Is the green firearm licence still valid in South Africa?

It is important that firearm owners should be aware of recent developments in respect of the continued validity of licences that had been issued in terms of the previous Arms and Ammuntion Act (Act 75 of 1969), commonly referred to “old green licences.”

Old green licences didn’t have an expiry date and were therefore valid until the owner died or sold the firearm. When the new act, the Firearms Control Act (Act 60 of 2000) came into existence on 1 July 2004 it prescribed that old green licences had to be renewed.

The New Act further provided that all old green licences that were not renewed, would expire on 30 June 2009 where after the possession of such firearms would become illegal.

In 2009 the SA Hunters and Conservation Association however challenged the constitutionality of the transitional provisions of the New Act in the High Court and brought an urgent application for an interim order to govern the legality of the green licences pending the outcome of the main application.

In June 2009 an order was issued that all licences issued in terms of the previous act would remain valid pending the outcome of the main application, and the police regarded all old green licences to remain valid.

In February 2016 however a directive was issued that the interim order was only valid in respect of firearms that had never migrated to the new system and that once a white licence card had been issued for a firearm, the old green license was no longer valid.

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The effect is that if a firearm owner had an old green licence, and renewed the licence to get a white licence, but allowed that new white licence to expire (for whatever reason) the owner is in illegal possession of such firearm.

This resulted in the only firearm owners presently being regarded as being in legal possession of a firearm by the Police, are those who have old green licenses in respect of a firearm that was never relicensed in terms of the new act and if a firearm has a valid white license.

If any white licence mentioned above had lapsed, you could participate in an amnesty which ran to 31 January 2024.  It was the only manner of getting that firearm licenced on your name again.

In effect that meant that legal firearm owners were once again at the shortest end, since no criminals did hand in illegal firearms under any amnesty.

Members with lapsed white licences could apply for a new licence for such a firearm as well as for renewal of a lapsed competency certificate for that type of firearm while being protected from prosecution for being in possession of a firearm with a lapsed white licence, but only for the period up to 31 January 2024.

People with lapsed white licences are also no longer protected under the interim court order obtained by Gun Owners of South Africa (GOSA) on 27 July 2024 in the Gauteng High Court since the SAPS Appeal against that, was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

What now?

People with lapsed white licences, are thus now once again obliged by law to hand in firearms for destruction if the white licence for such a firearm has lapsed.

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The legality of lapsed white licences for which there was a green licence is still interpreted by SAPS as per the National Commissioner’s directive of 3 February 2016, thus white licences which have lapsed will be interpreted as having expired, despite there being a green licence for that firearm, and that such firearms must be handed in with SAPS for destruction.

Until the prolongation of the legal validity of all green licences has been confirmed by a court and following the Constitutional Court’s 2024 order and the Supreme Court of Appeals’ order of 2024, a person who is in possession of a firearm of which the white licence has expired, had only two options:

The first is to surrender such firearm with SAPS for destruction, or secondly, to participate in the new amnesty to again get such firearm licenced under their name.