Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa says he is astonished by the number of firearms owned by municipalities that go missing.
Gauteng municipalities alone have lost 1148 firearms.
Mthethwa's spokesperson Zweli Mnisi told Sowetan yesterday that though he did not have a national figure, the numbers of firearms lost ranged from one to 500 in other municipalities.
"About 17482 firearms are currently owned by various municipalities, with Gauteng municipalities possessing the most with 8867, while the Northern Cape has the least with 64," said Mnisi.
He said Mthethwa had ordered the police's central firearms registry to investigate the matter.
"As required by law, in every municipality there is a person responsible for the control and management of these firearms," Mnisi said.
He said Mthethwa would also welcome recommendations by the police on how municipalities could tighten firearms security controls and measures to be taken against those who transgress the law.
In a statement Mthethwa said: "Where we uncover such discrepancies we will not sweep them under the carpet but expose them while finding corrective measures to fix them."
The ministry has introduced an integrated ballistics identification system that requires all officers to account for every firearm allocated to them, he said.