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South Africa — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law

StockpilesGun Numbers

Civilian Guns

Number of Privately Owned Firearms

The estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in South Africa is 5,950,0001 2 3 4

Rate of Civilian Firearm Possession per 100 Population

The estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) in South Africa is 12.71 firearms per 100 people

Number of Privately Owned Rifles

In South Africa, the number of rifles in civilian possession is reported to be 1,286,628 (registered only)5 6 7

Number of Privately Owned Shotguns

In South Africa, the number of shotguns in civilian possession is reported to be 453,486 (registered only)5 6 7

Number of Privately Owned Handguns

There are reportedly 2,784,420 (registered only)5 6 7 handguns in civilian possession in South Africa

Number of Privately Owned Firearms - World Ranking

In a comparison of the number of privately owned guns in 178 countries, South Africa ranked at No. 178

Rate of Privately Owned Firearms per 100 Population - World Ranking

In a comparison of the rate of private gun ownership in 178 countries, South Africa ranked at No. 501

Number of Licensed Firearm Owners

ChartThe number of licensed gun owners in South Africa is reported to be

2011: 1,500,0002
1999: 2,027,4119 7
1996: 2,000,00010
1994: 2,400,0002

Rate of Licensed Firearm Owners per 100 Population

ChartThe rate of licensed firearm owners per 100 people in South Africa is

2011: 3.0611
1999: 4.55
1996: 4.67
1994: 5.76

Number of Registered Firearms

ChartThe number of registered guns in South Africa is reported to be

2011: 2,900,0002
2007: 3,000,00012
2005: 3,737,6768
2004: 3,737,67610
2003: 3,735,6765 13
1999: 3,554,3366 5 13
1996: 3,503,57310
1994: 3,500,0002

Rate of Registered Firearms per 100 Population

ChartThe rate of registered guns per 100 people in South Africa is

2011: 5.9211
2007: 6.20
2005: 7.87
2004: 7.95
2003: 8.02
1999: 7.98
1996: 8.19
1994: 8.40

Estimated Number of Illicit Firearms

Unlawfully held guns cannot be counted, but in South Africa there are estimated to be 500,0003 to 4,000,0004

Estimated Rate of Illicit Firearms per 100 Population

Unlawfully held guns cannot be counted, but in South Africa there are estimated to be 1.12 to 8.4211 illicit firearms per 100 people

Government Guns

Number of Military Firearms

The defence forces of South Africa are reported to have 350,63614 15 16 firearms

Routine Arming of Police

In South Africa, police officers on routine patrol carry one or more firearms17

Number of Law Enforcement Firearms

Police in South Africa are reported to have 261,27218 19 20 17 16 firearms

ImpactsDeath and Injury

Total Number of Gun Deaths

ChartIn South Africa, annual deaths resulting from firearms total

2008: 3,35721
1999: 13,24022 23

Rate of All Gun Deaths per 100,000 People

ChartIn South Africa, the annual rate of all gun deaths per 100,000 population is

2008: 6.8811
1999: 29.74

Homicides (any method)

ChartIn South Africa, annual homicides by any means total

2011: 15,60922 24
2010: 15,94022
2009: 16,834
2008: 18,148
2007: 18,487
2006: 19,202
2005: 18,528
2004: 18,793
2003: 19,824
2002: 21,553
2001: 21,405
2000: 21,758
1999: 22,604
1998: 25,127
1997: 24,486
1996: 25,470
1995: 26,877
1994: 26,83225

Rate of Homicide per 100,000 People (any method)

ChartIn South Africa, the annual rate of homicide by any means per 100,000 population is

2011: 30.922 24 26
2010: 31.822 26
2009: 33.8
2008: 36.822 26 27
2007: 37.9
2006: 39.7
2005: 38.8
2004: 39.8
2003: 42.5
2002: 46.822 27
2001: 47.2
2000: 48.6
1999: 51.2
1998: 57.7
1997: 57.1
1996: 60.4
1995: 64.9
1994: 66.928

Gun Homicides

ChartIn South Africa, annual firearm homicides total

2007: 8,31922
2006: 9,063
2005: 8,597
2004: 9,021
2003: 9,714
2002: 10,130
2001: 10,274
2000: 10,727
1999: 11,212
1998: 12,413
1997: 11,166
1996: 11,258
1995: 11,154
1994: 11,13425

Rate of Gun Homicide per 100,000 People

ChartIn South Africa, the annual rate of firearm homicide per 100,000 population is

2007: 17.022 29
2006: 18.822 30 29
2005: 18.022 29
2004: 19.1
2003: 20.8
2002: 22.022
2001: 22.6
2000: 24.0
1999: 25.4
1998: 28.5
1997: 26.0
1996: 26.7
1995: 26.9
1994: 28.8025

Suicides (any method)

ChartIn South Africa, annual suicides by any means total

2008: 3,12521
1999: 5,04723

Rate of Suicide per 100,000 People (any method)

ChartIn South Africa, the annual rate of suicide by any means per 100,000 population is

2008: 6.4111
1999: 11.2123

Gun Suicides

ChartIn South Africa, annual firearm suicides total

2008: 42221
1999: 1,71623

Rate of Gun Suicide per 100,000 People

ChartIn South Africa, the annual rate of firearm suicide per 100,000 population is

2008: 0.8711
1999: 3.9523

Unintentional Gun Deaths

In South Africa, annual unintentional shooting deaths total 1999: 15623

Rate of Unintentional Gun Death per 100,000 People

In South Africa, the annual rate of unintentional shooting death per 100,000 population is 1999: 0.36q12}

Gun Deaths from Undetermined Cause

In South Africa, annual shooting deaths in which the cause remains undecided total 1999: 15623

Rate of Gun Death from Undetermined Cause per 100,000 People

In South Africa, the annual rate of unknown-cause shooting deaths per 100,000 population is 1999: 0.3623

ProductionGun Industry

Regulation of Firearm Makers

In South Africa, the manufacture of small arms, ammunition and/or their components is permitted only if the maker holds a valid licence31 32 33 34 35

Small Arms Manufacture - World Ranking

In a classification of the world's small, medium and major firearm manufacturers, South Africa is ranked 'medium'36

TransfersGun Trade and Trafficking

Regulation of Firearm Exports

In South Africa, firearm and ammunition exports are limited by transfer control law37 38 39 40 41 42

Small Arms Exports (US$) - Customs

The annual value of small arms and ammunition exports from South Africa is reported by Customs to be US$20,034,75843 (2011)

Small Arms Exports - World Ranking

In a comparison of the world's major/mid-level/minor/unknown small arms exporters, South Africa is categorized as 'mid-level'44

Regulation of Firearm Imports

In South Africa, firearm and ammunition imports are limited by transfer control law37 38 39 40 41

Small Arms Imports (US$) - Customs

The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to South Africa is reported by Customs to be US$23,643,43743 (2011)45

Smuggling Guns and Ammunition

Reports suggest that the level of firearm and ammunition smuggling in South Africa is high46 47 48 49 50

Regulation of Arms Brokers

In South Africa, the activities of arms brokers and transfer intermediaries are specifically regulated by law51 52

End User Certificates

Customs regulations in South Africa include38 certification of the intended end user of any small arms or ammunition transfer, and/or a written declaration of its intended end use

Transparency of Small Arms Transfers

In the most recent survey of state transparency in declaring firearm and ammunition exports among major small arms exporting nations, South Africa was ranked at No. 5153

MeasuresGun Regulation

Firearm Regulation - Guiding Policy

The regulation of guns in South Africa is categorised as restrictive54

Firearm Law

Guiding gun control legislation in South Africa includes the Firearms Control Act 2000,55 the Firearms Control regulations 2004,56 and the Domestic Violence Act57

Firearm Regulation Authority

Guns in South Africa are regulated by the National Commissioner58 and the South African Police Service59

Right to Possess Firearms

In South Africa, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law60 61

Restricted Firearms and Ammunition

In South Africa, civilians are not allowed to possess semi-automatic firearms without special endorsement,62 automatic firearms and specifically modified firearms63

Regulation of Automatic Weapons

In South Africa, private possession of fully automatic weapons is prohibited63

Regulation of Semiautomatic Assault Weapons

In South Africa, private possession of semi-automatic assault weapons is prohibited, with few exceptions63 62

Regulation of Handguns

In South Africa, private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is permitted under licence63 62

Gun Ownership and Possession

In South Africa, only licensed gun owners61 64 65 may lawfully acquire, possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition

Genuine Reason Required for Firearm Possession

Applicants for a gun owner’s licence in South Africa are required to prove genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example hunting, target shooting, collection, personal protection, work62 66 67 68 69 70

Minimum Age for Firearm Possession

The minimum age for gun ownership in South Africa is 21 years, with some exceptions that may include the fact that the applicant conducts a business, is gainfully employed, a dedicated hunter, a dedicated sports person or a private collector71 69

Gun Licence Background Checks

An applicant for a firearm licence in South Africa must pass a background check which considers criminal, mental, medical, domestic violence, addiction, employment, and previous firearm licence72 73 74 75 records

Reference Required for Firearm Licence

In South Africa, third party character references for each gun licence applicant are required76

Domestic Violence and Firearms

Where a past history, or apprehended likelihood of family violence exists, the law in South Africa stipulates72 73 74 75 57 that a gun licence should be denied or revoked

Firearm Safety Training

In South Africa, an understanding of firearm safety and the law, tested in a theoretical and/or practical training course is required72 77 65 78 for a firearm licence

Gun Owner Licensing Period

In South Africa gun owners must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licence every two to ten years79

Licensing Records

In South Africa, authorities maintain a record80 81 82 83 39 84 of individual civilians licensed to acquire, possess, sell or transfer a firearm or ammunition

Limit on Number of Guns

Licensed firearm owners in South Africa are permitted to possess 1 firearm per firearm licence85

Limit on Quantity, Type of Ammunition

Licensed firearm owners in South Africa are permitted to possess up to 2,400 primers or 200 cartridges per firearm, for all those other than dedicated hunters or sports-shooters86 87

Firearm Registration

Civilian Gun Registration

In South Africa, the law requires80 81 88 that a record of the acquisition, possession and transfer of each privately held firearm be retained in an official register

Gun Dealer Record Keeping

In South Africa, licensed firearm dealers are required80 89 90 91 39 88 to keep a record of each firearm or ammunition purchase, sale or transfer on behalf of a regulating authority

Gun Manufacturer Record Keeping

In South Africa, licensed gun makers are required80 92 93 88 to keep a record of each firearm produced, for inspection by a regulating authority

State-Owned Firearm Records

In South Africa, State agencies are required80 94 95 to maintain records of the storage and movement of all firearms and ammunition under their control

Gun Sales and Transfers

Regulation of Private Gun Sales

In South Africa, the private sale and transfer of firearms is prohibited96 42

Regulation of Dealer Gun Sales

In South Africa, dealing in firearms by way of business without a valid gun dealer’s licence is unlawful96 97 41

Number of Licensed Gun Dealers

ChartThe number of licensed firearm dealers in South Africa is reported to be

2006: 5097
2000: 720
1999: 64498

Waiting Period for Gun Possession

In South Africa, the minimum wait for a lawful firearm purchase to be completed is 4 months for civilian competency certificates and 30 days for individual security officer certificates99

Regulation of Gun Shows

In South Africa, gun shows and temporary firearm dealing events are regulated100 101 in law

Storage and Transport of Guns and Ammunition

Firearm and Ammunition Storage Regulations - Private

Firearm regulations in South Africa include102 103 104 105 106 107 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of private firearms and ammunition by licensed gun owners

Firearm and Ammunition Storage Regulations - Dealer

Firearm regulations in South Africa include102 103 31 108 32 106 107 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of firearms and ammunition by licensed arms dealers

Firearm and Ammunition Storage Regulations - Government

Government regulations in South Africa include109 110 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of firearms and ammunition by state entities

Firearm and Ammunition Transport Regulations

Regulations in South Africa include102 111 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of firearms and ammunition while in transit

Marking and Tracing Guns and Ammunition

Firearm Marking

In South Africa, a unique identifying mark on each firearm is required by law112 113 114 32

Firearm Tracing

In South Africa, state authorities carry out115 113 recognised arms tracing and tracking procedures

Ballistic Marking of Firearms and Ammunition

In South Africa, state authorities employ116 ballistic fingerprinting technology to trace guns and ammunition

Carrying Guns

Carrying Guns Openly in Public

In South Africa, carrying a firearm in plain view in a public place is prohibited117

Carrying Hidden Handguns in Public

In South Africa, carrying a concealed firearm in a public place is allowed without a permit117

Gun Free Zones

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 stadiums118 119

Penalty for Illicit Firearm Possession

In South Africa, the maximum penalty for unlawful possession of a firearm120 is up to 15 years prison121

Collection, Amnesty and Destruction Programmes

Authorities in South Africa are known to have122 implemented voluntary firearm surrender schemes, and/or weapon seizure programmes in order to reduce the number of illicit firearms in circulation

Surrendered in Gun Amnesty

ChartIn South Africa, the number of firearms voluntarily surrendered in recent arms amnesty and collection programmes is reported to be

2012/13: 4,936123
2011/12: 4,876
2010: 42,000124
2005: 62,404122 124
1994: 900124

Firearms Collected and Seized

ChartIn South Africa, firearms voluntarily surrendered for destruction, collected or seized in routine policing are reported to number

2012/13: 20,145125
2011/12: 25,615
2006/07: 13,120126
2005/06: 12,351
2005: 182,315122
2004/05: 23,813126
2003/04: 30,208
2002/03: 21,607
2001/02: 19,756
2000/01: 15,421
1999/00: 14,272
1998: 20,702127 126
1997: 14,970
1996: 18,154
1995: 16,290
1994: 14,789

Small Arms Destroyed

ChartIn South Africa, the total number of firearms destroyed following recent amnesty, collection and seizure programmes is reported to be

2012/13: 56,051128
2011/12: 119,810
2007: 74,592129
2006: 161,049
2005: 88,114
2004: 79,657
2003: 72,158
2002: 26,768
2001: 16,223
2000: 12,416

Destruction and Disposal Policy

In South Africa, it is state policy130 131 132 133 to destroy surplus, collected and seized firearms rather than return them to the secondary arms market

MeasuresInternational Controls

Regional Agreements

African Union

In June 2006, as a member of the African Union, South Africa adopted an African Common Position to take to the Conference to Review the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA), held in June 2006134

Southern African Development Community

As a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), South Africa signed the SADC Declaration Concerning Firearms, Ammunition and Other Related Materials in March 2001. This laid the ground for the August, 2001 adoption of the legally binding SADC Protocol on Control of Firearms, Ammunition and Other Related Materials135

Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development

The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development, was signed in 2006136 by South Africa.

United Nations Arms Trade Treaty

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has been signed, but not yet ratified137 by South Africa

United Nations Firearms Protocol

The United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition has been signed and ratified138 by South Africa

United Nations Small Arms Programme of Action UNPoA

UNPoA Commitment

On 21 July 2001, South Africa committed to a consensus decision of the United Nations to adopt, support and implement the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects139

UNPoA Implementation Monitor Score

In its UN small arms Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (PoAIM Phase 1), the Small Arms Survey scored South Africa against its commitments to the PoA, then ranked it at No. 95140 141 142 143 among 159 Member States

UNPoA National Reporting

Under the terms of its 2001 commitment to the United Nations small arms Programme of Action, South Africa has submitted one or more national reports144 145 on its implementation of the UNPoA

UNPoA National Point of Contact

In South Africa, a National Point of Contact to deal with issues relating to the UNPoA has been designated146 145

UNPoA National Coordinating Body

In South Africa, a National Coordinating Body to deal with issues relating to the UNPoA has not been designated146 145

UNPoA Civil Society Involvement and Support

In National Reports of South Africa submitted to the UN, a history of substantive cooperation with civil society in support of UNPoA activities is apparent145

UNPoA International Assistance – Donor

Funds for UNPoA implementation have been donated145 by South Africa to other UN Member States

UNPoA International Assistance – Recipient

Funds for UNPoA implementation have been provided145 to South Africa by other UN Member States

United Nations Small Arms Register

According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, South Africa has not declared147 its small arms exports in one or more annual National Reports on Arms Exports.

United Nations Membership

In the UN List of Member States, South Africa has been a Member State of the United Nations since 1945148

Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls and Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies lists149 South Africa as a Participating State

BackgroundCountry Profile

Conflict Profile

For a profile of conflict in South Africa, select the Link icon to open an external web page from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia at Uppsala University

Global Peace Index

To see where South Africa ranks, select the Link icon to open an external web page at the Global Peace Index


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