25 Nov 2021
18 Nov 2021

Firearms: Are you in unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition?

Ian Cameron firearms


The Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000  regulates and describes almost every element and offence regarding the possession of firearms and ammunition in South Africa.  To further elaborate on the topic, one first needs to define ‘unlawful possession’. Unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition can simply be defined as;

‘Any person who possesses a firearm or ammunition without the relevant authorisation, license or permit.’

4 elements of a criminal offence:

Every criminal offence has specific elements that need to be considered  when answering the question whether or not an offence has been committed. In the case of unlawful possession of a firearm, there are 4 elements, being:

  •  (i) the possession of
  • (ii) a  firearm;
  • (iiiunlawfulness and
  • (ivculpability.

Possession may  constitute simply looking after, guarding or performing some form of custodianship of a firearm or ammunition and you could still be punished by law in a legally prescribed manner. This inherently means that any form of control that you have over a firearm could possibly be considered an offence, if said possession is not  in accordance with the act. It is important to note, if your license and competency for a specific firearm has expired, that you too may stand a chance of being prosecuted for the unlawful possession of a firearm and/or ammunition.

firearmThe definition of a firearm in the Firearm Control Act is (my emphasis):

  • any device that can “propel a bullet or projectile through a barrel or cylinder by means of burning propellant, at a muzzle energy exceeding 8 joules (6 ft-lbs.)”;
  • anything with the capacity to “to discharge rim-fire, centre-fire or pin-fire ammunition”;
  • any device that can be “readily altered” to be any of the above-listed firearms;
  • any device designed to discharge any projectile of at least .22 calibre at a muzzle energy of more than 8 joules (6 ft-lbs.), by means of compressed gas; or
  • any barrel, frame, or receiver of a device mentioned above.


Action Society FirearmsLet’s consider unlawfulness. Simply put, in this circumstances, it can be described as being in possession of a firearm or ammunition  without adhering to the requirements as set out in the act.. The  possessor  therefor must have some form of authorisation as described in the Act. The last element that requires consideration is culpability.   Let’s use an example; If “M” had the intention to illegally possess a firearm/ammunition he would certainly be guilty of an offence, but would this still be the case if “M” acted negligently?  Surprisingly, it has been argued that culpability in the form of negligence would be sufficient to constitute an offence. The reason for this is mainly aimed at curbing violent crimes that has been spiralling out of control in South Africa for the last 30 years.

The punishment for the unlawful possession of a firearm and/or ammunition  can see the perpetrator land in jail for a very long time.

If you can defend yourself with a legally obtained gun, you can defend your family; if you can defend your family, you can defend your neighbours; when neighbours defend each other, they defend their community. You need a gun for self-defence.

Self-Defence About logo supports the #SafeCitizen Campaign, get involved, get armed, be ready!

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