Carrying a Section 15 Firearm for Self-Defense

The Firearms Control Act defines different categories of licensing, leading many to conclude that using a firearm for a purpose other than what the firearm was licensed for is against the law. The most controversial case is the carrying of a section 15 handgun licensed for the purpose of occasional sport shooting for the purposes of self-defense.

Sure, each license application is motivated for a specific purpose, but does that mean you are forbidden from using the firearm for any other purpose? What does the law say? Can you carry and use a section 15 firearm for self-defense?

According to Juan Kotze Attorney’s interpretation of the Firearms Control Act, section 15 firearms are allowed to be carried for self-defense, as long as it is safe to do so, and for a lawful purpose. In fact, a firearm licensed under any section may be used for any other lawful purpose.

But why are so many people adamant that carrying a section 15 firearm for self-defense is illegal? Let’s consider their argument, and why it is not accurate, according to the law.

Each license is motivated for a specific purpose, and nothing else

The argument goes something like this…

The Firearms Control Act would not have created these different categories if there was a provision for a firearm to be used outside of the purpose it was licensed for. Some go as far as to say that doing so constitutes a criminal offense.

But this logic is extremely flawed, and applying this interpretation to the entire act would wreak havoc, forbidding a firearm owner from participating in sport shooting with a hunting rifle, and a person with a self-defense handgun would be forbidden from participating in sport shooting. In fact, they would be forced to buy an additional handgun (possibly exactly the same make and model) for that purpose. Logic starts to fall apart…

“The fact that various categories exist, doesn’t warrant the conclusion that the Act prohibits the use of a firearm for a different purpose than for which the firearm was licensed. Such an interpretation will be ignorant of the principle of legality and of the content of the Act itself.”


The principle of legality

The principle of legality dictates that a person can only be found guilty of a crime when the act performed has been explicitly defined as a crime in legislation. Crimes must be defined clearly without vagueness and the definitions of the criminal act should be narrow rather than broad.

If carrying a section 15 firearm was not allowed by law, the Firearms Control Act would have had to be written so that it explicitly states that doing so is a criminal offense. The Firearms Control Act would also need to define a criminal sanction, describing what punishments will be imposed on a person who is convicted of the offense.

Nowhere in the Firearms Control Act is there any indication that carrying or using a firearm licensed under section 15 for the purpose of self-defense constitutes a crime. Neither does the Firearms Control Act prescribe any sanctions or punishments for those who do so. In fact, as I will discuss in the next section, the Firearms Control Act actually makes provision for it.

Provision for multiple uses of a firearm, regardless of the type of license

The Firearms Control Act was clearly written with the understanding that firearms serve many different purposes, and caters for that. The Act states that “a firearm in respect of which a licence has been issued in terms of this section may be used where it is safe to use the firearm and for a lawful purpose”.

This statement is with reference to other sections of licenses, including section 14, and section 16, which even include semi-automatic firearms.

If the Firearms Control Act was written with the intent to limit the use of a firearm to the section it was licensed under, it would have explicitly defined this. For example, in the case where section 19 firearms are expressly limited in the purposes for which they may be used, while other sections, including section 15, are not.

Shoud I apply for a sport shooting firearm license, instead of self-defense?


That sounds like a good deal, right? Why settle for a license that is only valid for 5 years, is difficult to motivate, and limits you to a measly 200 rounds of ammunition?

Many prospective firearm owners are tempted to license a firearm under sports shooting, knowing that the main purpose of the firearm will be for self-defense. The longer validity of a sports shooting license, easier motivation, and no limit on ammunition makes this option extremely appealing. But be warned, supplying any information that is false, or misleading in an application for a firearm license constitutes a criminal offense.

Section 120 (9) of the Firearms Control Act explained that it is an offense to: “(f) supply particulars, information or answers in an application for a competency certificate, licence, permit or authorisation in terms of this Act, knowing them to be false, incorrect or misleading or not believing them to be true.


Sure, the Firearm Control Act does categorize licenses based on the purpose the applicant intends to use it, but to explicitly forbid them from using that firearm for anything else is illogical. It would prevent people from using their existing self-defense firearms from participating in sports shooting or hunting. People with hunting rifles would be forbidden from target practice!

Nowhere in the Firearms Control Act is there anything that describes the use of one section of a firearm for another purpose as a crime or prescribes punishments for the offense. In fact, the Firearm Control Act makes clear provision for any firearm licensed under any section to be used for any lawful purpose where it is safe to do so.

“Not only does the Act not contain any of the elements that are necessary to establish a criminal offence, but the Act expressly allows for the carrying and use of firearms licensed in terms of sections 15 and 16, for a lawful purpose and where it is safe to do so. Our law recognises private defence (of which “self-defence” forms a part) as a lawful purpose and the Act expressly allows the carrying of firearms”


What are your thoughts? Do you still think that carrying a section 15 firearm is not allowed? If so, why? Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you.

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