In many ways, the South African law’s on firearms is very strict, and in others, it is quite relaxed and fair. One example is with regard to the carrying of a firearm in public. Many countries have completely banned citizens from carrying a firearm in public, which brings many to ask, “can I carry a gun in South Africa?”
You can carry a gun in South Africa as long as you have a valid firearm license, according to the Firearms Control Act. While you are carrying a gun, it needs to be properly stored in a holster and concealed when in public areas. There are certain areas that are designated firearm free zones where you will not be allowed access if you are carrying a gun.
In addition, you’re also only allowed to carry a firearm if you are not under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances.
Keep reading to find out how you can carry a firearm in public responsibly, and most importantly, legally!
How to carry a firearm in South Africa?
As a civilian, you are allowed to carry a firearm in public, but it is important to know what the requirements or you might find yourself on the wrong end of the law…
- The firearm needs to be stored in a holster, or a similar device designed to secure it to your body.
- The firearm needs to be concealed. (No open carry allowed except for police or security officers)
- The holster or device needs to be attached to the person, for example, with belt loops.
- The person carrying the firearm must be able to exercise effective control over it.
- The person carrying, may not be under the influence of alcohol.
- He may not carry a firearm into Gun-Free Zones, Firearm Free Zones, or areas where alcohol is sold to the public.
Open carry in South Africa is not allowed for civilians. You are required to conceal the firearm when in public. Only police officers, military, registered security officers are allowed to open carry unless you have been authorized to do so by the South African Police Service.
Great ways of concealing the firearm effectively might be to use an “inside the waistband” (IWB) holster that fits inside your pants and is secured to your belt with belt loops, or if you have a larger firearm, you might opt for and “outside the waistband” holster, also secured to your belt, but outside your pants, using either a large loose short or a smart jacket if weather permits.
The firearm should be attached in a position that you can demonstrate effective control over the firearm at all times. Popular positions would be on the hip, or in the appendix position.
When carrying a firearm in South Africa, you should avoid heavy drinking, and know where you are and aren’t allowed to carry a firearm, for example in Gun-Free Zones, Firearm Free Zones, and places where alcohol is served to the public.
Can I carry a handgun licensed for sport shooting or hunting?
There is a lot of speculation about whether or not you’re allowed to carry a firearm that is registered for sports shooting, for self-defense. In fact, until recently, it is something I believed to be illegal. However, I was quite surprised to find out that this is not the case.
While it is recommended that you license the firearm you intend to carry under “Section 13: Self Defense”, there is no law that says you cannot carry a firearm that is licensed under other categories, such as “Section 15: Occasional Sport Shooting”.
In fact, you are allowed to use any firearm for a lawful purpose, such as self-defense, as long as the firearm is licensed in your name, no matter what the firearm is licensed under. I have read through dozens of accounts on popular gun forums in South Africa where people have been searched and found to be carrying firearms that are licensed for sport shooting, without any hassle from the police.
As long as you have a valid license for the firearm you are carrying, it seams there is no issue here.
Where may I NOT carry a firearm in South Africa?
- Firearm Free Zones (FFZ’s) or Gun-Free Zones. (GFZ’s)
- Any premises where alcohol is served to the public. Restaurants, bars, shebeens, etc.
- While under the influence of alcohol or any other substance that has an intoxicating effect.
- Private property where owners have the right of admission.
1. Firearm Free Zones and Gun-Free Zones
You might ask, what is the difference between a Firearm Free Zone (FFZ) and a Gun Free Zone (GFZ)…
Firearm Free Zones are areas that are designated as being firearm free. This is done under the authority of the law, and failure to comply could result in criminal prosecution.
Gun-Free Zones are areas or premises that are designated to be gun-free under the “right of admission” law where patrons are asked to declare if they have a firearm, and if so, will be denied entry or asked to leave. Some examples are banks, sports stadiums, etc.
2. Bars and restaurants
According to laws pertaining to liquor licenses in South Africa, You may not be in possession of a firearm in a place where alcohol is served, including restaurants, bars, and shebeens. You will notice signs at most bars and restaurants indicating that firearms and other weapons are not allowed on the premises.
While some patrons in South Africa ignore these laws when visiting a relaxed family restaurant, places that focus more on alcohol sales such as nightclubs and bars will have much stricter policies in this regard and might ask to search you before allowing entry.
It is nice to know that most casinos in South Africa have safe-keeping facilities for firearms. This is also true for some bars and clubs, but it would be best to ask beforehand if they do indeed offer these facilities. If you do opt to use this service when going out on the town, be sure not to drink too much, which brings me to my next point.
DO NOT be tempted to leave your firearm in the car if you are denied entry to a bar or club because of it. It is against the law to leave a firearm unattended, even in your own car! Vehicle break-ins are rife in South Africa, and if your firearm gets stolen, you could be facing criminal charges.
3. Under the influence
According to the Firearms Control Act, you may not handle a firearm while under the influence of alcohol.
It is an offence to handle a firearm, an antique firearm or an airgun while under theSection 120, point 4 of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000
influence of a substance which has an intoxicating or a narcotic effect
Some people argue over the wording on this, debating that being in possession is not the same as handling a firearm, which is currently a grey area. But either way, I think we can all agree that carrying your firearm when you know you are going to get drunk is unwise for many reasons. And you’re going to have a hard time explaining the difference between “carrying” and ” handling” in a drunken state.
4. Private Property, right of admission
Any South African citizen has the right to deny entry to their private property, which may include a business, home, or other building, under the right of admission law. As long as the owner is not discriminating against a person, they may deny entry to anyone whom they do not want on their premises, including someone in possession of a firearm.
So if you see a “no firearms allowed” sign, do the right thing and respect the owners’ wishes. As firearm owners, we want to show in our actions that we are polite and law-abiding citizens.
Despite many rumors, South Africans are indeed allowed to carry a firearm in public. However, there are certain requirements that need to be met to comply with the law. Firstly, in order to carry a firearm, you need to have a valid license for that firearm. You also need to carry the firearm in accordance with the Firearms Control Act which states that the firearm needs to be carried in a holster that is designed for the carriage of the firearm. The firearm also needs to be secured to your body and concealed. Open carry is reserved for police, security, etc.
It is also important to know that you are not permitted to carry a firearm where alcohol is served to the public, as well as certain Gun-Free Zones and Firearm Free Zones.
Lastly, not only is it unwise to carry a firearm while you are under the influence of alcohol, but it is illegal and punishable by law. You may also not carry a firearm while under the influence of any other substance that has an intoxicating effect.