Court Ruling On ‘Expired Gun Licences’ And Other Must Know Facts


The recent weeks in South Africa have seen more court rulings on some controversial issues ranging from the #SchoolsReligion court ruling to court’s ruling on Brian Molefe’s case. This time, it’s the court’s ruling on gun licences.

Tuesday saw the Gauteng North High Court declaring two sections of the Firearms Control Act unconstitutional.

Both sections deal with procedures and regulations that should be in place when surrendering a firearm for which the license has already expired.

In her ruling, the North Gauteng High Court’s Judge Ronel Tolmay upheld the purpose of the Firearms Control Act (2000) which described guns as “hazardous objects” that need to be “strictly controlled”‚ and affirming the importance of gun licences having a “limited lifespan”.

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While stipulating that South Africa’s gun law needs to be properly enforced, the judge recognised that regular gun licences renewals are still an integral part of an effective gun control system.

In her “groundbreaking” ruling, all firearms issued in terms of the Act, which are due or were due to be renewed, shall be deemed to be valid.

Tolmay criticised the Firearms Control Act (2000) for not listing the procedure that gun owners whose Gun licences have expired must undertake to bring themselves “back within the parameters of the law”‚ noting that since about 2010 there is evidence that the Act has been poorly enforced.

Thus, she said, sections 24 and 28 of the Act are unconstitutional‚ and the new court ruling will remain in place until the Constitutional Court has had the final say on the matter.

The major issues in the Act were that gun Licences owner is considered to be in illegal possession of the firearm even while he is on the move to renew a gun licence after it had expired. The gun has to be handed into the nearest police station. The act also stated that the owner will not be prosecuted if it is a voluntary surrender.

The major Problem here now is that if the gun owner for some reason delayed in renewing the firearm, there was no proper procedure in place  to bring him or her back under the scheme of legality.”

The judge gave the Parliament 18 months to amend the Act and include this “glaringly absent” detail.

The Gun Free South Africa who welcomed this Court’s ruling, however said although it agrees that there are serious gaps in the enforcement of the Firearms Control Act‚ “declaring these two sections of the Act unconstitutional does not follow and is not supported by the argument advanced in the judgment that effective implementation of a strong gun law is in the interest of our society”.

“Just because the law is not being effectively implemented does not warrant the ruling that sections 24 and 28 are unconstitutional; rather the remedy would require the SAPS to get its house in order immediately and for the Act to be amended to provide procedural clarity. An opportunity for the latter will be provided hopefully this year when the 2017 Firearms Control Amendment Bill is brought to Parliament.” Adele Kirsten‚ Gun Free South Africa’s director said.

The challenge against sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act was lodged by the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association.  following a February 2016 police directive that aimed at standardising the gun licence renewals process‚ as prior to this date some police stations accepted late applications while others did not.

This followed a police directive in February 2016 that aimed at standardising the gun licences renewals process‚ as prior to this date some police stations accepted late applications while others did not.

The police directive which hinted that nearly all countries in the world supported a limited duration of gun licences, ordered SAPS to fully comply with the Act‚ and to no longer accept late gun licences renewal applications. It called on licensees to renew their licences on a regular basis.

 Quick Answers To Your Questions On Gun Licences

While it is a right to own a gun (firearm) in some countries, it is not a right in South Africa as the government is bent on limiting handgun ownership across the country.

But if you must own a gun in South Africa there are rules to strictly follow. They include:

  • You must be a South African citizen or must be a permanent residence permit holder
  • You must be 21 years unless there are convincing reasons requiring the applicant to get a competency certificate or firearm licence before the stipulated age.
  • You must undergo and completed training at an accredited institution and obtain a training proficiency certificate;
  •  Fill in the application form. SAPS have prepared detailed instructions for completing the form.
  • Once you have obtained the competency certificate, you can apply for the Gun licence at your nearest police station.
  • Must be mentally stable and fit.
  • Must not be addicted to any drugs or alcohol.
  • Must not have a criminal record.
  • A proper motivation indicating the reasons for the need for the firearm.
  • To pay the prescribed fees.

How long is the licence valid for?

All firearms licences must be renewed every:

  • Five years for business purposes.
  • Five years for self-defence.
  • 10 years for hunting or sports-related shooting.

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What are my responsibilities if I own or want to own a gun?

  • Ensure that the gun does not land in the wrong hands and that it isn’t used for crime.
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Comply with the Domestic Violence Act.

You must get basic training from an accredited trainer. All accredited trainers are issued with competency certificates from SAPS. You can only buy a firearm from a registered dealer and if your firearm is lost or stolen, or if your documents are damaged, you need to report this to the police within 24 hours.

You may only own 200 rounds of ammunition for each firearm and can only have ammunition that is suitable for that particular firearm (this does not apply to dedicated hunters or sports shooters).

Never leave another person in possession of your firearm unless authorised to do so by SAPS. You must renew your new firearm licence and corresponding competency certificate three months before it expires.

For Enquiries: Please contact FLASH Call Center at 012 353 6111 or email on [email protected]