Amanda Watson news editor The Citizen obituary

By Amanda Watson

News Editor

One million gun owners shot in the foot by cops

Firearm users with expired licences are in limbo after parliament sent the police back to the drawing board to redo their plan for amnesty.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) was sent back to the drawing board to redo its plan for amnesty and the draft Firearms Control Act.

Yesterday, police portfolio committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson stated there should be another firearms summit, this time with public participation, after sending the SAPS packing with the blessing of the entire committee.

Joemat-Pettersson said the matter would be discussed by the committee.

According to a question in parliament, as of July 31, 2,582,656 firearms had been licenced in SA, making for a total of 4.39 licenced firearms per 100 people.

“This has been going on for a year and we estimate between 700,000 and a million firearm owners have been affected,” Gun Owners SA (Gosa) chairperson Paul Oxley told The Citizen. “The number just grows and grows.”

With the Saps proposing self-defence being removed as a reason for possessing a firearm in its recent proposed amendment, firearm owners were becoming reluctant to hand their firearms in for destruction.

It all goes back to June last year when the Constitutional Court unanimously decided in a ruling penned by Justice Johan Froneman that firearm owners whose licences had expired must forfeit them to the state, without any compensation.

The effect of the judgment meant once a licence had expired it could not be renewed, the firearm then became illegal and had to be handed in for destruction, Counsel for Gosa Larry Marks stated in Gosa’s application for an interdict against the SAPS implementing an amendment to that effect in June 2018.

“Strangely, one could go and purchase a new firearm at considerable cost, apply for and obtain a licence for it. But people could not renew existing licences,” said Marks.

High Court in Pretoria Justice Bill Prinsloo in the course of his judgment indicated the Central Firearms Register should “be restored to a position that it is able to accept applications for renewal of licences which have expired because the period of their validity contemplated in Section 27 of the Act has expired”.

“[The Saps has] been frittering away their time trying to challenge the interdict which can’t be challenged. It’s not appealable,” Oxley said.

Institute of Race Relations project manager Terence Corrigan noted in an April article on that if only the police and army had the right to have firearms, society would not be safer, but more vulnerable.

“In December, the court heard an appeal by the police against Judge Prinsloo’s order. In effect, the court upheld the earlier ruling. Those holding weapons with lapsed licences could not be penalised, and guns could not be confiscated,” Corrigan said.

“What all of this denotes is egregious overreach. It is the arbitrary extension of state power, and policy-making by stealth. It extends without legal justification the boundaries of what existing legislation allows, entrusted to a system whose capacity and integrity to carry it off is doubtful.”

In his judgment, Prinsloo noted it was a “matter of national security and there is a clear and pressing danger to the security of the state and all its citizens if the court does not take the necessary measures as provided for and explained herein and also restore order and certainty”.

“When it comes to removing self-defence firearms from hundreds of thousands of people, the consequences will cause societal upheaval, chaos and risk lawlessness,” said Prinsloo.

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