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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 3,400,0001 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 6.945 4 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)6 7 8

Number of Privately Owned Shotguns

In South Africa, the number of shotguns in civilian possession is reported to be 453,486 (registered only)6 7 8

Number of Privately Owned Handguns

There are reportedly 2,784,420 (registered only)6 7 8 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. 179

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. 504

Proportion of Households with Firearms

In South Africa, the percentage of households with one or more guns is reported to be 2001: 20%10

Number of Licensed Firearm Owners

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

2011: 1,500,0001
2001: 2,092,24210
1999: 2,027,41111 8
1996: 2,000,00012
1994: 2,400,0001

Rate of Licensed Firearm Owners per 100 Population

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

2011: 3.065
2001: 4.59
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: 2,900,0001
2007: 3,000,00013
2005: 3,737,6764
2004: 3,737,67612
2003: 3,735,6766 14
2001: 3,667,28910
1999: 3,554,3367 6 14
1996: 3,503,57312
1994: 3,500,0001

Rate of Registered Firearms per 100 Population

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

2011: 5.925
2007: 6.20
2005: 7.87
2004: 7.95
2003: 8.02
2001: 8.05
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 500,0002 to 4,000,0003

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 8.425 illicit firearms per 100 people

Government Guns

Number of Military Firearms

The defence forces of South Africa are reported to have 350,63615 16 17 firearms

Routine Arming of Police

In South Africa, police officers on routine patrol carry one or more firearms18

Number of Law Enforcement Firearms

Police in South Africa are reported to have 261,27219 20 21 18 17 firearms

ImpactsDeath and Injury

Total Number of Gun Deaths

ChartIn South Africa, annual deaths resulting from firearms total

2008: 3,35722
2005: 15,00023
2000: 5,20124
1999: 3,90625

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: 6.885
2005: 31.59
2000: 11.54
1999: 8.77

Homicides (any method)

ChartIn South Africa, annual homicides by any means total

2013: 17,06826 27
2012: 16,25928 29 27
2011: 15,60929 30 31
2010: 15,94029 30
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: 21,75829 30 24 32
1999: 22,60430 32 25
1998: 25,12730 32
1997: 24,486
1996: 25,470
1995: 26,877
1994: 26,83233 32

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

2013: 32.226 27
2012: 31.328 29 27
2011: 30.328 29 30 31 34
2010: 31.029 30 34
2009: 33.1
2008: 36.129 30 34 35
2007: 37.3
2006: 39.3
2005: 38.4
2004: 39.5
2003: 42.3
2002: 46.729 30 35
2001: 47.0
2000: 48.5
1999: 51.230 35
1998: 57.7
1997: 57.1
1996: 60.4
1995: 64.9
1994: 66.936

Gun Homicides

ChartIn South Africa, annual firearm homicides total

2007: 6,10129 30
2006: 9,06330
2005: 8,597
2004: 9,021
2003: 9,714
2002: 10,130
2001: 10,274
2000: 10,72730 24 37 32
1999: 11,21230 37 32 38
1998: 12,41330 37 32
1997: 11,166
1996: 11,258
1995: 11,15430 32
1994: 11,13433 32

Rate of Gun Homicide per 100,000 People

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

2007: 12.615 30 39
2006: 18.830 40 39
2005: 18.030 39
2004: 19.1
2003: 20.8
2002: 22.030
2001: 22.6
2000: 24.0
1999: 25.4
1998: 28.5
1997: 26.0
1996: 26.7
1995: 26.9
1994: 28.8033

Proportion of Homicides Committed With a Gun

ChartIn South Africa, the percentage of homicides committed with a firearm is reported to be

2012/13: 33%27
2007: 33%29

Handgun Homicides

ChartIn South Africa, annual handgun homicides total

2000: 6,72432
1999: 7,183
1998: 7,032
1997: 6,590
1996: 6,696
1995: 9,019
1994: 9,144

Rate of Handgun Homicide per 100,000 People

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

2000: 14.925
1999: 16.13
1998: 16.00
1997: 15.20
1996: 15.65
1995: 21.36
1994: 21.95

Long Gun Homicides

ChartIn South Africa, annual long gun homicides total

2000: 2,60332
1999: 3,071
1998: 3,037
1997: 2,722
1996: 1,300
1995: 1,421
1994: 1,423

Rate of Long Gun Homicide per 100,000 People

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

2000: 5.785
1999: 6.90
1998: 6.91
1997: 6.28
1996: 3.04
1995: 3.37
1994: 3.42

Gun Homicides (Other)

ChartIn South Africa, annual gun homicides (other) total

2000: 1,52732
1999: 1,757
1998: 2,185
1997: 1,868
1996: 2,592
1995: 291
1994: 618

Rate of Gun Homicide (Other) per 100,000 People

ChartIn South Africa, the annual rate of gun homicide (other) per 100,000 population is

2000: 3.395
1999: 3.95
1998: 4.97
1997: 4.31
1996: 6.06
1995: 0.69
1994: 1.48

Suicides (any method)

ChartIn South Africa, annual suicides by any means total

2008: 3,12522
2000: 1,78224
1999: 1,15725 41

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: 6.415
2000: 3.95
1999: 2.605 41

Gun Suicides

ChartIn South Africa, annual firearm suicides total

2008: 42222
1999: 40442 41

Rate of Gun Suicide per 100,000 People

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

2008: 0.875
1999: 0.915 41

Unintentional Gun Deaths

In South Africa, annual unintentional shooting deaths total 1999: 943 41

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: 0.025 41

Gun Deaths from Undetermined Cause

In South Africa, annual shooting deaths in which the cause remains undecided total 1999: 4844 41

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: 0.115 41

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 licence45 46 47 48 49

Small Arms Manufacture - World Ranking

In a classification of the world's small, medium and major firearm manufacturers, South Africa was ranked 'medium'50

TransfersGun Trade and Trafficking

Regulation of Firearm Exports

In South Africa, firearm and ammunition exports are limited by transfer control law51 52 53 54 55 56

Small Arms Exports (US$) - Customs

The annual value of small arms and ammunition exports from South Africa is reported by Customs to be US$20,034,75857 (2011)

Small Arms Exports - World Ranking

In a comparison of the world's major/mid-level/minor/unknown small arms exporters, South Africa was categorized as 'mid-level'58

Regulation of Firearm Imports

In South Africa, firearm and ammunition imports are limited by transfer control law51 52 53 54 55

Small Arms Imports (US$) - Customs

The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to South Africa is reported by Customs to be US$23,643,43757 (2011)59

Smuggling Guns and Ammunition

Reports suggest that the level of firearm and ammunition smuggling in South Africa is high60 61 62 63 64

Regulation of Arms Brokers

In South Africa, the activities of arms brokers and transfer intermediaries are specifically regulated by law65 66

End User Certificates

Customs regulations in South Africa include52 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. 5167

MeasuresGun Regulation

Firearm Regulation - Guiding Policy

The regulation of guns in South Africa is categorised as restrictive68

Firearm Law

Guiding gun control legislation in South Africa includes the Firearms Control Act 2000,69 the Firearms Control regulations 2004,70 and the Domestic Violence Act71

Firearm Regulation Authority

Guns in South Africa are regulated by the National Commissioner72 and the South African Police Service73

Right to Possess Firearms

In South Africa, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law74 75

Restricted Firearms and Ammunition

In South Africa, civilians are not allowed to possess semi-automatic firearms without special endorsement,76 automatic firearms and specifically modified firearms77

Regulation of Automatic Weapons

In South Africa, private possession of fully automatic weapons is prohibited77 27

Regulation of Semiautomatic Assault Weapons

In South Africa, private possession of semi-automatic assault weapons is prohibited, with few exceptions77 76

Regulation of Handguns

In South Africa, private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is permitted under licence77 76 27

Law Regulates Long Guns

In South Africa, civilian possession of rifles and shotguns is regulated by law76 27

Gun Ownership and Possession

In South Africa, only licensed gun owners75 78 79 27 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 establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example hunting, target shooting, collection, personal protection, work76 80 81 82 83 84

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 collector85 83

Gun Owner 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 licence86 87 88 89 27 records

Reference Required for Firearm Licence

In South Africa, third party character references for each gun licence applicant are required90

Domestic Violence and Firearms

Where a past history, or apprehended likelihood of family violence exists, the law in South Africa stipulates86 87 88 89 71 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 required86 91 79 92 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 years93

Licensing Records

In South Africa, authorities maintain a record94 95 96 97 53 98 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 licence99

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-shooters100 101

Firearm Registration

Civilian Gun Registration

In South Africa, the law requires94 95 102 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 required94 103 104 105 53 102 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 required94 106 107 102 to keep a record of each firearm produced, for inspection by a regulating authority

State-Owned Firearm Records

In South Africa, State agencies are required94 108 109 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 prohibited110 56

Regulation of Dealer Gun Sales

In South Africa, dealing in firearms by way of business without a valid gun dealer’s licence is unlawful110 111 55

Number of Licensed Gun Dealers

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

2006: 50111
2000: 720
1999: 644112

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 certificates113

Regulation of Gun Shows

In South Africa, gun shows and temporary firearm dealing events are regulated114 115 in law

Storage and Transport of Guns and Ammunition

Firearm and Ammunition Storage Regulations - Private

Firearm regulations in South Africa include116 117 118 119 120 121 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 include116 117 45 122 46 120 121 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 include123 124 written specifications for the lawful safe storage of firearms and ammunition by state entities

Firearm and Ammunition Transport Regulations

Regulations in South Africa include116 125 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 law126 127 128 46

Firearm Tracing

In South Africa, state authorities carry out129 127 130 recognised arms tracing and tracking procedures

Ballistic Record of Firearms and Ammunition

In South Africa, the ballistic characteristics of each civilian firearm and its ammunition are not131 recorded in a register

Carrying Guns

Carrying Guns Openly in Public

In South Africa, carrying a firearm in plain view in a public place is prohibited132 27

Carrying Hidden Handguns in Public

In South Africa, carrying a concealed firearm in a public place is allowed without a permit132 27

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 stadiums133 134

Penalty for Illicit Firearm Possession

In South Africa, the maximum penalty for unlawful possession of a firearm135 is up to 15 years prison136

Collection, Amnesty and Destruction Programmes

Authorities in South Africa are known to have137 138 139 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: 4,936140
2011/12: 4,876
2010: 42,329137 141
2005: 62,404138 141
1994: 900141

Firearms Collected and Seized

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

2012/13: 20,145142
2011/12: 25,615
2010/11: 19,327143
2009/10: 21,268144
2008/09: 17,824145
2007/08: 17,157146
2006/07: 13,120147
2005/06: 12,351
2005: 182,315138 148
2004/05: 23,813147
2003/04: 30,208147 148
2002/03: 21,607
2001/02: 19,756147
2000/01: 15,421
1999/00: 14,272
1998: 20,702149 147
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

2013: 36,750150
2012/13: 56,051151
2011/12: 119,810152
2010/11: 46,527153
2009/10: 167,240154
2008/09: 111,491155
2007/08: 64,408156
2007: 74,592157
2006: 161,049
2005: 88,114
2004: 79,657
2003: 72,158
2002: 26,768
2001: 16,223157 139
2000: 12,416157

Destruction and Disposal Policy

In South Africa, it is state policy158 159 160 161 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 2006162

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 Materials163

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 2006164 by South Africa.

United Nations Arms Trade Treaty

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has been signed and ratified165 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 ratified166 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 Aspects167

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. 95168 169 170 171 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 reports172 173 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 designated174 173

UNPoA National Coordinating Body

In South Africa, a National Coordinating Body to deal with issues relating to the UNPoA has not been designated174 173

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 apparent173

UNPoA International Assistance – Donor

Funds for UNPoA implementation have been donated173 by South Africa to other UN Member States

UNPoA International Assistance – Recipient

Funds for UNPoA implementation have been provided173 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 declared175 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 1945176

Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls and Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies lists177 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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