Many tourists worry about South Africa’s high crime rate, and often ask if tourists are allowed to carry guns in South Africa. I was quite surprised to know that it is actually possible, despite what most people say.
Tourists can carry guns in South Africa if they have been granted a temporary import permit for hunting or sports shooting, as long as the conditions imposed on the permit does not specifically forbid it. A tourist must carry his firearm in accordance with the Firearms Control Act.
You’re probably wondering how a tourist can apply for a temporary import permit, where and how they can carry a gun, and are you allowed to use a gun in self-defense, read on as I explain in detail.
How to get a temporary import permit for a handgun in South Africa?
First things first, it is very important to note that under no circumstances can someone import any firearm for the purpose of self-defense as their motivation, and for this reason, importing a handgun is a bit more complicated than importing a hunting rifle and falls under “special applications” and will need to be done in advance through a service such as PHASA.
You will need to provide proof that you are importing the handgun for hunting purposes. This would include an invite from a hunting lodge, or hunting outfitter stating that you will be hunting with them. It would also be helpful that the invite describes the hunting activity that you will be participating in, to motivate the need for the specific firearms that you are importing.
If you are importing a handgun, be sure that the hunting outfitter or lodge states that you will be using the handgun for hunting purposes ONLY. It’s important to know that your need for the handgun needs to be legitimate, and importing a handgun only might look suspicious. Usually, a legitimate hunter would only carry a handgun secondary to a hunting rifle.
The person must be 21 years or older to be allowed to temporarily import a firearm to South Africa. Semi-automatic and automatic rifles are not allowed to be imported for hunting, but semi-automatic rifles are allowed for trade shows and sports shooting events.
You are also limited to 4 firearms, and only one firearm per caliber, as well as a maximum of 200 rounds per caliber. Do not let this limit discourage you though, you will be able to purchase ammunition in South Africa using your temporary import permit as a license.
While it is possible to do all the required applications and paperwork by yourself, I highly recommend that you make the use of a service such as PHASA. If you arrive at the port of entry without any one of the required documents, the South Africa Police Service will confiscate the firearms, which will only be returned to you when you depart back to your home country.
What will you need to apply for a temporary import permit for hunting in South Africa with PHASA?
- Completed form SAPS 520
- Certified copy of your passport
- Proof of ownership of your firearm in your home country
- Flight itinerary
- Invitation from your hunting outfitter, or hunting lodge, stating what hunting activities you will be doing and why a handgun is required for this purpose.
- Motivation letter explaining how your handgun will be used for the purpose of hunting
Along with some other specific information and documents, and payment of 160$. Visit their website for more information on how to do this.
This temporary permit is valid for 6 months and allows you to buy ammunition for your firearm in South Africa. You will need to keep the permit on you while you are in possession of the firearm, and the firearm must always be locked in a safe while you are not using it. When you leave South Africa, you will need to show your temporary import permit and your home country’s export permit document.
Once you have received your temporary import permit, you are probably wondering about the technicalities of actually carrying a gun outside of the purpose of what the permit was issued for, IE. hunting or sports shooting, let me answer that next.
Can you carry a handgun with a temporary import permit in South Africa?
Before I get stuck into this, you need to know that I am NOT a legal practitioner, and these are nothing more than my personal interpretation of this matter in the Firearms Control Act, and information on the SAPS website.
According to the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000, tourists are allowed to apply for a temporary import permit and under Section 77, it says that an import permit constitutes a license to possess firearm or ammunition. However, Section 75 mentions that the registrar issuing the permit may impose conditions on the permit. As long as those conditions do not specifically restrict the carrying of the handgun on your person, you will be allowed to carry that handgun.
In fact, on the South Africa Police Service’s website, it is said with regards to temporary import permits that “The requirements of the act regarding the carrying, safe custody, transport and display of the firearms and ammunition must be compiled with.
In South Africa, if you are carrying a firearm, it must be concealed and in a proper holster that is attached to your body.
However, the fact still stands that you were issued the permit for a specific purpose. That means you will need to justify why you are in possession of that firearm at any given time. Whether you are staying in a hotel with no safe, on the way to the shooting range, or a hunting lodge, you need to be able to justify the reason you are in possession of the firearm, with the purpose of the permit in mind.
But what about self defense? Can you use that gun in self-defense if your temporary import permit was issued for hunting or sports shooting?
Can you use a handgun for self-defense with a temporary import permit in South Africa?
Again, I am NOT a legal practitioner, and these are nothing more than my personal interpretation of this matter in the Firearms Control Act, and information on the SAPS website.
As I mentioned above, according to section 77 of the Firearms Control Act, an import permit constitutes a license to possess a firearm. With that in mind, a firearm licensed under any section may be used where it is safe to do so and for a lawful purpose, including firearms licensed for hunting and sport shooting. These sections allow for private self-defense, as lawful use of such firearm.
Now, here’s the catch. If you end up in a situation where you use that firearm for self-defense, you will have to be able to justify to the court why you were in possession of the firearm at that time. As mentioned above, some reasons might be that there were no safekeeping facilities in your hotel, or you were on your way to a hunting trip or the shooting range. These reasons must be in line with the purpose in which the permit was issued.
You will have a hard time convincing a court that you were in compliance with the conditions of your permit if you used the firearm in self-defense while out drinking.
It is important to note here, that the use of a firearm in self defense in South Africa is only allowed as an absolute last resort and if a life threatening attack on you, or another person is imminent.
While licensing and carrying a handgun in South Africa for self-defense is allowed for civilians, temporary importation of a firearm by tourists for self-defense is not allowed. However, temporary import permits may be issued for handguns for the purpose of hunting or sport shooting under special applications.
As long as the conditions imposed on the permit itself do not restrict you from doing so, you will be allowed to carry that firearm, but keep in mind that the permit was still issued for the specific purpose of hunting or sports shooting.
You will need to be able to justify why you were in possession of that firearm if you were to end up using it in self-defense. This might be because the hotel you were staying at had no safekeeping facilities, or you are on the way to a shooting range, or hunting trip.