson of the Black Gun Owners Association, [12] told a press briefing in Johannesburg: "This government is hell-bent on disarming black people because they've made so many service delivery promises to them which they have not fulfilled. They are scared that if blacks are armed they will turn on the government." [13] [14]

In July 2010, the BGOASA, filed a R3.2 Billion lawsuit against the government in regards to the poor implementation of the firearms act, claiming 40,000 Black people were refused firearm licences between 2004 and 2010. [15] which is claimed to have cost 10,000 jobs in the firearms sector and closed 800 shops. [15] Licensing takes over two years to process before revenue can be recognised or is arbitrarily dismissed and rejected by the police. These two factors lead to many dealers not being able to maintain their businesses, in light of greatly reduced revenues.

On 30 November 2012, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed an order brought by a group of gun owners that would have compelled the minister of police to pay compensation for all firearms voluntarily surrendered for destruction under the Firearms Control Act 2000. [16]

Illegal possession

Official statistics show that more than 12,900 people were arrested for possessing illegal firearms from 2020 to 2021. The Democratic Alliance party alleges that more than 3,400 police firearms had been unaccounted for during the five years preceding 2022. Following a spate of shootings in July 2022 that killed 22 persons using weapons such as AK-47 rifles, South Africa Police Minister Bheki Cele said they would search house to house to find illegal guns. [17]

Related Research Articles

Gun laws and policies, collectively referred to as firearms regulation or gun control, regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification, and use of small arms by civilians. Laws of some countries may afford civilians a right to keep and bear arms, and have more liberal gun laws than neighboring jurisdictions. Countries that regulate access to firearms will typically restrict access to certain categories of firearms and then restrict the categories of persons who may be granted a license for access to such firearms. There may be separate licenses for hunting, sport shooting, self-defense, collecting, and concealed carry, with different sets of requirements, permissions, and responsibilities.

Firearms in Canada are federally regulated through the Firearms Act and related provisions of the Criminal Code. Regulation is largely about licensing and registration of firearms, including air guns with a muzzle velocity of more than 500 ft/s or 150 m/s and muzzle energy greater than 4.2 ft⋅lb or 5.7 J.

In the United Kingdom, access by the general public to firearms is subject to some of the strictest control measures in the world. However, fulfilment of the criteria and requirements as laid out by the laws results in the vast majority of firearm licence applications being approved. Laws differ slightly in Northern Ireland due to Northern Ireland having its own firearms legislation. Concerns have been raised over the availability of illegal firearms.

Gun laws in Australia are predominantly within the jurisdiction of Australian states and territories, with the importation of guns regulated by the federal government. In the last two decades of the 20th century, following several high-profile killing sprees, the federal government coordinated more restrictive firearms legislation with all state governments. Gun laws were largely aligned in 1996 by the National Firearms Agreement. In two federally funded gun buybacks and voluntary surrenders and State Governments' gun amnesties before and after the Port Arthur Massacre, more than a million firearms were collected and destroyed, possibly a third of the national stock.

Firearms regulation in Finland incorporates the political and regulatory aspects of firearms usage in the country. Both hunting and shooting sports are common hobbies. There are approximately 300,000 people with hunting permits, and 34,000 people belong to sport shooting clubs. Over 1,500 people are licensed weapons collectors. Additionally, many reservists practice their skills using their own semi-automatic rifles and pistols after the military service.

Concealed carry, or carrying a concealed weapon (CCW), is the practice of carrying a weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one's person or in close proximity. CCW is often practiced as a means of self-defense. Every state in the United States allows for concealed carry of a handgun either permitless or with a permit, although the difficulty in obtaining a permit varies per jurisdiction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Concealed carry</span> Practice of carrying a handgun or other weapon in public in a concealed or hidden manner

Concealed carry, or carrying a concealed weapon (CCW), is the practice of carrying a weapon, either in proximity to or on one's person or in public places in a manner that hides or conceals the weapon's presence from surrounding observers. In the United States, the opposite of concealed carry is called open carry.

An authorization to transport (ATT) is a permit issued under the Canadian Firearms Program allowing transportation of restricted and prohibited firearms in Canada. An ATT may be issued to a firearms licensee, or to a non-resident of Canada not possessing a firearms licence. Section 19 of the Firearms Act (FA) details the various reasons for transportation which may be approved by the chief provincial firearms officer (CFO).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Firearms license</span> License that allows the licensee to buy, own, possess, or carry a firearm

A firearms license is a license or permit issued by a government authority of a jurisdiction, that allows the licensee to buy, own, possess, or carry a firearm, often subject to a number of conditions or restrictions, especially with regard to storage requirements or the completion of a firearms safety course, as well as background checks, etc. Firearms licenses are not required in all jurisdictions. Additionally, some countries or states may require by law a "permit-to-purchase" in order to buy handguns or firearms. A licence may also be required to buy ammunition.

The gun laws of New Zealand are contained in the Arms Act 1983 statute, which includes multiple amendments including those that were passed subsequent to the 1990 Aramoana massacre and the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings.

Military-style semi-automatic firearms in New Zealand are those semi-automatic firearms known in the United States as "assault weapons". The phrase is often abbreviated as military-style semi-automatic (MSSA). A New Zealand firearms licence-holder requires an E Category endorsement on their licence before they can possess this type of firearm, and a police-issued permit to procure each firearm is required. Arriving at a clear definition and common understanding of which semi-automatic firearms have a military-style configuration has dominated debate about gun-control legislation in New Zealand since 1992.

In Germany, access to guns is controlled by the German Weapons Act which adheres to the European Firearms Directive, first enacted in 1972, and superseded by the law of 2003. This federal statute regulates the handling of firearms and ammunition as well as acquisition, storage, commerce and maintenance of firearms.

This is a list of laws concerning air guns by country.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988</span> United Kingdom legislation

The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which is still in force. The Act, as amended, tightens controls on the possession of firearms, and applies throughout the whole of the United Kingdom except for Northern Ireland. On 15 November 1988, the Act gained Royal Assent. The Act was partly in force at Royal Assent. On 1 February 1989, fourteen sections of the first 25 sections of the Act came into force. On 2 April 1991, the Act came wholly into force.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gun laws in New York</span>

Gun laws in New York regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the U.S. state of New York, outside of New York City which has separate licensing regulations. These regulations are very strict in comparison to the rest of the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gun laws in Oklahoma</span> Oklahomas gun law

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gun laws in New Jersey</span> New Jerseys gun law

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gun laws in Texas</span> Texas gun law

Gun laws in Texas regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the U.S. state of Texas.

Gun law in the Philippines is regulated by the Firearms and Explosives Division of the Philippine National Police. In order to possess a firearm in the Philippines, a person must be at a minimum age of 21 years and pass a background check to be issued a Possession License. They must also take a firearms training and safety course. Any history of mental illnesses or domestic violence within the individual or the family will cause an applicant to have their request rejected. The Philippines is one of the least gun restrictive countries in Asia, this is in part as a cultural legacy from the days when the Philippines was an American Commonwealth.

Austrian law allows firearm possession on shall-issue basis with certain classes of shotguns and rifles available without permit. With approximately 30 civilian firearms per 100 people, Austria is the 14th most armed country in the world.


  1. Government Request for Submissions, 2010
  2. Reply to Government Enquiry by Gun Owners South Africa, 2010
  3. ZELDA VENTER (18 June 2012). "Gun licence woes 'are over' – Crime & Courts | IOL News". IOL . Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  4. "Process of issuing firearm licences to be speeded up". The New Age. 23 February 2011. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000" (PDF). Government of the Western Cape . Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  6. "Control of Access to Public Premises and Vehicle Act". Government of South Africa .
  7. "Acts Online".
  8. "Module 6: Gun Free Zones". Retrieved 21 July 2022.[ dead link ]
  9. "Gun Free Zones". Gun Free South Africa. 21 July 2022. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  10. "National Acts: 2000" (PDF). Government of the Western Cape . 21 July 2022. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  11. "Firearms Control Act: Declaration of firearm-free zones: Schools and other learning institutions". Government of South Africa . Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  12. "Black gun association to sue government". TimesLIVE .
  13. Black gun owners to sue govt, 16 July 2010, News24
  14. Scared government set on disarming black people, July 18, 2010, HighBeam Research
  15. 1 2 BGOASA Lawsuit, 16 July 2010, TimesLIVE
  16. AfricaCheck: Did gun control cause fall in gun crime? The data backs the claim, 15 December 2012, Africa Check
  17. Magome, Mogomotsi; Sebabatso, Mosamo (13 July 2022). "South Africa's many illegal guns a factor in bar shootings". NEWS10 .