Preventing Gun Violence

A range of resources and tools that you can use to Take Action and reduce gun injuries in South Africa.


Your voice can stop a bullet


Don’t let the tiny minority of gun owners in South Africa dominate the gun control debate; raise your voice in support of a South Africa free from gun violence:

      • Arm yourself with the facts – see Articles and Posts for latest news and information about gun violence.
      • Speak to family members, friends and colleagues about the dangers of guns, how unsafe guns make you feel and your vision for a gun violence free South Africa.
      • Reach out to your wider community by writing letters to your local newspaper, phoning your local radio station, tweeting or blogging.
      • Monitor government actions to reduce gun violence and raise your voice in support or criticism e.g. applaud the police for gun recovery and destruction campaigns but be critical when you hear of instances where the law hasn’t been implemented, resulting in unfit people being granted gun licences.
      • Support campaigns aimed at reducing gun violence.


Procedure for handing in a legal firearm

If you have a firearm that you want to get rid of you can either sell it or have it destroyed – you are not allowed to destroy it yourself. The only way you can legally sell a gun is to either sell it to a gun dealer or sell it privately, but you may not hand it to a new owner until that person has a licence for the weapon in question.

In order to have your firearm destroyed, you should undertake the following steps:

      1. Make photocopies of the licence of the firearm you wish to have destroyed for your own records.
      2. Go to your nearest police station during normal office hours taking your firearm and original licence with you.
      3. Complete the SAPS522A and SAPS522 B forms. Both forms can be downloaded from the website.
      4. State that you wish the firearm to be destroyed.
      5. Obtain the following from the police officer assisting you:
        • A copy of the SAPS forms for your records.
        • The police officer’s rank, name and force number.
        • A contact number to follow up on the removal of the firearm from your/ licence holder’s name.
        • The SAPS 13 reference number for the firearm you have handed in. This number is the reference number for every piece of property/ evidence handed in to the police station.  It consists of the name of the police station/ then SAPS 522/ then a sequential number/ year.  Once a gun is officially registered as being in the custody of a police store, it will not easily disappear out of the back door, which is the anxiety of many people handing a firearm in for destruction.
        • A receipt for the firearm.
      6. Wait for one month and then confirm with the National Head Office, Statutory Administration that the firearm has been removed from your name in the Central Firearms Register.  The telephone number is: (012) 353 6111, postal address: Private Bag X811, Pretoria, 0001.
      7. If the gun has not yet been removed from your name, contact the police officer that helped you in the first place.  Please note that the destruction of an individual firearm may take some time because it has to be sent to Logistics in Pretoria for melting or cutting into pieces.
      8. If, after two months, your firearm has still not been removed from your name, you should inform the Station Commissioner. You could also contact GFSA for help.
      9. If you have recently inherited a gun from a deceased state, but that gun has not yet been licensed in your name, you can do all of the above, but you will need to take to the police station a letter from the executor confirming that you are the heir to the firearm in question.  If the deceased died intestate or the inheritance is to be divided between a number of heirs you might have to sell the gun and put the proceeds into the estate.  You need the advice of your attorney and the executor in this case.


Do you know someone who should not have a gun?

If someone you know has a gun and you think that they (or the gun) are dangerous, you can ask the police to remove the gun.   The police can use the Firearms Control Act (and sometimes the Domestic Violence Act) to remove the gun. Click here for more information.

Stop gun-related suicide

Suicide PreventionFirearms are used in 14% of suicides in South Africa.  While understanding why people commit suicide is important, a growing body of research indicates that how people attempt suicide is also important. Reducing access to lethal means is an effective way to increase the odds that a suicide attempt will end in care, not in death.

Guns are more lethal than other suicide means. They’re quick. And they’re irreversible.

Putting time and distance between a suicidal person and a gun may save a life.  So, what can you do? Click here for more information.


Make your space a gun free zone


You can take action against gun violence by declaring your space – your home, your place of work, worship or study, even your car – a Gun Free Zone (GFZ).  Read below for more information on how to establish GFZs, or islands of safety in a sea of guns.

What is a Gun Free Zone (GFZ)?

  • A GFZ is a space in which guns are not welcome or allowed, with the aim of:
    • Reducing the escalation of violence.
    • Reducing the risk of gun death and injury.
    • Providing a legal framework for taking action if someone wants to come into a GFZ.
  • GFZs are voluntarily declared spaces, and range from:
    • GFZ’s by trust, as status is not enforced.
    • Enforced GFZ by declarations, searches and/ or safes.

Steps to Declaring a Gun Free Zone

Over the past 15 years, GFSA has developed a 5-step model to making spaces GFZs.

GFSA’s experience, which is backed by research, shows that the success of declaring a space a GFZ rests firmly on the buy-in and commitment of that space’s stakeholders to building a safe environment. It is not enough to just put up GFZ signs.

The 5 steps to declaring a GFZ are:

    1. Establish the Vision.
    2. Develop the Policy.
    3. Prepare for Implementation.
    4. Implement policy.
    5. Maintain and Monitor

Download GFSA’s Gun Free Zones pamphlet for more information on what Gun Free Zones are and the five steps to establishing and maintaining a Gun Free Zone.


 Children and guns

Is playing with a toy gun just fun?  A member of the public, Maryatta Wegerif, sent GFSA this photo as Oscar Pistorius’ trial was underway.  Her comment, ‘I guess that Oscar also loved this game as a child. Maybe a different choice of toys can actually save lives’.

Is playing with a toy gun just fun? A member of the public, Maryatta Wegerif, sent GFSA this photo as Oscar Pistorius’ trial was underway. Her comment, ‘I guess that Oscar also loved this game as a child. Maybe a different choice of toys can actually save lives’.











Youngsters and guns are a deadly combination.  While gun owners are required by law to store guns unloaded and safely locked away, remember that most youngsters know their parents’ hiding places, including where they hide safe keys, so not having any firearms at home with children is by far the safest alternative.

Toy guns

In South Africa, a country traumatised by violence, we want to give children the right message: Guns are not fun!  GFSA urges parents and care-givers to buy toys that encourage imaginative, peaceful play rather than toy guns.

Children receive conflicting messages when they’re told to stay away from real guns because they are dangerous, yet are given toy replicas to play with.

Every toy we give our children carries the message that we approve of that toy. Children’s play is a rehearsal for real life as they try out roles and practice being an adult by using tools that adults use. Do we want them to practice violence?

Questions and Answers

My children will play with guns whatever I do, I can’t stop them!

It’s true that children are wilful, but we are still able teach them about what is and isn’t acceptable in society. When our children try out swearing, hitting or spitting we let them know this behaviour won’t be tolerated; in the same way we can guide them in their approaches towards guns and gun violence.

It’s not surprising that children are drawn to play with guns. Children learn through mimicry and unfortunately many of the heroes they see achieve their ends with guns. If we associate people who are strong, charismatic, attractive and good as being so because they carry a weapon, children will naturally associate those positive attributes with the weapon and try to emulate that person.

So, what’s the solution?  The answer isn’t easy when one considers that:

    • Every toy we give our children carries the message that we approve of that toy.  So when parents buy toys that suggest real weaponry, children are encouraged to play at violence.
    • At the same time, playing with guns and war games is seen by many as a way of helping some children process the excess of violent images on television, in videos and in the news.  This is the view of Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Professor of Education at Lesley University, USA, and author of ‘Who’s Calling the Shots?: How to Respond Effectively to Children’s Fascination with War Play, War Toys and Violent TV’.  According to Carlsson-Paige, banning children’s ‘gun play’ runs the risk of cutting off a valuable vehicle children use to make meaning of what they have experienced in life.

GFSA advises that parents refuse to buy toy guns for their children, and ask others to also not buy guns for them.  Yet, don’t prevent children from playing games involving make-believe guns. Children often play at games involving violent deaths and this dramatic play provides children with the opportunity to feel powerful and invincible. Instead help children set limits when playing with make-believe guns e.g. that they should not be pointed at anyone who is not actively participating in the agreed-upon game.

Play is play, violence is violence. I teach my kids the difference between a toy and a real gun.

It’s very hard to know exactly how parents can sensitively but accurately describe the difference between a toy and a real gun. For a child to understand what their toy is a model of, what action it replicates and the purpose a real gun serves, a parent needs to expose them to some brutal truths. We protect our children from many things they are not yet ready to deal with and parents may not want to describe what happens when a bullet hits a body. Children will only be fully aware of the implications of their play once it has been made clear that a gun is an instrument whose sole purpose is to kill. Do we want to expose our children to such a traumatic lesson at a sensitive age?

Studies show that adults often overestimate children’s capacities to know the difference between a real and a toy gun; yet four and five year olds cannot distinguish real and toy guns at all, and six and seven year olds can only make the distinction if they pick up the gun to determine its weight (see Hardy, M.S., Armstrong, F.D, Martin, B.L., Strawn, K.N.A. ‘A firearm safety programme for children: They just can’t say no’ Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics (1996) 17(4):216 – 21).

Research has also shown that while parents believe their children are at less risk to gun injury than they really are, this belief is unfounded.  While a study of 400 parents in Atlanta (see Farah, M.M., Smith, H.K., and Kellermann, A.L. Firearms in the home: Parental perceptions. Pediatrics, November 1999, 104(5):1059–63) showed that 74% believed their child would leave a gun alone or tell an adult if they found a gun, a further study (see Jackman, G.A., Farah, M.M., Kellermann, A.L., et al. ‘Seeing is believing: What do boys do when they find a real gun?’ Pediatrics (June 2001) 107(6):1247–50) asked parents of boys aged 8-12 to rate their son’s interest in guns.  The boys were then left to play with a friend or a sibling in a room containing two toy guns and a real gun. Of the boys whose parents thought their sons had a low interest in guns, 65% handled the real gun and 35% of boys perceived to have a low interest pulled the trigger.

If your partner owns a gun, you could be the next target


11 February 2016: Gun Free South Africa, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and Sonke Gender Justice today launched the #GunFreeValentine campaign to highlight that women in South Africa are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than by a stranger, with firearms in the home posing a specific risk.

Research by the Medical Research Council (MRC) of South Africa shows that 57% of women killed in South Africa are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends and that a woman is killed by her intimate partner every eight hours.

Romi Sigsworth, a gender expert with the ISS, notes that the complexity of intimate partner violence means a range of interventions are needed to reduce risk and build resilience. ‘The problem is that interventions like early childhood development, creating jobs and tackling substance abuse are often long-term and expensive’.

‘A short-term and effective response to reduce the lethality of intimate partner violence is to remove the weapon used to threaten, injure or kill,’ says Sigsworth. ‘Guns by their nature are especially deadly. Proactive action by the police and courts to get guns out of the home can save lives by reducing the lethality of domestic violence’.


Gun Free South Africa’s Adèle Kirsten explains why the #GunFreeValentine campaign is being launched on Valentine’s Day: ‘In a patriarchal country like South Africa, gun ownership is sometimes seen as a sign of love; a man buys a gun to protect himself and his family from stranger danger’.

‘However, it is a myth that a gun in the home increases a family’s safety. Research shows that a woman is more at risk of being shot in her home with a legal gun owned by her partner than of being shot by a stranger’, says Kirsten.

The MRC research found that a legal gun is used in 75% of cases in which a woman is shot and killed, and in 60% of cases this shooting occurs in her home.

‘The #GunFreeValentine campaign, which runs from 14 February until International Women’s Day on 8 March is a call to action’, says Angelica Pino from Sonke Gender Justice. ‘It aims to alert women to the risks of a gun in the home; and how the law can be used to save a life. Both the Firearms Control Act and Domestic Violence Act give women the power to take action against domestic violence by requiring police or court officials to confiscate firearms or other dangerous weapons when a domestic violence complaint involving a gun or other weapon is made’.

Any woman who lives in fear of a gun or other dangerous weapon in her home can ask the police or the courts to remove the weapon immediately.

Did you know?

More women in South Africa (57%) are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends (called intimate femicide) than by strangers.

A woman is killed by an intimate partner every 8 hours in South Africa: 17% of these deaths are from gunshot.

A legal gun is used in 75% of cases in which a woman is shot and killed, and in 60% of cases this shooting occurs in her home.

A gun is the most common weapon used against adult women in rape.

The Domestic Violence Act and the Firearms Control Act allow the courts or the police to remove guns and other dangerous weapons in domestic violence situations.

Any woman who lives in fear of a gun or other dangerous weapon in her home can ask the courts or the police to remove the weapon immediately, even if she does not have a protection order against the person threatening her.

If you or someone you know is part of a relationship where there is a risk of violence, it is important to take immediate action and make sure the gun or other dangerous weapon is removed.

Support the #GunFreeValentine campaign.

Join us on Twitter: @GunFreeSA @issafrica @SonkeTogether


Stop guns in domestic violence

Domestic Violence

South African women are at risk of becoming victims of gun violence. Many blame this on criminals. But a national study found that more women (57%) were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends (called intimate femicide) than by strangers.  Guns played a major role in these murders; guns were used in 17% of the cases seen.

Any woman who lives in fear of a gun in her home can ask the magistrates court or the police to remove the gun immediately. Click here for more information.