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Gun Guide: How many firearms can you legally own in South Africa?

How many firearms can you legally own in South Africa?

Introduction

Any person in South Africa who wants to obtain another firearm, must first determine how many firearms he or she is allowed to own.

After that, he or she has to undergo the necessary training at an accredited institution to obtain a training proficiency certificate and once a person has obtained the relevant a certificate to own a specific firearm, he or she can apply for the firearm licence at the nearest police station.

South Africa’s current firearms regulatory framework comprises the Firearms Control Act of 2000 (FCA) and subsidiary legislation.

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The FCA requires that any application submitted to possess a firearm, trade in firearms, manufacture firearms, or be licensed as a gunsmith, must be accompanied by a Competency Certificate.  

To obtain such a Competency Certificate, the candidate must be a citizen or permanent resident of South Africa, at least twenty-one years old, fit and proper to hold the specific license (this means, amongst others, that the person is stable and does not have a tendency for violence or a substance-abuse problem), has had no conviction for crimes related to violence, dishonesty, recklessness or instability within the five years preceding the application, or has not became or been declared unfit to possess a firearm within that five years.

How many firearms can one own legally in South Africa

The Act (FCA) limits the number of firearms for which a person can get a license, depending on his or her needs:

Firearms for self-defence – a person can own only one handgun or a shotgun which is not fully or semi-automatic for self-defence.

Understanding the use of firearms in self-defence

Firearms for occasional hunters or sports shooters – A person can own up to four firearms for this purpose, but only one handgun and no fully or semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are allowed.

There is no limit set for dedicated hunters and sports shooters, but they must be able to prove that they are dedicated members of a hunting or sports organisation and must also be able to show the need for additional firearms.

There is no limit for people who use firearms strictly for business purposes, but stringent conditions apply to them.

This means that an ordinary citizen may possess up to four firearms for the purposes mentioned, which may be a handgun not fully automatic; a rifle or shotgun, which is not fully/semi-automatic; or the barrel, frame or receiver of such a handgun, rifle or shotgun, which is regarded a firearm and must also be licensed.

When duly licenced to own such firearms, a person may only have ammunition which is suitable for that firearm and can only own 200 rounds of ammunition for each firearm.

Owning and licencing a handgun in South Africa

A person can own one handgun for self-defence in South Africa, on condition that he or she first obtains the relevant licence to own that firearm from the police.

The application process entails two phases – the first to obtain a training proficiency certificate after establishing whether the applicant is competent to own and operate a handgun and entails completion of prescribed training at an accredited training institution. 

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The second phase is the handgun licence application. Both processed take about 90 days each to complete if there is no backlog and must be done one after the other.

A potential handgun owner must pass the prescribed test to prove his or her knowledge of the Firearms Control Act as well as the prescribed training and practical test at an accredited training provider on the safe and efficient handling of a handgun.

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On receipt of the training certificate, the person must apply to the SAPS for the competency certificate by completing the SAPS 517 and after that he or she can apply for a firearm licence.

The application forms (SAPS 271) can be downloaded from the internet and must be completed in black ink. All relevant sections of the form must be filled out and copies of the following documents attached:

  • Two copies of your identity document
  • A copy of the Competency Certificate
  • Copies of your proficiency training certificates issued by your accredited training provider
  • Copy of an electricity account not older than three months to prove you live at the address provided
  • Two colour passport photographs of yourself, which are not older than 3 months.
  • Copies of proof of current paid-up membership of all accredited associations and/or shooting clubs if relevant
  • Copies of your dedicated status certificates (either as hunter or as sports-person or both) if relevant
  • Copy of an endorsement for the handgun and its features for your purpose
  • In the case of an application for a hunting firearm an invitation or statement from a game ranch owner that you may hunt on his farm, or that you do so regularly
  • A complete motivation stating the purpose and need for the firearm you want the licence for
  • A completed Safe-form with a full description of your firearm safe, documentation and photographs to show its nature, type and how and where it is bolted to a wall or floor, with SABS certificate or certificate from the manufacturer/seller if available
  • An endorsement confirming the applicability of the calibre and handgun for the stated purpose it will be used
  • A copy of the relevant invoice to confirm purchase of the specific handgun being applied for if it is for a new one.

Any information on security facilities at your dwelling, like alarm, walls or electric fence around the property, likely crime in your area, detail about any other firearm training that you may have received, can be attached too.

Owning and licencing a shotgun in South Africa

A person who wants a firearm for occasional hunting or sports shooting, can own up to four firearms for this purpose, but only one handgun and no fully or semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are allowed. Needless to say that he or she needs to first obtain a licence for every firearm.

The application process for a licence involves two phases – the first to establish whether the applicant is competent to own and operate a shotgun and requires successful completion of the prescribed training at an accredited training institution to obtain a training proficiency certificate. 

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The second phase is the shotgun licence application. Both phases take about 90 days each to complete and cannot be done at the same time.

A potential shotgun owner must successfully pass the prescribed test for a competency certificate to prove sufficient knowledge of the Firearms Control Act of 2000 as well as the prescribed training and practical test regarding the safe and efficient handling of a shotgun at an accredited training provider.

firearm shotgun
Shotgun

On receipt of the training certificate, the person must apply for the competency certificate to the police and this, together with the application and supporting documentation, must be submitted to the designated firearms officer in the area where the applicant reside.

Attach copies of the same documents mentioned above to your application.

You can add information on security facilities at your dwelling, likely crime in your area and detail about any extra firearm training you may have received.

Make a copy of your application to have a duplicate if the original gets lost and submit the set of documents to the DFO together with the relevant payment.

Owning and licencing a rifle in South Africa

A person who wants a firearm for occasional hunting or sports shooting, can own up to four firearms for this purpose, but only one handgun and no fully or semi-automatic rifles or shotguns are allowed.

The application process for a rifle licence involves two processes, firstly to establish the applicant’s competency to own and operate a rifle and successful completion of the prescribed training at an accredited training institution, and secondly the shotgun licence application. Each phase normally takes about 90 days to complete and cannot be done simultaneously.

What is the Firearms Control Act?

Copies of the same documents needed for the previous firearms discussed, must be attached to your application and can be accompanied by a complete motivation stating the purpose and need for the firearm you want the licence for. You should give a description of the firearm applied for, for instance, if you are a dedicated hunter or sports-person and it is a semi-auto shotgun or rifle, give a detailed technical explanation.

Owning and licencing a self-loading rifle in South Africa

A person who wants to license a firearm for occasional hunting or sports shooting, can do so if he or she does not own more than four firearms for this purpose, but only one handgun and no fully or semi-automatic rifles or shotguns are allowed.

The application process also involves two stages, firstly to establish the applicant’s competency to own and operate a self-loading rifle and successful completion of the prescribed training at an accredited training institution, and secondly the actual licence application.

One can download the application form (SAPS 271) to complete, as well as a SAPS Checklist for New Applications to see that you comply with all requirements. Once again, attach copies of all the necessary documents as per the firearms discussed above. Remember copies of your dedicated status certificates as hunter or as sports-person and an invitation or statement from a game ranch owner that you may hunt on his farm in the case of an application for a hunting firearm.

A Safe-form with a full description of your firearm safe, documentation and photographs to show its nature, type and how and where it is bolted to a wall or floor must be completed, with a SABS certificate or certificate from the manufacturer or seller if available.

You may also add information on security systems at your house, like an alarm, walls or electric fences, detail about any other firearm training that you may have received and the crime situation in your area.

Firearms that may not be possessed (or licensed) at all in South Africa

Regardless of the number of firearms you are allowed to own, some firearms is totally illegal to be owned in the country. These include fully automatic firearms, any gun, cannon, mortar, or launcher to fire a rocket, grenade, bomb, etc or any imitation thereof, any frame, body or barrel of such a fully automatic firearm or launcher, any projectile to be discharged from a launcher, or any imitation thereof; and any other firearm gazetted by the Minister of Police.

It is also a criminal offence to possess a firearm if the mechanism has been altered to enable multiple shots from a single trigger, if the calibre has been altered without the written permission of the National Commissioner of Police, if the barrel length has been (purposely) altered without such written permission or if the serial number or any other identifying mark has been changed or removed without such written permission.

Conclusion

Potential gun owners in South Africa must make sure that they follow the prescribed processes to obtain licences for any firearm they want to own. Currently the publication of proposed amendments to the Firearms Control Act of 2000 by the South African Police Service has stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest among gun-loving citizens and several online petitions are circulated and protests against the changes have taken place.

What is the difference between a gun and a firearm?

The key issue of contention is that the police are seeking to remove the provision in the act that allows people to apply for firearm licences for purposes of self-defence. According to the SAPS, firearms licensed for self-defence are the category of legal firearms that are most at risk of being stolen or lost.

Tens of thousands of written objections to the proposed amendments were sent to the Civilian Secretariat for Police Services.

FAQ

How many firearms can one own legally in South Africa

A person can own only one handgun or a shotgun which is not fully or semi-automatic for self-defence, but he or she may own up to four firearms for the purpose of hunting and sports shooting. Only one handgun and no fully or semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are allowed, however.

 

Is it illegal to keep a gun in your house?

If you are 18 or older, have a licence for a specific firearm and a safe that meets the requirements, you may keep a gun in your house.  

 

Can I shoot someone trespassing on my property?

In general, property owners cannot shoot to protect property alone, but may shoot at trespassers in self-defence if they fear great bodily harm or death.

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