Firearm legislation in South Africa

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In South Africa, the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 regulates the ownership of firearms by civilians. Ownership 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. The process is currently undergoing review,[1] as the police are at present, not able to adequately or within reasonable time, process either competency certification, new licenses or renewal of existing licenses. 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[edit]

In South Africa, all firearms owners are required to get a license to own firearms.[5]

License types[edit]

License to possess firearm for self-defence[edit]

This license allows the holder to possess any:

  • shotgun which is not fully or semi-automatic; or
  • handgun which is not fully automatic.

The Registrar may issue a license under this section to any natural person who—

  • needs a firearm for self-defence; and
  • cannot reasonably satisfy that need by means other than the possession of a

firearm

License to possess restricted firearm for self-defence[edit]

This license allows the holder to possess any:

  • semi-automatic rifle or shotgun, which cannot readily be converted into a fully automatic firearm; or
  • firearm declared by the Minister, by notice in the Gazette, to be a restricted firearm.

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

  • natural person who shows that a firearm contemplated in section 13(1) will not provide sufficient protection, and who submits reasonable information to motivate the need for a restricted firearm for self-defence purposes

License to possess firearm for occasional hunting and sports-shooting[edit]

This license allows the holder to possess any:

  • handgun which is not fully automatic;
  • rifle or shotgun which is not fully or semi-automatic;

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

  • natural person who is an occasional hunter or occasional sports person (ex. A person who participates in target shooting but is not an official member of an official target shooting club or a person who participates in hunting but is not an official member of an official hunting club)

License to possess firearm for dedicated hunting and dedicated sports-shooting[edit]

This license allows the holder to possess any:

  • handgun which is not fully automatic;
  • rifle which is not fully automatic;
  • shotgun which is not fully automatic;
  • semi-automatic shotgun manufactured to fire no more than five shots;

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

  • natural person who is a dedicated hunter or dedicated sports person if the application is accompanied by a sworn statement or solemn declaration from the chairperson of an accredited

hunting association or sports-shooting organisation, or someone delegated in writing by him or her, stating that the applicant is a registered member of that association succession without having to be reloaded (ex. A person who goes target shooting and is an official member of an official target shooting club or a person who goes hunting and is an official member of an official hunting club)

License to possess firearm in private collection[edit]

Permit to possess ammunition in private collection[edit]

This permit allows the holder to possess any:

  • piece or pieces of firearms ammunition (NOTE: Not required for people who have licenses for other guns)

License to possess firearm, and permit to possess ammunition, in public collection[edit]

License to possess firearm for business purposes[edit]

This license allows the holder to possess any:

  • firearm that isn't prohibited

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

  • a security company;
  • a person who is accredited to provide training in the use of firearms;
  • a person who is accredited to provide firearms for use in theatrical, film or

television productions;

  • a person who is accredited as a game hunter;
  • a person who is accredited to conduct business in hunting; or
  • any person who is accredited to use firearms for such other business purpose

as the Registrar may determine[5]

Prohibited firearms[edit]

Prohibited firearms are:

  • Any fully automatic firearm;
  • any gun, cannon, recoilless gun, mortar, light mortar or launcher manufactured to fire a rocket, grenade, self-propelled grenade, bomb or explosive

device;

  • any frame, body or barrel of such a fully automatic firearm, gun, cannon,

recoilless gun, mortar, light mortar or launcher;

  • any projectile or rocket manufactured to be discharged from a cannon,

recoilless gun or mortar, or rocket launcher;

  • any imitation of any device contemplated in paragraph (a), (b), (c), or (d);
  • any firearm—
    • the mechanism of which has been altered so as to enable the discharging

of more than one shot with a single depression of the trigger;

  • the calibre of which has been altered without the written permission of

the Registrar;

  • the barrel length of which has been altered without the written

permission of the Registrar;[5]

Semi-automatic rifles and shotguns[edit]

Semi-automatic firearms are not prohibited under law. However, semi-automatic long guns are only permitted with a business license, restricted firearms license for self-defence, and dedicated hunting and shooting licenses. There is no official magazine capacity restriction for semi-automatic rifles. However, semi-automatic shotguns have a magazine capacity restrictions for dedicated hunters and sports shooters licenses which is five rounds.[5]

Handguns[edit]

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[edit]

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

  • in the case of a handgun —
  • in a holster or similar holder designed, manufactured or adapted for the carrying of a handgun and attached to his or her person; or
    • in a rucksack or similar holder; or
  • in the case of any other firearm, in a holder designed, manufactured or adapted for the carrying of the firearm.

A firearm contemplated in subsection

  • must be completely covered and the person carrying the firearm must be able to exercise effective control over such firearm (Carrying firearms in public is allowed if done in that manner).[6]

Prohibited places (Gun Free Zones)[edit]

In South Africa, private guns are prohibited in educational institutions, churches, community centres, health facilities, NGOs, taverns, banks, corporate buildings, government buildings and some public spaces such as sport stadiums.[6]

Legal framework[edit]

The Firearm Control Act 60 of 2000 & Regulations, together with amendments and regulations forms 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 Gunowners SA 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.

Criticism and legal challenges[edit]

The Black Gun Owners Association of South Africa 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 they believe their members are being unfairly victimised by the act's implementation.

In July 2010, the Black Gun-Owners Association of South Africa (BGOASA), filed a R3.2 Billion lawsuit against the government in regards to the poor implementation of the firearms act,[7][8] which is claimed to have cost 10,000 jobs in the firearms sector and closed 800 shops.[8] Licensing takes over 2 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.[9]

References[edit]

External links[edit]