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Summary

South Africa’s current firearms regulatory framework consists of the Firearms Control Act (FCA) and its subsidiary legislation, which has been in place since 2004.  This framework imposes strict substantive and procedural requirements for obtaining a competency certificate, license, permit, or authorization to possess a firearm, to deal in firearms, or to carry out other firearm-related activities, including running a firearms-training enterprise or a hunting business.

Some of these requirements are of universal application.  For instance, a separate license must be issued for every firearm and applicants must obtain a competency certificate.  To do so, an applicant should, among other things, be a “fit and proper person” with no recent conviction for certain crimes, be stable, and not have a proclivity for violence.  Other requirements vary depending on the type and purpose of the specific license sought.  For instance, a person wishing to obtain a license to possess a firearm for self-defense is required to demonstrate a need for the weapon and inability to achieve protection through other means.  In addition, an eligible individual may obtain only one license of this class, which must be renewed every five years.

Limited, mostly secondary sources located for this report point to a decrease in firearms-related crimes since the FCA came into force, although none of the sources establish a direct causal effect.

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Introduction

South Africa has a comprehensive firearms-control regulatory regime in place.  It consists of the Firearms Control Act[1] of 2000 (FCA) and its subsidiary legislation, the Firearms Control Regulations (FCA Regulations).[2]  Before these laws took effect in 2004, firearms were regulated through the Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969 (the 1969 AAA).[3]  The designated regulatory authority is the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS), which also functions as the National Commissioner of Registrar of Firearms (the Registrar).[4]

This regulatory regime has put in place stringent substantive and procedural limits on obtaining firearms.  It imposes a ban on certain firearms designated “prohibited” firearms except in very limited circumstances.[5]  It also imposes thorough requirements for obtaining a license for other firearms.  For instance, a firearm for self-defense may be issued only if the applicant can demonstrate the need for a weapon and an inability to achieve protection through other means.[6]  A person who meets these standards can be issued only one license for a five-year term, which may be renewed if the licensee continues to show compliance with all applicable requirements.[7]  A person seeking a firearms license for dedicated sport shooting must be a member of an accredited hunting association.[8]

All applications for a firearms license must be accompanied by a competency certificate, which is issued only after it has been determined that, among other things, the applicant does not have a proclivity for violence or a substance-abuse problem and he or she completes training on the safe and efficient handling of firearms.[9]  It also imposes equally strict rules on the safe custody of firearms.[10]

The regulatory regime also imposes stringent requirements on dealers.  Among the notable obligations is a duty to keep records on all firearms and ammunition in stock and all firearms that the dealer holds on behalf of licensees, as well as the duty to link these three registers to a national database established by the Registrar.[11]  A dealer must make available for inspection on request by any police official all firearms, ammunition, and records that he or she keeps.[12]

The impact of the current regulatory framework on firearms-related crimes is hard to ascertain.  This is in large part because the SAPS has not released adequate statistical information on the matter since the early 2000s.[13]  In addition, while the FCA has been in effect since 2004, it appears that various key provisions have been implemented in increments, with some parts, particularly certain provisions added to the FCA through a 2006 amendment, implemented recently and others not yet put into effect.  However, limited, mostly secondary sources located for this report point to a decrease in firearms-related crimes since the FCA went into force, although none of them establish a direct causal effect.

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Definition of Firearm

The FCA adopts a broad definition of “firearm,” which includes

  • 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.[14]

However, the FCA excludes various devices that would otherwise be considered firearms under this definition.  Explosive-powered tools designed for industrial application for splitting rocks or concrete, or for application in the mining or steel industry for removing refractory materials, are not considered firearms.[15]  Also not considered firearms are stun bolts used in slaughterhouses, antique firearms,[16] air guns, tranquilizer firearms, paintball guns, flare guns, and deactivated firearms.[17]  In addition, the FCA authorizes the Minister of Safety and Security (the Minister) to exclude any other device.[18]

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The Right to Possess Firearms

In South Africa, the right to possess firearms is not guaranteed by law.  The FCA imposes a general ban on the possession of firearms except in limited circumstances, and they may be possessed only with a license, permit, or authorization issued under the provisions of the FCA.[19]

Certain firearms are categorized as prohibited firearms and cannot ordinarily be possessed or licensed under the FCA.  These include any

(a) fully automatic firearm;

(b) gun, cannon, recoilless gun, mortar, light mortar or launcher manufactured to fire a rocket, grenade, self-propelled grenade, bomb, or explosive device;

(c) frame, body, or barrel of such a fully automatic firearm, gun, cannon, recoilless gun, mortar, light mortar, or launcher;

(d) projectile or rocket manufactured to be discharged from a cannon, recoilless gun or mortar, or rocket launcher;

(e) imitation of any device contemplated in paragraph (b), (c), excluding the frame, body, or barrel of a fully automatic firearm, or (d); or

(f) [altered firearm].[20]

The FCA stipulates limited exceptions in which prohibited firearms may be licensed for private and public collections as well as for use in theatrical, film, or television productions.[21]  However, the FCA Regulations impose rigorous requirements that need to be met for the proper utilization of these exceptions.[22]

The FCA also authorizes the Minister to add any firearm to the prohibited firearms category if doing so is “in the interest of public safety or desirable for the maintenance of law and order.”[23]

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Competency Certificates, Licenses, Permits, Authorizations, and Accreditations

An application for a firearm license, permit, or authorization may be made to the Registrar of Firearms by a natural or juridical person.[24]  When the applicant is a natural person, the FCA requires that the person comply with all the necessary requirements set forth under its provisions, including providing a full set of fingerprints.[25]  Significantly, the person must possess the relevant competency certificate, which is issued, among other things, only after the successful completion of training and a test on the efficient and safe handling of a firearm by an accredited training provider or the Safety and Security Training Authority.[26]  If the applicant is a juridical person, the FCA requires that the entity be represented by a natural person who is to be identified in the license, permit, or authorization as the responsible person and who would be considered the holder of the license under the FCA.[27]

           Accreditation

The FCA requires accreditation before a license for certain activities or businesses related to firearms can be issued.[28]  These include

  • public collectors or museums;
  • hunting associations or sport-shooting organizations;
  • collectors’ associations;
  • shooting ranges;
  • those that provide training in the use of firearms;
  • those that provide firearms for use in theatrical, film, or television productions;
  • game ranchers;
  • those that run hunting businesses;
  • those that use firearms for business purposes; and
  • government institutions.[29]

The FCA provides a list of minimum mandatory criteria that the Registrar must impose when reviewing an application for accreditation.  These are

a) trustworthiness and integrity;

b) suitability to perform the relevant functions in terms of the Act;

c) capacity to serve the purpose of the accreditation; and

d) capacity to advance the purposes of the Act.[30]

The FCA authorizes the Minister to issue additional criteria applicable to specific accreditations through regulations.[31]  Accordingly, the Minister has issued additional accreditation criteria for each of the above-listed specific firearms-license applications.[32]

The Registrar may cancel an accreditation in certain instances, including if the holder of an accreditation fails to comply with any applicable criterion, is no longer qualified, or violates requirements under the FCA or terms of the accreditation.[33]

           Competency Certificate

The FCA requires that an application to possess a firearm, trade in firearms, manufacture firearms, or be licensed as a gunsmith be submitted to a Firearms Officer for the area where the applicant currently maintains or will in the future maintain his or her residence or business.[34]  A first-time application for a competency certificate may be granted only if the applicant

  • is at least twenty-one years old;[35]
  • is a citizen or a permanent resident;
  • is a “fit and proper person” for the license he or she is seeking;
  • is stable and does not have a proclivity for violence;
  • does not have a substance-abuse problem;
  • has no conviction within the five years immediately preceding the application for certain crimes related to violence, dishonesty, recklessness, or instability;[36]
  • has not “become or been declared unfit to possess a firearm” under the FCA or the 1969 AAA within the five years preceding the application; and
  • has completed all the required tests on his understanding of the FCA, the training and test for the safe and effective use of a firearm, and all other applicable training and tests for the specific license he or she is seeking.[37]

Competency certificates are not permanent.  A competency certificate to possess a firearm, trade in firearms, manufacture firearms, or open a gunsmith business is valid for as long as the license to which it relates remains valid, unless the certificate is terminated or renewed.[38]  A competency certificate relating to a muzzle-loading firearm is issued for ten years.[39]

The FCA Regulations impose additional requirements.  For instance, it requires anyone who provides a recommendation on behalf of any applicant to attest that the applicant

  • is a fit and proper person to be issued a competency certificate, license, permit, or authorization;
  • is in stable mental condition and does not have a propensity for violence; and
  • does not suffer from a substance-abuse problem.[40]

Upon receiving an application for a competency certificate, the Registrar may launch an investigation for the purpose of determining whether the applicant is a fit and proper person, is in stable mental condition, or has a tendency for violence or a substance-abuse problem.  An investigation would be launched if in the five years preceding the application the applicant, among other things,

  • has been served with a protection order or accused of domestic violence, necessitating a police visit to his or her residence;
  • has been denied a license, permit, or authorization for a firearm;
  • has attempted suicide, suffered major depression or emotional problems, or had a substance-abuse problem;
  • has been diagnosed or treated for depression, substance abuse, or behavioral or emotional problems;
  • has been reported to the police or social services for threatening or attempting violence or other conflict anywhere;

or if in the two years preceding the application the applicant

  • went through a divorce or separation from a partner in which violence was alleged, or
  • was fired or laid off from his or her job.[41]

In the course of investigating an applicant for a competency certificate, the Registrar may require the applicant to submit a doctor’s certificate regarding the applicant’s dependence on intoxicating or narcotic substances[42] and/or a report compiled by a psychiatrist or psychologist on the applicant’s mental condition or propensity for violence.[43]

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           Licenses to Possess Firearms

The FCA requires that the Registrar issue a separate license in respect of each of the following firearms: firearms for self-defense; restricted firearms for self-defense; firearms for occasional hunting and sport shooting; firearms for dedicated hunting and dedicated sport shooting; firearms for private collection; firearms for public collection; firearms for business purposes; firearms for temporary possession.[44]  The Registrar may issue an additional license with respect to a single firearm to everyone who resides in the same premises as the license holder.[45]

              License to Posses a Firearm for Self-Defense

In this category, the Registrar may issue a license for any shotgun that is not fully or semiautomatic or for a handgun that is not fully automatic.[46]  While any natural person is eligible to apply, a license is issued only if the applicant “needs a firearm for self-defense” and cannot “reasonably satisfy the need by means other than the possession of a firearm.”[47]  A person is permitted to hold only one license of this kind.[48]

A license in this category is issued for a five-year term and may be renewed provided that the licensee continues to comply with all the applicable requirements.[49]

              License to Possess a Restricted Firearm for Self-Defense

A restricted firearm includes any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun that cannot be readily converted into a fully automatic firearm, or any firearm declared as such by the Minister.[50]  The Registrar may issue a license for a restricted firearm to any natural person if he or she can demonstrate that a license to possess a firearm for self-defense (see section C(1) above) “will not provide sufficient protection” and submits “reasonable information to motivate the need for a restricted firearm for self-defense purposes.”[51]

A qualifying person can hold only one license for a restricted firearm for a two-year term, which can be renewed if the licensee continues to be in compliance with all applicable rules.[52]

              License to Possess a Firearm for Occasional Hunting and Sport Shooting

In this category, the Registrar may issue a license for any handgun (which is not fully automatic) or a rifle or shotgun (which is not semi- or fully automatic) that is not a restricted firearm, or a barrel, frame, or receiver of any of these firearms.[53]

There are limitations on the number of licenses that may be issued in this class.  Any natural person who is an occasional hunter or sports person is eligible for a maximum of four ten-year-term licenses.[54]  The number of licenses that can be issued may be less depending on whether the applicant holds a license of a different class.  For instance, an applicant who has a license to possess a firearm for self-defense can be issued a maximum of three licenses in this category.[55]  In addition, an applicant cannot be licensed for more than one handgun.[56]

A license in this class is issued for a ten-year term and may be renewed if the licensee is in compliance with all the applicable rules.[57]

              License to Possess Firearm for Dedicated Hunting and Dedicated Sports Shooting

The Registrar is authorized to license the following kinds of firearms in this category: a handgun, rifle, or shotgun that is not fully automatic; a semiautomatic shotgun with the capacity to fire a maximum of five shots before it has to be reloaded; or a barrel, frame, or receiver of any of these firearms.[58]

The FCA imposes certain requirements for applicants in this category.  In order to be licensed, an applicant should be a member of an accredited hunting association or sport-shooting organization and the license application should include a sworn statement or a solemn declaration from a chairperson of the association or organization indicating that the applicant is a registered member.[59]

A license in this category is issued for a ten-year term and can be renewed if the licensee continues to be in compliance with all applicable requirements.[60]

              License to Posses a Firearm in a Private Collection

Any firearm, including a prohibited firearm, can be licensed in this category.[61]  However, the firearm must be one approved for collection by an accredited collectors association; the applicant must be a member of an accredited collectors association; and the license application must be accompanied by a sworn statement or solemn declaration from the chairperson of the association verifying the applicant’s membership.[62]  The firearm must be at least fifty years old and have an attribute of collectability that is of historical, cultural, artistic, technological, heritage, or scientific value.[63]

This type of license is issued for a ten-year term and may be renewed if the licensee is in compliance with all applicable requirements.[64]

Both the FCA and FCA Regulations impose rigorous safety requirements for holders of licenses in this category.  A storage place is specified in every license, and the licensee is required to store the firearm at the specified place.[65]  The licensee may put the firearm on public display provided that

(a) the firearm is unloaded;

(b) the firearm, if it is a handgun, is displayed in a lockable display cabinet; or

(c) where the firearm is on open display, it must be rendered inoperable by means of a secure locking device; or

(d) the firearm is securely attached to a non-portable structure on which, or in which, it is displayed by a metal attachment, chain, metal cable or similar device in such manner that the firearm cannot readily be removed; and

(e) the firearm is not displayed with, and is not readily accessible to, ammunition that can be discharged from it, except where such firearm or ammunition is displayed in a locked display cabinet or similar device.[66]

              License to Posses a Firearm for Business Purposes

The Registrar may issue a license for any firearm other than a prohibited firearm to a security service provider who holds a firearms competency certificate,[67] or anyone accredited to provide training for use of firearms; to provide firearms for use in theatrical, film, or television production, to conduct a hunting business; or to be a game rancher.[68

The FCA and FCA Regulations impose rigorous restrictions with regard to licensees providing firearms for use by other people.  For instance, a person holding a license to possess a firearm for a business purpose can provide the firearm for use by another person only if it is for business use as specified in the license and the person carries valid official identification documents and a written authorization document issued by the holder of the license detailing the specifications of the firearm; its intended use and period of use; and the reason for its use and place of use.[69]  The holder of a license in this category is required to keep a register of all firearms.[70]

The term of licenses issued in this category is five or ten years, depending on the specific type.  Firearms licenses issued to a game rancher or to hunting businesses have a ten-year term, whereas all other licenses are issued for a five-year term.[71]  All licenses are eligible for renewal provided the applicant remains in compliance with all applicable requirements.[72]

              Temporary Authorization to Possess a Firearm

A temporary authorization can be issued to anyone, including an alien.[73]  Among other things, applicants are required to submit a written motivation for their use of the firearm, including information on steps they plan to take to ensure the safe custody of the firearm, and a declaration that they have the capability to ensure safe custody of the firearm.[74]  An authorization of this kind is valid for “the firearm and period and specific use specified in the authorization.”[75]  The Registrar may require an applicant to complete any relevant training.[76]

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           Termination of a Firearms License

Any of the licenses discussed above may be terminated under certain circumstances.  A license may terminate if the period of time for which it is issued expires, the holder of the license surrenders it, or if the license is cancelled under provisions of the FCA.[77]  Significantly, it may be terminated if the holder of the license “becomes or is declared unfit to possess a firearm.”[78]

A person may be declared unfit to posses a firearm by the Registrar.  The Registrar may declare someone unfit if a final protection order has been issued against him or her under the Domestic Violence Act.[79]  Before taking any action, the Registrar is required, among other things, to ensure that the person is afforded due time and opportunity to challenge the allegations made against him or her, as well as to request the appearance of and examine anyone who has made a statement against him or her.[80]

In addition, a conviction for certain crimes automatically renders a person unfit to possess a firearm unless the court that convicted the person says otherwise.[81

If a person is declared unfit, all competency certificates, licenses, authorizations, and permits issued to him are automatically terminated and remain so even during an appeal process, if any.[82]   In this situation, a person is required to surrender any competency certificates, licenses, authorizations, and permits to the nearest police station immediately.[83]

              Firearms Dealers

A person may not trade in firearms or ammunition without a license.[84]  In order to be issued a dealer’s license, an applicant must be a “fit and proper person to trade in firearms.”[85]  A dealer’s license is issued for a one-year term and may be renewed if, among other things, the licensee continues to be in compliance with all applicable requirements.[86]  While a dealer’s license is not transferrable, another person who has a competency certificate may engage in trade on behalf of a licensed dealer.[87]

There are various duties associated with a dealer’s license.  Dealers must follow specific record-keeping requirements and keep a register of every firearm and all ammunition they have in stock, regardless of the source, in a Firearms Stock Register and an Ammunition Stock Register.[88]  They must also keep a record in a separate Firearms Safe Custody Register of all the firearms they receive and hold on behalf of any licensee.[89]  Dealers are also required to establish a workstation linking all these registers to the central dealers’ database established by the Registrar,[90] as well as make available for inspection by any police official any firearm or ammunition in stock, their dealer’s license, and any register they keep.[91]  In addition, when approached by a holder of a license for possession of a prohibited firearm, dealers are required to seek and obtain a written confirmation from the Registrar before transferring such firearm.[92]

              Safe Custody of Firearms

When license holders do not have their firearm on their person, they must store the firearm and its ammunition in a safe or a strong room that meets the requirements of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), standards 953-1 and 953-2.[93]  The same requirement applies to dealers.[94]

A person who is licensed to possess a firearm may store a firearm licensed to another person if he or she obtains written permission from the person to whom the firearm is licensed, the authorization is endorsed by a relevant Designated Firearms Officer, and the firearm is stored in a safe that meets the above standards that is located at a place stipulated in the written permission.[95]

              Firearm-free Zones

The FCA authorizes the Minister, in consultation with certain authorities, to declare any place to be a firearm-free zone if doing so is in the public interest and in accordance with the provisions of the FCA.[96]  The FCA states that unless specifically permitted, no one may allow, carry, or store any firearm or ammunition in a firearm-free zone.[97

The FCA gives police broad search and seizure powers in firearm-free zones.  Police officials may conduct warrantless searches of any building or premise within a firearm-free zone if they have a “suspicion on reasonable ground” regarding the presence of a firearm or ammunition.[98]  They may also search without a warrant any person in a firearm-free zone.[99]  In addition, the police may seize any unauthorized firearm or ammunition in a firearm-free zone.[100]

Any owner or lawful occupier of any premise can apply to have the premise declared a firearm-free zone.[101]  The application must include reasons for seeking the declaration, availability of the capacity to maintain the premise as a firearm-free zone, and a means for informing the public of the premise’s status as a firearm-free zone.[102]

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Offenses and Penalties

           Under the FCA

Violation or failure to comply with the provisions of the FCA or the terms of a license, permit, or authorization is an offense.[103]

Failure to lock a firearm in a safe, strong room or device as required by law is an offense.[104]  A person also commits an offense if he or she loses possession of a firearm by failing to take the necessary steps to ensure is safekeeping.[105]

The FCA also stipulates various offenses regarding the use of competency certificates, licenses, permits, or authorizations.  It makes it an offense to fraudulently alter, use, or possess any fraudulently altered document.[106]  It is also an offense to use any document issued to someone else or to allow the use of such document by another person.[107]  In addition, it criminalizes supplying false information in any document required for submission under the FCA, or while acquiring any of these documents or filling out registers.[108]

Additionally, failure to report the loss, theft, or destruction of a firearm to the police is considered an offense, whether by the person licensed to possess the firearm or anyone who was in possession of the firearm when it was lost, stolen or destroyed.[109]

The FCA states that a person convicted of an offense under its provisions may be subject to a fine or imprisonment.[110]  The maximum possible prison term for each offense is spelled out in great detail, the terms ranging from two to twenty-five years.[111] In addition, if the penalty stipulated for the offense in question is a fine or prison term of up to five years, additional administrative fines are imposed.[112]

              Under the FCA Regulations

Anyone who violates or fails to comply with the FCA Regulations commits an offense.[113]  Anyone who makes a false claim with regard to his or her accreditation or that of another person, or provides any false information while providing information required by the Regulations also commits an offense.[114]  A conviction under the Regulations is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment of up to one year.[115]

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Statistical Information

Before the FCA took effect in 2004, there were an estimated 4.5 million registered firearms in South Africa, of which around 3.5 million (78%) were held by individuals.[116] Around 190,000 licenses were issued annually from 1994 through 1999, and over 13,000 individuals had more than ten firearms to their name.[117]  The years since 2004 have seen a drop in the number of legal firearms possessed, with a figure of 3.7 million registered firearms recorded in 2008.[118]

All the same, it appears that South Africa remains among the countries with the highest firearms circulation.  A 2007 survey ranked South Africa seventeenth in the world in private firearms holdings.[119]  At that time, in addition to registered firearms, the country had an estimated 500,000 to 4 million illegal firearms in circulation.[120]  In comparison, the combined holdings of firearms by the police and army were said to be around 570,000.[121]

Before the FCA took effect, firearms-related crimes were very high.  In 1994, 26,832 murders were committed, 11,134 of which involved firearms.[122]  While the country saw a decline in overall murders from 1994 through 2000, there was an 8% increase in the number of firearms-related murders, from 41% of all murders in 1994 to 49% in 2000.[123]  The number of crimes committed with firearms, which had accounted for 48% of all crimes in 1995–96, jumped to 63% by 1998.[124]

Accurate information on the distribution of and crimes committed with firearms after the FCA took effect in 2004 is difficult to obtain.  This is in large part because the South African Police Service (SAPS) reportedly stopped releasing data on the subject in the early 2000s.[125]  In addition, it appears that South Africa is still fine-tuning its firearms regulatory regime; the FCA has been implemented incrementally, and various key amendments made to it in 2006 took effect only recently, with more yet to come.[126]

Nevertheless, the limited number of sources located for this report suggest that there has been a general decline in firearms-related crimes since 2004.  A recent statistical report issued by SAPS showed cases of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition exhibiting a slight decline.  In 2004–2005, 15,497 cases of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition were reported, while in 2011–2012 the number of similar cases was down to 14,461.[127]  Recent SAPS data also shows an overall decline in the prevalence of contact crimes (murder, attempted murder, sexual offenses, assault, robbery with aggravated circumstances, and common robbery) since 2004.[128]  For instance, from 2003–2010, there was a marked downward trend in murders (with an 8.6% decrease) and attempted murders (which declined by 6.1%).[129]  Since the FCA took effect, firearms-related offenses are said to have fallen by 21%.[130]

However, it appears that that the causal effect of the FCA on the decline in firearms-related crimes has yet to be established.[131]

Prepared by Hanibal Goitom
Foreign Law Specialist
February 2013

 

  1. Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 (FCA), as amended, 3 Butterworths Statutes of the Republic of South Africa [BSRSA] (rev. ed. 2011).  No online source for the current version of the FCA was located.  The text of the original Act can be found on the website of the South African government, http://www.info.gov.za/view/ DownloadFileAction?id=68229, along with the text of Firearms Control Amendment Act 43 of 2003, http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=68021.  The text of Firearms Control Amendment Act 28 of 2006 is available on the website of the South African Gunowners’ Association (SAGA), http://www.saga.org.za/ FCA%20Amendments%20ACT%202006% 20gaz%2030210%2020070822.pdf. [Back to Text]
  2. FCA 2000: Firearms Control Regulations (FCA Regulations), No. R. 345, Government Gazette [GG], No. 26156 (Mar. 26, 2004), http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=161734, amended by the FCA, 2000: Amendment of the FCA Regulations, 2004, No. R. 696, Government Notices [GN], No. 27781 (Sept. 16, 2005), http://www.info.gov.za/view/DowloadFile Action?id=161672. [Back to Text]
  3. Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969, Statutes of the Republic of South Africa (Gov. Printer, 1969).  Prior to that, the governing law was the Arms and Ammunition Act 28 of 1937 (1937 AAA), Statutes of the Union of South Africa (Cape Times Ltd., 1937). [Back to Text]
  4. FCA §§ 123 & 124. [Back to Text]
  5. Id. § 4. [Back to Text]
  6. Id. § 13. [Back to Text]
  7. Id. § 24 & 27. [Back to Text]
  8. Id. § 16. [Back to Text]
  9. Id. § 9; FCA Regulations § 14. [Back to Text]
  10. FCA Regulations § 86. [Back to Text]
  11. FCA § 39; FCA Regulations § 37. [Back to Text]
  12. FCA § 39. [Back to Text]
  13. Lauren Tracy, The Costs of Firearm ViolenceA National Public Health Priority, Institute for Security Studies (May 17, 2012), http://www.issafrica.org/iss_today.php?ID=1484%2613; Adèle Kirsten, A Nation Without Guns?  The Story of Gun Free South Africa 6 (Univ. KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2008). [Back to Text]
  14. FCA § 1. [Back to Text]
  15. Id. § 5. [Back to Text]
  16. An “antique firearm” was defined as “any muzzle loading firearm manufactured before 1 January 1900, or any replica of such firearm.”  Id. § 1.  However, this definition was repealed by section 1(b) of the 2006 amendment to the FCA, which took effect in 2011.  Commencement of Certain Provisions of the Firearms Control Amendment Act, 2006 (Act No. 28 of 2006), Proclamation No. 77, 2010, GG, No. 33871 (Dec. 17, 2010), http:// www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=137369. [Back to Text]
  17. FCA § 5. [Back to Text]
  18. Id. §§ 1 & 5. [Back to Text]
  19. Id. § 3.  Authorization for a muzzle-loading firearm requires a competency certificate.  Id. [Back to Text]
  20. Id. § 4.  A “fully automatic firearm” is one “capable of discharging more than one shot with a single depression of the trigger.”  Id. § 1.  An “imitation firearm” is anything that has the appearance of a firearm but is not capable of operating as such and cannot by superficial examination be identified as an imitation. Id.  An “altered firearm” includes a firearm “(i) 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; (ii) the calibre of which has been altered without the written permission of the Registrar; (iii) the barrel length of which has been altered without the written permission of the Registrar; (iv) the serial number or any other identifying mark of which has been changed or removed without the written permission of the Registrar.”  Id. § 4. [Back to Text]
  21. Id. §§ 4, 17, 18, & 19; see also Proclamation No. 77. [Back to Text]
  22. FCA Regulations §§ 15–22. [Back to Text]
  23. FCA § 4. [Back to Text]
  24. Id. §§ 6 & 7. [Back to Text]
  25. Id. § 6; FCA Regulations § 13. [Back to Text]
  26. FCA § 6; Application for a New Firearm License, South Africa Government Services, http://www. services.gov.za/services/content/Home/ServicesForPeople/Dealingwiththelaw/firearms/firearmlicence/en_ZA (last visited Jan. 28, 2013). [Back to Text]
  27. FCA § 7. [Back to Text]
  28. Id. § 8. [Back to Text]
  29. FCA Regulations §§ 2–12. [Back to Text]
  30. FCA § 8. [Back to Text]
  31. Id. [Back to Text]
  32. FCA Regulations §§ 2–12. [Back to Text]
  33. FCA § 8. [Back to Text]
  34. Id. § 9. [Back to Text]
  35. The Registrar may waive this requirement for “compelling reasons,” including if the underage applicant runs a business, is gainfully employed, or is a dedicated hunter, sports person, or private collector.  Id. [Back to Text]
  36. The FCA lists various specific crimes in this regard.  These include a conviction under the FCA or the 1969 AAA for which the convicted person served a prison term without the option of a fine applied; for the unlawful use or handling of a firearm in any jurisdiction; for violence or sexual abuse for which he or she served a prison term with no option for a fine in any jurisdiction; for physical or sexual abuse within a domestic relationship in any jurisdiction; for fraud in relation to application(s) for a competency certificate, license, permit, or authorization under the FCA or the 1969 AAA; for an offense relating to substance abuse for which he or she served a prison term without the option of a fine in any jurisdiction; for dealing drugs for which he or she served a prison term with no option of a fine; for any offense under the South African Domestic Relation Act 116 of 1998 for which he served a prison term with no option of a fine; for  an offense relating to “negligent handling of a firearm”; for an offense under the Explosives Act 26 of 1956 for which he or she served a prison term with no option of a fine; or for sabotage, terrorism, public violence, arson, intimidation, rape, kidnapping, or child stealing in any jurisdiction.  Id.  All of the above-listed offenses also include conspiracy, incitement, or attempt to commit such offense.  Id. [Back to Text]
  37. Id.; FCA Regulations § 14. [Back to Text]
  38. FCA §§ 10 & 10A. [Back to Text]
  39. Id. § 10. [Back to Text]
  40. FCA Regulations § 13. [Back to Text]
  41. Id. §§ 14 & 124. [Back to Text]
  42. FCA Regulations § 14. [Back to Text]
  43. Id. [Back to Text]
  44. FCA § 11. However, the FCA permits the issuance of a single document containing licenses with respect to more than one firearm. [Back to Text]
  45. Id. § 12.  However, this only applies to firearms licensed for self-defense as well as hunting and sports-shooting.  Id. [Back to Text]
  46. Id. § 13. [Back to Text]
  47. Id. [Back to Text]
  48. Id. [Back to Text]
  49. Id. §§ 24 & 27. [Back to Text]
  50. Id. § 14. [Back to Text]
  51. Id. [Back to Text]
  52. Id. §§ 14, 24 & 27. [Back to Text]
  53. Id. § 15. [Back to Text]
  54. Id. [Back to Text]
  55. Id. [Back to Text]
  56. Id. § 15. [Back to Text]
  57. Id. §§ 24 & 27. [Back to Text]
  58. Id. § 16. [Back to Text]
  59. Id. [Back to Text]
  60. Id. §§ 24 & 27. [Back to Text]
  61. Id. § 17. [Back to Text]
  62. Id. [Back to Text]
  63. FCA Regulations § 15.  A prohibited firearm that does not meet the age and collectability standards may still be licensed if its production has been discontinued for at least ten years, and it will likely become of collectable interest from a historic, technological, scientific, heritage, educational, cultural, or artistic perspective; it is part of a commemorative issuance or limited edition; it will fit in as part of a demonstrable theme of future value, where the likelihood of such future value can be sufficiently demonstrated or motivated; it is proven or generally accepted to be associated with famous or infamous people or events; it is currently considered to be nationally or internationally scarce or rare for an acceptable reason; its design materials or method of manufacture are unusual or unique and of historic interest; it is a significantly valuable example of custom or one-off building by a well-known gunmaker or gunsmith; it is a prototype or part of a limited production run; it is a replica of a well-known historical firearm; or it is an investment-grade firearm or device of significant value.  Id. [Back to Text]
  64. FCA §§ 24 & 27. [Back to Text]
  65. Id. § 17. [Back to Text]
  66. FCA Regulations § 16. [Back to Text]
  67. Id. [Back to Text]
  68. FCA § 20.  A prohibited firearm may be issued to a person accredited to provide firearms for use in theatrical, film, or television productions, but additional conditions apply. Id. [Back to Text]
  69. FCA Regulations § 21.m. [Back to Text]
  70. FCA § 20; FCA Regulations § 22. [Back to Text]
  71. FCA § 27. [Back to Text]
  72. Id. § 24. [Back to Text]
  73. Id. § 21. [Back to Text]
  74. FCA Regulations § 23. [Back to Text]
  75. Id. § 24. [Back to Text]
  76. Id. [Back to Text]
  77. FCA § 28. [Back to Text]
  78. Id. [Back to Text]
  79. Id. § 102.  Additional factors for declaring a person unfit have also been enacted although they have yet to take effect.  Under these additional factors, a person may be declared unfit based on information provided under oath or affirmation that he has threatened to take his own life or the life of another person with a firearm or other weapon; he has mental problems, a propensity for violence, or a substance-abuse problem; he has failed to take the required steps to ensure the safekeeping of a firearm; or he has provided false or misleading information in response to any requirement under the FCA.  Id. [Back to Text]
  80. Id. [Back to Text]
  81. Id. § 103. [Back to Text]
  82. Id. § 104. [Back to Text]
  83. Id. [Back to Text]
  84. Id. § 31. [Back to Text]
  85. Id. § 32. [Back to Text]
  86. Id. §§ 35 & 42. The term of a license in this class was extended from one to five years in 2006; however, the amending provision has yet to take effect. [Back to Text]
  87. Id.; FCA Regulations § 31. [Back to Text]
  88. FCA § 39; FCA Regulations § 37. [Back to Text]
  89. FCA Regulations § 37. [Back to Text]
  90. FCA § 39; FCA Regulations § 37.  Section 40 of the FCA Regulations provides that the central database is to contain

  91. (a) the information and supporting documents submitted by an applicant on the prescribed form under regulation 13 regarding a competency certificate, dealer’s licence, authorisation, renewal or copy thereof, as well as, the relevant information in respect of the suspension or termination thereof;

    (b) the information on a competency certificate, license, authorisation, permit and a renewal or copy thereof, that were issued or refused as a result of an application; and

    (c) the details and information submitted by a dealer in respect of the acquisition, transfer and disposal of a firearm or ammunition effected under the Act. [Back to Text]

  92. FCA § 39. [Back to Text]
  93. FCA Regulations § 31. [Back to Text]
  94. Id. § 86; see also Peter Smith, Safekeeping and the FCA: Safes and Strong Rooms and the Firearms Control Act, South Africa Arms and Ammunition Collectors Association – Gauteng, http://www.saaaca. org.za/ ?page_id=822 (last updated Jan. 3, 2012). [Back to Text]
  95. Id. [Back to Text]
  96. FCA Regulations § 86; FCA § 124. [Back to Text]
  97. FCA § 140. [Back to Text]
  98. Id. [Back to Text]
  99. Id. [Back to Text]
  100. Id. [Back to Text]
  101. Id. [Back to Text]
  102. FCA Regulations § 109. [Back to Text]
  103. Id. [Back to Text]
  104. FCA § 120. [Back to Text]
  105. Id. [Back to Text]
  106. Id. [Back to Text]
  107. Id. [Back to Text]
  108. Id. [Back to Text]
  109. Id. [Back to Text]
  110. Id. [Back to Text]
  111. Id. [Back to Text]
  112. Id. § 121. [Back to Text]
  113. Id. §122. [Back to Text]
  114. FCA Regulations § 110. [Back to Text]
  115. Id. [Back to Text]
  116. Id. [Back to Text]
  117. Robert Chetty, Firearm Distribution in South Africa, in Firearm Use and Distribution in South Africa 32, 33 (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2000). [Back to Text]
  118. Id. [Back to Text]
  119. Kirsten, supra note 13, at 4. [Back to Text]
  120. Aaron Karp, Completing the Count: Civilian Firearms, in Small Arms Survey 39, 47 (Graduate Institute of International Studies, 2007), http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/A-Yearbook/2007/ en/full/ Small-Arms-Survey-2007-Chapter-02-EN.pdf. [Back to Text]
  121. Id., Annexe 3; Kirsten, supra note 13, at 6. [Back to Text]
  122. Kirsten, supra note 13, at 4. [Back to Text]
  123. Id. at 6. [Back to Text]
  124. Id. [Back to Text]
  125. Stephen Burrow et al., The Extent of Firearm Deaths and Injuries in South Africa, in Firearm Use and Distribution in South Africa 51 (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2000). [Back to Text]
  126. Tracy, supra note 13; Kirsten, supra note 13, at 6. [Back to Text]
  127. See Commencement of Certain Provisions of the Firearms Control Amendment Act, 2006 (Act 28 of 2006), No. 77, 2010, GG, No. 33871 (Dec. 17, 2010), http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id= 137369; see also Commencement of Certain Provisions of the Firearms Control Amendment Act, 2006 (Feb. 17, 2012). http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=160124. [Back to Text]
  128. Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunition in RSA for April to March 2004/2005 to 2011/2012, Crime Research and Statistics – South Africa Police Service, http://www.saps.gov.za/ statistics/reports/ crimestats/2012/categories/illegal_pos_firearm_ammunition.pdf. [Back to Text]
  129. Lauren Tracy, South Africa: Implementing The Firearms Control Act – A Complete Failure Or Work In Progress?, Institute for Security Studies (July 11, 2011), available at http://allafrica.com/stories/20110711 1819.html. [Back to Text]
  130. Id. [Back to Text]
  131. Ntombi Dyosop, Did Gun Control Cause Fall in Gun Crime?  The Data Backs the Claim, Africa Check (Dec. 15, 2012), http://www.africacheck.org/reports/did-gun-control-cause-fall-in-gun-crime-the-data-backs-the-claim/. [Back to Text]
  132. Id.; see also Tracy, supra note 13. [Back to Text]

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Last Updated: 09/16/2014