Regular roadblocks across the country have become quite the norm over the past few years. The chances of you being pulled over and the police officer asking for your driver’s licence and checking your car licence are almost guaranteed.
Many South Africans have licensed firearms which they carry along with them in their cars.
Pretoria Moot Rekord spoke to police officer Harold F Callahan, who said it was pretty much guaranteed that if one was pulled over and they were in possession of a firearm, they would be asked for their gun licence and or competency certificate.
“If you own more firearms but do not have them on you, just show the official the licence of the firearm you have on you there and then. Keep things simple. If you were not issued an actual card competency certificate, don’t sweat. It’s the licence that holds the main pertinent information,” he wrote on Paratus, a platform for gun ownership rights and debates recently.
Callahan gave the following tips on what to expect when you need to present your firearm at a roadblock:
1. Expect some superficial questions like confirming your ID number verbally or at least your date of birth.
2. It is highly unlikely you will be expected to recite your firearm’s serial number. If you know it, that’s good.
3. The police official may then ask you where your firearm is. Without being vague or arrogant, respond with, “Sir my pistol is in a holster on the right side of my body under my shirt,” or “Sir, my rifle is in a carry bag on the back seat.”
4. Very often the official may seek verbal confirmation from you that you are carrying your firearm safely and are familiar with the responsibility of carrying that firearm. They are not treating you like an idiot, they are merely bringing to your attention all the bits of law you should be familiar with.
5. With regard to sporting rifles, you may carry your sporting pistol in a holster on your way to and from the event. If you are shooting rifle or shotgun, you are urged to keep it in a bag or case. Remember that police officials are also just human, and they might get a little jumpy if you drive around with an AK-47 laid out in your front seat.
6. If the official asks to see or inspect your firearm, please do not be arrogant, the law allows them to do that.
7. If your firearm is in a bag in the boot, ask if you can get out of your car to retrieve it. You will be allowed to. At this point the official may ask what the serial number is. If you don’t know, find out now. If any handling of the firearm to get the serial number needs to take place, inform the official: “Sir, it is on the other side. May I turn [my firearm] over for you?” You may get a “No, no, that’s fine” or an affirmative. If handling is necessary, please don’t feel the need to click around the safeties. Lift the weapon as you would a friend’s baby and with the minimum of movement, remove the furniture or turn it to reveal the number. Allow the official to read off the number and once this is done he will very likely tell you to put it back and close up.
8. If the firearm is on your person and the official asks to see it, we imagine things may get tricky. Another official at the roadblock doesn’t want to be surprised seeing a dude pulling out a pistol in such close proximity to a colleague especially if it is carelessly pointed at said colleague. Again, the bywords here are slowly, confidently and respectfully. Do not turn away from the police official and start ejecting mags. Repeat where the firearm is and tell the police official you will now expose it.
9. What if you are female and carrying in a belly band? You are not expected to expose yourself to a male police official to retrieve your firearm. The answer is simple. Communication. Under the Criminal Procedure Act, a woman may not be searched by a male officer and vice versa. Any search must be conducted in a manner commensurate with privacy and human dignity.
10. If your firearm is in an ankle holster, say: “Sir, it is on my ankle, I’m going to put my foot up on my car seat to get to it easily, or: “Sir, it is under my shirt, I’m going to lift up my shirt to show you and then take it out.”
11. When you draw the firearm, draw it cleanly using flat, uncurled fingers and then lay it on your other hand. Try your best to keep the muzzle pointed in a neutral direction. This may be impossible if there are other police officer and civilians in the vicinity, but do your best.
12. If the serial number is not in view, tell the official where it is. “Sir, this pistol has the number on a plate under the frame, let me turn it over for you.” You tip the grip up, supporting the weight of the weapon in your less dominant hand and expose the serial number. Rotate the firearm 180° on your hand like you would move the hands of a clock and then flip it over to show the number.
13. Remember, this exercise may occur at night, or in low light. So if necessary, move your hands out of the shadows into the beam of his or her torch.
14. Once the inspection is complete, ask if you can put the firearm away. When invited to, thank the police officer then place your firearm back and straighten your clothing.