A 2017 version of the draft Firearms Control Act is floating around the halls of the safety and security ministry and, if passed, will make life a lot harder for those wanting to purchase or continue to own a firearm for self-defence.
Minister Bheki Cele’s office would not confirm or deny the existence of the bill and instead referred The Citizen to the SAPS, which has not responded.
Police portfolio committee chairperson Francois Beukman said he had not received any formal referral with regard to the bill.
“The only draft legislation that is before the committee is a Private Members Bill from Mr Pieter Groenewald that proposes certain technical amendments to the Firearms Amendment Bill,” Beukman said.
Interest groups and gun-owners should await the formal publishing of the draft legislation once finalised by the department and Cabinet.
“It is indeed premature and not correct to overreact to a dated internal document without formal status and without approval by the Executive,” Beukman said.
Beukman said once the Firearms Amendment Bill was tabled all relevant parties would be given the necessary opportunity for input.
The draft bill, released by Gun Owners South Africa (Gosa), follows a June Constitutional Court finding, which stated gun ownership was not a fundamental right under the Bill of Rights.
“It is a privilege regulated by law, under the Firearms Control Act,” Justice Johan Froneman wrote at the time.
Skip forward a few months and the draft amendment act seeks to insert a new section “that provides that an applicant must provide to the satisfaction of the Registrar a valid reason for requiring a firearm licence, failing which a firearm licence may not be issued”.
It goes on to say self-defence, the protection of another person or the protection of property, other than circumstances constituting a valid reason set out in chapter six of the Act, does not constitute a valid reason.
According to the version of the Firearms Act on the South African Police website, chapter six deals with the “Import, export and carriage in-transit of firearms and ammunition”.
Clause 15 of the amendment bill seeks to repeal sections 13 and 14 of the Act in their entirety, the consequence of which is that “the Registrar may not issue a licence to any natural person who needs a firearm for self-defence”.
Paul Oxley of Gosa said this was an infringement on every South African’s right to life.
“You will need a medical certificate for applications, which means a breach of the constitutional rights of citizens right to privacy, opening them up to discrimination,” said Oxley.
All “green” licences, which have been found by the courts to be valid for life, will have to move over to the “white” licensing system with the additional restrictions.
“The major concern we have is the right to life of law-abiding citizens. Crime is escalating at an alarming rate, whereby the criminals perpetrating these crimes are becoming increasingly violent,” Oxley said.
“Taking away a means to effectively defend oneself will see to an increase in violent crimes committed against all South Africans. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
The Professional Hunters Association of South Africa’s Dries van Coller said there was still speculation around the document, which appeared to be a leaked version.
“We are going to verify the authenticity of the document but if it is a true reflection of the intentions then it will affect the whole hunting and firearms fraternity,” Van Coller said. “The limitations are very restrictive and not conducive to doing any type of business, especially for us.”
He noted a “conservative” estimate of the value of the hunting industry was about R2.2 billion to the fiscus.
“The logic behind this cannot be understood. We will oppose this in the public participation rounds when the bill is made public,” Coller said.
Gosa’s media liaison, Tim Flack, said under the new Bill, current gun owners would have to hand in their guns, “which will create a massive administration burden and the risk of firearms being stolen from the police stations”.
In October 2017, an article in Paratus wrote that “In the six-year period from 2005 to 2011 the SAPS lost a total of 18 196 firearms, which equals approximately 3 030 firearms per year.”
In newer statistics sourced by AfriForum, it is revealed that the SAPS “lost 7 892 firearms between 2009 and 2014, which averages around 1 578 per annum”.
“In the 2014/15 cycle the SAPS had a personnel count of 150 950 officers. This means that the SAPS lost on average 1045 to 2007 firearms per 100 000 officers every year,” the article stated.