People asking how to licence their first firearm is a popular question on firearm web forums and social media groups. It is a very intimidating concept for the uninitiated newbie. And there are plenty of misinformed opinions (and outright lies) in circulation that muddy the waters. I hope that this simplified little guide clears a few things up. And that it makes the process a little less scary and a lot easier.
Who can legally own a gun in South Africa?
Any citizen or permanent resident who is 21 years or older, with no criminal record or disqualifying mental illness, can legally own firearms. People younger than 21 can also own firearms under special circumstances.
Where do I start?
The first thing to do, is to complete the required unit standards which are part of the competency training syllabus. You can do this through any PFTC accredited training institution. It will involve a unit standard pertaining to the law, and another focusing on firearm safety, handling and technical aspects specific to the firearm type you wish to apply for. The assessment phase involves two written tests per unit standard: one open book and one closed book. You must then complete a practical test, during which you will have to demonstrate safe and accurate handling of the firearm, as well as putting the required shots on a target at a prescribed distance.
How do I apply for my competency certificate?
Once you have successfully completed the unit standards, the training institution will issue you with training certificates. Copies of these certificates, as well as a completed SAPS 517 form, two passport photos, a copy of your ID document, and character references make up the application for your competency certificate. Your local DFO deals with all firearm licencing applications, and you will need to hand the documentation in by them. You must also pay the required fee.
Once the SAPS have issued your competency certificate, you can then apply for your firearm licence.
What can I do while the CFR is processing my competency certificate?
Before you can apply for your firearm licence, and while you wait for your competency certificate approval, there are a few things that you will need to prepare. You can choose and purchase a firearm at any point during the process, but it will remain in the dealer’s (or owner’s) custody. You may only take possession of your firearm once your licence is approved and the card is printed.
Lastly, you will need an SABS certified safe, which you must mount to the wall or floor with rawl bolts. Do this properly, because your DFO will do a safe inspection. And if your safe is not securely mounted, you will not pass.
How do I apply for my firearm licence?
To apply for your firearm licence, you must submit a SAPS 271 form in which you state the purpose for which you intend to licence the firearm. For example Self-Defence (S13), Occasional Hunting (S15), Dedicated Sport Shooting (S16), and so forth. You must also submit a written motivation as to why you need the firearm, and attach supporting documentation (like crime stats and newspaper articles for S13) to prove your claims.
This sounds more complicated than it actually is. There are companies who will write your motivations for you (for a fee), but it is much better to rather get knowledgeable people to help you write your own. By doing so, you will learn how to write a high-quality motivation letter yourself. It is a skill that will pay-off with all your future licence applications.
In addition to your SAPS 271 form, written motivation, and supporting annexures, you will need to include the following in your application:
- 2 passport photos with your name and ID number written on the back.
- Certified copy of your ID document.
- Copy of your SAPS-issued Competency Certificate.
- If you are married, a spousal endorsement letter won’t hurt you.
Bear in mind that the above covers the bare minimum of what you require for a licence application. It is really more applicable for first-time applicants who don’t know what to do.
Tips & Frequently Asked Questions
- Make copies of EVERYTHING you include in your application.
- According to law, your applications should be finalised within 90 days from submission.
- Yes, this sometimes takes longer. Or shorter. It is a coin-toss.
- Sometimes the CFR doesn’t answer their phones. Don’t panic.
- Be prepared to learn a lot of patience during the process, but it will be worth it.
- Join GOSA as a paying member. They fight for your right to own firearms after all.
I hope this makes life a little easier for you, and answers some of your questions.