12 October 2020
“My grandfather recently passed away and left me his hunting rifle. I’m not sure if I want to keep it, but would like to weigh my options. How does it work? Must I take the rifle?”
In terms of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 (“Act”) and the Firearms Control Regulations of 2004, any person who inherits a firearm or a muzzle loading firearm has one of the following options:
- Hand over the firearm to a dealer if you do not have the suitable storage and safekeeping facilities for the possession of the firearm.
- Surrender the firearm to the South African Police Services for it to be destroyed in the prescribed manner.
- Arrange for a gunsmith to deactivate the gun and issue a certificate confirming this.
- Maintain possession of the firearm or muzzle loading firearm, provided you have the necessary firearm licence, permit, authorisation or competency certificate.
This means that even though you may inherit a firearm, you must still follow and comply with the normal procedures for legally possessing a firearm. If you do not want to keep the firearm, don’t want to or cannot obtain the necessary firearm licence, permit, authorisation or competency certificate, the Act requires you to have the firearm deactivated or disposed of it in the manner prescribed by the Act.
Importantly, the Act prohibits the executor and heir from discarding or disposing of the firearm themselves, and if this is done, a criminal offence may be committed. The executor of a deceased estate may also only hand over a firearm to an heir in possession of the relevant license or permit. While the heir is in the process of acquiring a license, the executor is liable to keep the firearm safe as per the regulations of the Act.
Should a heir not wish to accept a firearm, the executor must then properly dispose of the firearm, which can include options such as the deactivation or sale to another person that has the necessary license or permit to accept ownership of the firearm. The Registrar will have to be informed in writing of the details of the disposal of the firearm.
From the above it should be clear that you can accept the rifle, but you will need to obtain the necessary license before you can receive the rifle or you will have to elect to not accept the rifle, leaving it to the executor to appropriately dispose thereof as allowed by the Act.