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Module 1

Gun Control in SA

Strong gun laws save lives, poor enforcement kills

Module 1

Gun Control in SA

Strong gun laws save lives, poor enforcement kills


History of guns in South Africa

South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The availability and social acceptability of guns is a major contributing factor.

South Africa has inherited a ‘culture of violence’ from its colonial and apartheid past. In the run-up to the 1994 democratic elections, over 3.5 million licensed firearms were in the hands of 2.4 million individuals. At that time, gun ownership was governed by the Arms and Ammunition Act of 1969, which put the age limit for gun ownership at 16 years, allowed people to own up to 12 guns, and gun licences were issued for life.

In 1994, 31 people were shot and killed each day; this figure rose to 34 a day in 1998, which is when government started taking action to tighten gun control in South Africa.

What is gun control?

Gun control legislation aims to:
Regulate the number of legal guns

  • Control who can and cannot own a gun and the conditions of that ownership.
  • Keep track of who owns which gun, so that each gun can be linked to its owner should it be used to commit a crime, or to know when guns have been stolen or lost.

Take illegal guns out of circulation

  • Most illegal guns were once legally owned before they leaked into the illegal pool. Legal guns become illegal when they are lost or stolen. The biggest source of illegal guns in SA are civilian gun owners.

How to reduce illegal guns:

  • Limit the number of legal guns;
  • Hold regular operations including search and seizures as well as amnesties to recover illegal and legal guns; and
  • Regularly destroy recovered, confiscated and unwanted guns so they don't leak back onto the streets.

Why gun control is important

By controlling how many guns (legal and illegal) are on the streets:

  • Crime will be less violent and deadly.
  • The risk of accidental death, suicide, and murder of partners and family members can be reduced.
The Firearms Control Act
Strong gun laws save lives — poor enforcement kills
The result of poor enforcement


Legally you are not allowed to destroy your own gun. It is the responsibility of the police to destroy guns. These guns must be destroyed by either crushing or smelting them in a hot furnace. This ensures that these guns don't make their way back on to the streets.


During an amnesty you can hand your gun and ammunition over to the police without being prosecuted. For example, if you have failed to renew your gun licence, you are breaking the law. A gun amnesty will allow you to hand in the gun without being prosecuted for breaking the law.


It is illegal:
  • To keep or use someone else’s gun.
  • To buy a gun from an unlicensed dealer.
  • Not to report a stolen or lost gun to the police.
  • To point a gun at someone.
  • Not to store the gun in a safe and secure place.
  • To discharge a gun in public without 'good cause'.
  • To provide false information on a gun application form.


A competency certificate to own a gun will  be denied if the applicant has:
  • A history of violence.
  • A criminal record.
  • A drug or alcohol abuse problem.
  • A conviction for sexual abuse or domestic violence.
  • Used a firearm negligently.
  • Been declared unfit to possess a gun.
  • Had a final protection order issued against them under the Domestic Violence Act.


Facts and figures highlighting the impact of guns and gun violence in South Africa.



Don’t believe everything you hear about guns. Here are some common myths you should be aware of.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Fact: People with guns can kill more people more quickly. Evidence shows that limiting access to guns can prevent murders, suicides and injuries. The data also show that countries with restrictive gun laws and lower gun ownership levels tend to have lower levels of gun violence.

Crime is committed with illegal guns and not legal guns.

Fact: Most illegal guns were once legal guns. When legal guns are either stolen or lost, they end up as illegal guns. However, many legal guns are also used to commit crime, especially in the home, and between partners or ex-partners.

Criminals don’t follow the law, so why have any gun laws?

Fact: Not true! Since stricter gun laws were introduced in 2000, gun deaths have almost halved — from 34 a day to 18 a day — and gun-related crime fell by more than 21%.

The weapon used to commit a crime has no relevance to the levels and impact of the crime.

Fact: Firearms are most often the weapon of choice of criminals: they are small, light, easy to use and conceal; and they are more lethal than any other weapon. One in three people who are shot will die, while one in 55 people who are stabbed will die.

Take Action

Together, we can make a difference to reduce gun violence and help create safer communities for us all.

What you can do:

Voice your support for a gun-free South Africa

Your voice can stop a bullet. Don’t let the tiny minority of gun owners in South Africa dominate the gun-control debate. Raise your voice in support of a country free from gun violence — reach out to your wider community by writing letters to your local newspaper, phoning your local radio station, tweeting or blogging.

Monitor and respond to government actions

Praise the police for gun recovery and destruction campaigns but be critical when you hear cases where the law hasn’t been implemented, resulting in unfit people being granted gun licences.

Reach out to your community

Use this Toolkit to find out how you can take action against gun violence in your family, circle of friends or community.

Find out the facts

Get the facts — read the news and follow Gun Free South Africa on social media for news and information about gun violence and how to prevent it.

What your government can do:

Ensure that investigations are undertaken and resourced

Comply with international obligations to regulate firearms and ammunition, including securing stockpiles to stop loss and theft — from the police, the military and civilians.

Regular amnesty and public gun destruction campaigns

Hold regular no-questions-asked amnesty and public gun destruction campaigns.

Provide accurate crime statistics

Provide accurate crime statistics with detailed information on guns used in crime. This will help monitor the impact of gun control policy and enforcement, highlight successes and challenges, and identify areas requiring urgent attention.

Audit all licences, permits and authorisations

Enforce the law, which will help reduce the risk of gun violence.

Strengthen licence renewal laws

Bring the Firearms Control Amendment Bill to Parliament to close loopholes and strengthen the law regulating who can own what gun for which purpose.

Our Donors

This publication was made possible with the support of the DG Murray Trust and the Raith Foundation.


Contact Us

Fax: 086 545 0094


Address: Gun Free South Africa,
P.O. Box 3048, Killarney, 2193,
Johannesburg, South Africa


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