I was recently chatting with a family friend when he asked about my shooting hobby. I showed him a few photos, and he was shocked to see that I had a silencer on my rifle. His instant response was: “Aren’t silencers illegal in South Africa??” I felt compelled to explain why silencers are legal in South Africa, which I found.
Silencers are legal in South Africa, and according to the Firearms Control Act, silencers are not considered a “firearm part”. They do not need to be licensed or registered at all. Silencers can be purchased in South Africa by anyone, online or over the counter, without any paperwork.
However, this may or may not change in the future. There are efforts by anti-gun groups to amend the legislation to include silencers as a “firearm part” which will require people to obtain a license before purchasing one.
Let’s look into detail what the South African Firearms Control Act says about silencers, why so many believe that silencers are, or should be illegal, and why anti-gun groups are trying to make silencers a regulated item claiming that silencers make South Africa more dangerous, and how silencers actually make shooting safer for everyone.
What does the South African Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 say about silencers?
The Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000, the firearms control legislation in South Africa, makes no mention of silencers. Whether this was left out by mistake or not, the fact is that according to this Act, silencers are not considered a firearm part that needs to be registered or licensed.
For purposes of this section, ‘‘firearm part’’means a slide, bolt or breech-block of a firearmFirearms Control Act of 2000, Section 94
So the only items that are considered firearm parts in South Africa that require licensing are slides, bolts, or breech-blocks of a firearm.
Why do so many people believe that silencers are or should be illegal?
As you can tell by now, South Africa is quite relaxed about silencers (for now), unlike in the United States, where you need to pay $200 to apply for a TAX stamp and be subjected to a very long waiting period to legally own a silencer, not to mention how expensive silencers are, to begin with.
However, there are efforts from anti-gun groups in South Africa to have the Act amended to include silencers. These efforts have not been successful since their inception in 2005, thanks to opposition by many legal organizations and activists.
These anti-gun organizations are hell-bent on making the ownership of silencers in South Africa more difficult by claiming that they are mostly used by criminals, which simply is not the case. The Parliamentary Monitoring Group has challenged this and stated that there was no evidence suggesting that silencers’ regulation will reduce crime in South Africa.
10.1 We believe that there is no evidence that the regulation of silencers will reduce crime and propose that the South African Police Services be called upon to provide statistical data and information to back up their desire to regulate silencers.
1.0.4 Lawful uses of silencers include;- a) culling; b) training; c) general use by persons who have hearing impairments.Parliamentary Monitoring Group – Commentary on proposed amendments to the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000
In a Safety and Security Portfolio Committee meeting on the 26th of August 2006 with regards to the proposal of regulating silencers, Adv. Jacobs, who’s pushing for the regulation of silencers, was asked if he was aware of any criminal activities involving the use of a silencer. He could not present one case where this happened but presented a vague response that “every firearm used in a crime had to be examined by the Forensic Science Laboratory. According to the laboratory, the use of silencers in crimes was rare.”
“Rare” is an overstatement. Criminal acts involving firearms with silencers are almost unheard of in South Africa. The majority of silencers are used for hunting and sports shooting, for safety reasons, and nothing more. In fact, criminals would have little benefit in using silencers because they actually reduce the reliability of a firearm and do not completely silence the firearm. They only slightly reduce the noise, making the gunshot only just “hearing safe”. Silencers also make the firearm longer, making the firearm more difficult to conceal when concealment is essential to a criminal.
According to a 10-year study published in 2007 by the Western Criminology Review. Researchers estimated silencers were involved in 30 to 40 of the 75000 federal criminal cases filed each yearTimesLive.co.za – Hit man’s toy? No, silencers are good for you
We believe that there is no evidence that the regulation of silencers will reduce crime and propose that the South African Police Services be called upon to provide statistical data and information to back up their desire to regulate silencers.Parliamentary Monitoring Group
The media and government also play a massive role in this narrative. Here we have news companies and even politicians that have an incredible influence on millions of people worldwide, who have little to no knowledge or experience with firearms, firearm culture, or, more specifically, silencers.
So it is clear that there is little to no evidence that regulating silencers will reduce crime in South Africa. Let’s see how people can benefit from silencers and how they make shooting safer and more pleasant for everyone.
How do silencers make shooting safer?
Silencers are really preferred in the South African shooting community because they make shooting more pleasant and safer for bystanders. Silencers are very common among hunters and sport shooters alike and are always recommended by hunting outfitters and professional hunters.
What makes silencers safer, you ask?
Silencers reduce the sound only slightly, but enough to make shooting safe with no hearing protection. This has a two-fold effect because shooters and bystanders can communicate better because their hearing is not muffled by earmuffs or earplugs.
Not only do silencers make shooting drastically safer for hearing, but the fact that shooters are not limited by having to wear earmuffs, they can communicate better with bystanders, and vice versa. Shooters can be more aware of people around them, and bystanders can speak to the shooter if something is wrong.
Shooting with a silencer attached also makes it more pleasant for neighbors. From my personal experience, I can say that silencers are really appreciated by my neighbors when I am out on my shooting range on the farm.
Silencers really get a bad wrap, mostly from popular action movies, myths, and uninformed news reporters & politicians, causing many to believe that silencers are evil and assume that they must be illegal. However, many anti-gun lobbyists have failed to prove that the use of silencers is common among criminals. In fact, the use of a silencer in crime here in South Africa is almost unheard of and incredibly rare worldwide, according to a study that lasted 10 years and investigated 75,000 cases.
So, contrary to popular belief, according to the South African Firearms Control Act, silencers are completely legal in South Africa and are available over the counter at most gun shops. Thousands of shooters, neighbors, and bystanders benefit a great deal from the use of silencers and make shooting more enjoyable, and more importantly, SAFER.