Care must be taken by the executor or anyone who holds an inherited firearm to make sure that all documentation is correct and complete, otherwise the holder of the firearm will be prosecuted for holding an illegal firearm, which is a criminal offence with severe penalties. Only the person who holds a license, or has authorization to possess the firearm may transport that firearm to and from the place where the firearm is safely stored.


Immediate procedure to follow regarding inherited firearms

Before the appointment of an executor, an heir, next of kin or close relative of the deceased, who has proper storage facilities for firearms may under authority of a permit issued in terms of section 21 of the Firearms Control Act 2000, (Act No 60 of 2000) possess the firearms of the deceased. If no proper storage facilities are available, arrangements must be made with a licensed firearms dealer to store the firearms until licences are obtained. Storage costs are for the estate account.

An application for a Temporary Authorization to Possess a Firearm (SAPS 518 form) must be completed and handed to the relevant designated firearms officer in the area where the applicant resides. The temporary permit must be valid at least until an appointment of executor notification has been issued.

The executor or person administering the estate must be given full particulars of the deceased’s firearms and ammunition so that an inventory can be drawn up in accordance with regulation 103(3)(a) of the Act.

The executor must also be given full particulars of the person who has the deceased’s firearms and ammunition in safekeeping with a copy of the permit if such a permit was issued.


The executor’s role regarding firearms

The following is a basic guide to what the executor should do according to the Act, we have however found inconsistencies and recommend that if there are firearms in an estate the executor consult with a firearms expert.

Ensure the safe storage of the firearms

After appointment, the executor must take the necessary steps to ensure that the firearm and ammunition are stored safely in an approved storage facility as prescribed by Regulation 86 of the Act.

The executor may under authority of a permit issued in terms of section 21 of the Firearms Control Act, hold the firearms in safe keeping. If the heir of a deceased estate is a holder of a valid firearms license, he/she may apply for authorisation or a permit to be issued (SAPS 539 form) under the Firearms Control Act to hold the firearms and ammunition in safe keeping as soon as the executor issues a letter of consent.

Issue a letter of consent

Once the executor is satisfied that the firearms and ammunition are safely stored as prescribed by Regulation 86 of the Firearms Control Act, he/she issues a letter of consent, to the heir concerned, for the storage of the firearms and ammunition. A copy of the letter of consent must be lodged with the designated firearms officer of the area where the heir lives, with a request that the officer visit the person who has been given permission to keep the firearms in safe storage, to ensure that all the requirements are being complied with. The letter of consent must specify:

  • How long the person concerned may hold the firearms in safe storage.
  • The reason for safekeeping.
  • Adequate particulars to enable identification of the licence, permit of authorization and the firearm.
  • The name, identity number and physical address of the deceased licence holder.
  • The name, identity number and physical address of the person whom permission has been given to hold the firearm in safe storage.

Extremely important: The permission is for storage only and not for use.

Provide the Registrar of Firearms with information

Within 14 days of receipt of notification of appointment of executor, the Registrar of Firearms must be provided with the following documents and information:

  • Inventory as referred to above.
  • Name of deceased and physical address at which he/she resided.
  • Address at which the firearms are stored.
  • A copy of the executor’s letter of permission to the heir for storage.
  • Copy of the death certificate.
  • Copy of the executor’s letter of appointment.
  • Names, addresses and ID of all beneficiaries if the firearms and ammunition must be transferred as per testamentary stipulations of law of intestate succession.
Report progress

The Registrar must then record the particulars in the Central Firearms Register and acknowledge receipt thereof. At least every three months the executor must inform the Registrar in writing of the progress and the steps taken to transfer such firearms and ammunition.

Start the application process

The Application for a firearm licence can be a long process, it is essential that the heir commence the process immediately. As soon as the solvency and liquidity of the estate has been established, the heir is given possession of all the documentation from the executor for transfer of the firearm. This documentation includes a properly completed SAPS 271 form, a copy of the executor’s letter and permission for the transfer of the firearm. A copy of the permission must be sent to the Central Firearms Registry.

The Act determines that an executor cannot finally wind up the estate before the Central Firearms Registry has confirmed with him/her that all firearms that were in the name of the deceased have been transferred.


If firearms cannot be found

If the executor, next of kin or heirs cannot find the firearms, the procedure for stolen or lost firearms must be followed.  Contact the South African Police Services.


If you choose to keep the inherited firearm

If you choose to keep the inherited firearm you need to apply for licence to possess a firearm (SAPS 271 form).  In terms of the Firearms Control Act 2000 (Act No 60 of 2000), inheriting a firearm is not motivation enough to obtain a firearm licence, but it may be mentioned in the application that the firearm is a family heirloom.  The person who inherits the firearm may only take possession of the firearm when he or she has the licence for the particular firearm.



If you choose not to keep the inherited firearm

If you choose not to keep the inherited firearm, or fail to obtain the appropriate licence, the Registrar may issue a temporary authorization to allow you a reasonable time to dispose of the firearm. The firearms can be disposed of in the four different ways listed below.

Donate the firearms to the next person

If you are not interested in taking ownership of the inherited firearms, then you may nominate or offer to any other person whether family or not, as long as that person complies with the law. The nominated person must then apply for licenses to possess those firearms.

Hand or sell the firearms to a dealer

You may sell to a registered firearms dealer of your choice.

Surrender the firearms to SAPS for destruction

The owner of surrendered firearms will remain the owner until the firearms are destructed in terms of the Act.  The firearms will then be assessed by the state whether they are destructible or to be forfeited to the state. You may apply for compensation if the firearms are forfeited to the state.

Apply for deactivation with SAPS

If the firearms are of high sentimental value, you may apply for the firearms to be deactivated (SAPS 521h form). Deactivation simply means to render the firearm inoperable by the Gunsmith of your choice. As soon as the firearm is deactivated, the Gunsmith will hand the firearm back to you with a certificate confirming the deactivation in terms of the regulation of the Act. The firearm will only be allowed to be displayed and such firearm cannot be carried in possession of any person.

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Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, all come from earth, and to earth all return.

Ashes to ashes,
dust to dust,
all come from earth,
and to earth all return.

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