10 Firearm Experts Share Their Tips for Writing a Firearm Licence Motivation Letter
It is no secret that the application process for firearms licenses has become rather strenuous and lengthy in South Africa. To help ease the process, we asked the experts of firearm licences for their tips on writing a good firearm licence motivation letter.
Your firearm licence application (SAPS 271 Form) must be supported by a firearm licence motivation letter and documents. Whether your application will be approved or denied depends on what you put into your firearm licence motivation.
Damian Enslin, Attorney, Notary and Conveyancer at Michael Matthews & Associates; Firearms Specialist; and Chairperson of various sports shooting bodies
The purpose of this article is to assist the prospective firearm licence applicant with drafting his/her motivation. This article assumes that you already have your competency to possess a firearm. A motivational letter is normally two to three pages long with at least ten or more pages of supporting documents.
There are various types of licences, in terms of the Firearm Control Act, but this article will focus on Section 13 (self-defence), Section 15 (occasional sports shooting/hunting) and Section 16 (dedicated sports shooting/dedicated hunting).
Section 13: Licence for self-defence
If you are applying for a firearm licence for self-defence purposes (to protect yourself and/or your family) the motivational or covering letter needs to cover all aspects concerning your personal life and circumstances.
The type of business you may be involved in; whether you are the owner or employee; your travel arrangements and the routes you travel on a daily, weekly or monthly basis; as well as your hobbies and interests and whether these hobbies and interests take you to areas which may be more dangerous or remote. If you own your own business, submit proof of ownership. If you perform a particular function in the company (such as banking), obtain a letter from your employer confirming this.
Also tell the police about the neighbourhood and area you live in (or areas through which you travel), and whether the areas have a high crime rate, by submitting crime statistics and newspaper articles. If you have been affected by crime personally, you will need to refer to the events as they occurred as well as police case numbers.
You need to give the police an overall view of your personal circumstances and you are required to show the police that you have a need for the firearm and that there is no alternative other than the possession of the said firearm.
Section 15: Occasional sports shooting or hunting
If you are going to be using the firearm for occasional sports shooting or hunting again you need to fully motivate the need for the firearm. You should be a member of a shooting club and explain how the firearm will be used for sports shooting competitions on an occasional basis.
Supporting documentation is very important – the main one being proof of membership to a shooting club. If you have a logbook, or keep a record of your shooting activities, submit it as proof as well.
This application should be fully motivated – explaining not only the details of the firearm itself but how you will use it (whether for target shooting or any type of sports shooting). If you are applying for occasional hunting, the particular rifle or shotgun that you are applying for should also be fully motivated with regards to the type of animals you wish to hunt (light to medium game – depending on the calibre of the rifle).
Also indicate where you have hunted before. Support this with hunting references from friends/hunting acquaintances or farm owners; confirming that you have hunted with them and will continue to hunt with them. Include pictures of various hunts you have been on.
Section 16: Dedicated sports shooting/hunting
This section applies if you have received dedicated status from your accredited sports shooting/hunting organisation. When you are applying for a dedicated sports shooting firearm, the following documents are most important:
- Dedicated certificate
- Proof of membership
- Endorsement certificate indicating the suitability of the firearm for either dedicated sports shooting or dedicated hunting
You must fully motivate the firearm and the reason for the firearm – explaining how the firearm is suitable for the type of sports shooting you will be doing. If you already have a number of firearms, you need to indicate how the previous firearms are not suitable for the sports shooting activity you will undertake with the new firearm.
Similarly, with dedicated hunting, you need to fully motivate the firearm and its usage, calibre and the type of terrain the firearm will be used in as well as the type of animals you will be hunting (light or medium game). If you already possess various hunting rifles, indicate in detail what those rifles are used for and that the one you are applying for is different to the ones you may already have.
If you are applying for a shotgun for clay target shooting or hunting, again, fully motivate the reason for the shotgun. For clay target purposes, differentiate between trap, skeet or sporting clays and, for hunting, show what type of bird or fowl you will be hunting. If you have other shotguns, indicate how they are different from the one you are now applying for.
The above is a very short synopsis of the main types of firearms licences that are applied for and does not amount to legal advice. Each person’s circumstances are different as well as the firearms you are applying for may differ.
Tharia Unwin, Chief Executive Officer of Professional Hunters' Association of South Africa
Section 16A: Professional Hunting
How to write a motivation (aimed at the Professional Hunting Industry):
1. Describing the need:
What is the weapon required for? What type of game will be hunted and in which terrain? Will the weapon also be used to participate in shooting competitions?
2. A description of how the concerned weapon will satisfy this need:
List the technical attributes of the weapon (action, calibre, length of barrel) and explain the suitability thereof. Mention the type of ammunition that will be used (i.e. bullet weights, velocity) and how that would be useful with the type of game and the typical hunting conditions and distances.
3. Explanation of the unsuitability of current weapons:
Indicate where the weapon concerned will fit into your battery. Explain why your existing weapons cannot fulfil the need – especially in terms of ballistic requirements. Mention the required weapon’s specific or special requirements and the use thereof.
4. Hunting and Shooting CV:
Make mention of when you started to shoot and hunt. Outline your experience. Mention successes, species, trophies hunted and hunting locations. Indicate membership of associations and participation. List qualifications obtained (e.g. official measurer, training courses and managerial positions held). Also list details of where you’ve been hunting in the past and, if possible, where you plan on hunting in future.
5. Support from a Hunting Association:
Attach a letter confirming membership and association participation as well as qualifications and positions held. It should, furthermore, also support technically the suitability of the weapon for the use it would be needed for (as mentioned in point 2 above).
6. Supporting documentation:
Attach supporting documentation in aid of the claims in point 4 above. Hunting photos; trophy certificates; hunting licenses; removal permits; training certificates; testimonials from game farmers and hunting partners; and – the key to your application – a copy of your membership card of your hunting association.
Gideon Joubert, Member of Gun Owner SA’s Executive Committee
The trick is to keep the motivation as concise as possible whilst including all the vital details. It is helpful to include a list of all the accredited organisations you belong to – along with your membership details. It is important to focus and concentrate on explaining the specific reasons why you need the firearm you are applying for, and its intended use, and not to blur your reasons with unnecessary additional information. Always supply applicable supporting documentation for things you claim in the motivation; i.e. crime stats, sport participation results etc.
Richard Best, Sales Representative and Firearms Instructor at Suburban Guns
Writing a good motivation is a difficult thing to nail down as many different approaches have worked. Motivations that have succeeded before sometimes don’t succeed at another time. Here are some simple tips:
- Ensure that the motivation is neat and easy to read.
- When compiling a motivation ensure that it is applicable to the type of firearm license that you are applying for. Referencing and attaching crime stats for your area when applying for a section 16 bolt action rifle for dedicated hunting of large game would add little to no value.
- Always be honest. Many people who were found to be untruthful on applications have been declined. On the other hand, people who were honest about past convictions have had applications approved. This proves that a dim view is taken on untruthful applicants.
- Mention that you have a safe which meets and is mounted in accordance with SABS specifications.
- If you are applying for a self-defence license, make it clear that you have and will take other measures to keep yourself and others safe and that you understand that the use of a firearm is only permitted as a last resort.
- If you are applying for a self-defence license, reference and attach crime stats for your area.
- Always explain why the firearm you are applying for is ideal for the tasks for which you are stating that you will use it. If you have other guns already you should explain why they are not suitable for those tasks.
- List any associations with which you are affiliated and in what capacity (dedicated shooter etc.) and attach membership certificates, dedicated status certificates, sports results or hunting references and photos.
- Initial each page and sign the last. This is contentious but applications have been declined because of this.
Louis Welman, President of Suid-Kaap Jagters en Bewaringsvereniging
In our experience, there is no such thing as a good motivation. Motivations with the same facts and supporting documents are treated differently. One is approved and the other denied. Write all the facts related to the need for the firearm.
Pam Stoltz, Owner of Target Line and Head of Training
Every Motivation must be aligned to the specifics of the person applying. Each motivation differs as each person’s needs are different. You must tailor-make your motivation with the truth of your wellbeing.
When in doubt, use our services at Target Line to put your motivation together.
André Joubert, Club Secretary at The Cape Sporting Rifle Club
My top tip would be to provide a detailed explanation of what the firearm is required for and how this specific firearm will satisfy your need.
Koos Kotze, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of JKLS Africa
No two motivations should read the same. Whatever you do, be honest and don’t lie. Keep to the subject at hand. If you are a bona-fide hunter, then say so. If you feel the need for self-protection, then say so but don’t add uncalled for wisecracks like “because you are too pathetic to do your jobs!”
Where the law requires you to admit a previous criminal conviction or a declaration of unfitness to own a firearm, you should state so clearly with links to the case numbers. Don’t hide it – you will be caught out. You must always give details on why you need the firearm. State your personal and business circumstances clearly so that the reader understands who you are.
Unlike the USA and other places, the right to bear arms is seen as a privilege in South Africa – not a right. Thus, you need to comply with whatever supporting documents are required. Don’t blindly copy and paste old applications – your circumstances must have changed somewhat since then.
John Harris, Hunting and Shooting Sport Firearms Consultant for Hillcrest Gun Shop
I will not be long winded here. Four essential points:
- Identify the firearm and include some pertinent information related to the make/manufacture/calibre.
- Purpose for which the firearm is required – ensure to include any supporting documents/pictures/range receipts etc.
- Suitability of the specific firearm/calibre for the purpose outlined above – with supporting articles/affidavits/references to support the claim.
- Need – why do you need the firearm? For example, if the reason is self-defence, include crime statistics from your area (Crime Stats SA). Or, if you have had an issue, did you report it? State where and provide CR-numbers. In short, anything that will substantiate your application.
Bear in mind that the vast majority of officials involved in the license process are clueless. Therefore, the clearer the motivation and supporting documents are the better.
Tim Crofts, Professional/Tactical Firearms Instructor and Weapons Specialist for Red Rimfire Range and Training Facility
A good firearm motivation should:
- Be factual – stating the relevant act and your right to protect yourself etc.
- Be to the point – what and why you need it. Remind SAPS of facts they already know about crime stats in your area. You can maybe include some news rapports (e.g. from News 24). The document in its entirety must be not too short and not too long.
- Demonstrate where and how you will store the firearm – in a SABS-approved safe; bolted down to floor and wall etc.
- Include proof of training and experience – all your competency certificates; firearms-training certificates; and/or sports or clubs membership certificates.
Writing (or compiling) a good firearm licence motivation is not easy. Because no two people are the same, no two motivations can ever read the same. You need to fully motivate why you need a firearm (i.e. self-defence, sports shooting or hunting, etc.) and how this specific firearm will satisfy your need.
As they say: “the onus lies in the proof.” Everything you write in your motivation letter must be supported by documentation/proof (i.e. crime statistics, news reports, proof of membership, training certificates, etc., etc.).
It is very important to be honest and to the point in your firearm licence motivation. It is advisable to seek the services of an expert to guarantee success in obtaining a firearm license.