Highly detailed draft gun dispossession bill ‘only for discussion’

Gun Owners South Africa suspects the bill would’ve been ‘sneaked through’ during the December holidays, when ‘no one is paying attention’.

The highly detailed draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill was nothing more than an internal, confidential, departmental “discussion document”.

That is according Police Secretariat secretary Alvin Repea, reported Volksblad yesterday.

The document – stamped “DRAFT DO NOT COPY” – across each page also provided for “the declaration of amnesty to enable the surrendering of unlawfully possessed firearm”.

It’s something Police Minister Bheki Cele has wanted since July, and was supposed to happen between September and February. However, it bit the dust alongside Fikile Mbalula and Nathi Nhleko’s attempts from years ago when they were still ministers.

“There’s nothing good about this law; it will break the system,” said Gun Owners South Africa vice-chairperson Gideon Joubert.

He believed the bill would have been “sneaked through” during the December holiday period when “no one was paying attention”.

Late Wednesday evening, police portfolio committee chairperson Francois Beukman said everyone should await the formal publishing of the draft legislation once it was finalised by the department and Cabinet.

“Once the Firearms Amendment Bill is tabled all relevant parties would be given the necessary opportunity for input,” Beukman said.

A closer scrutiny of the draft legislation, which has yet to be presented to parliament, also revealed that current firearm owners will not lose their weapons immediately. The licence will remain valid until the date of expiry of that licence.

According to the Small Arms Survey released in June, South Africa ranked 20th worldwide in gun ownership, with an estimated 5.4 million firearms in circulation in 2017.

Of these, three million were estimated to be legal, while 2.35 million were deemed unregistered. Slightly more than 600 000 firearms belong to the State, BusinessTech reported.

The SAPS 2017/18 annual report stated that accredited entities rose from 2 465 to 2 610 countrywide.

A total of 346 986 applications were received in 2017/2018, while 488 092 were concluded, including 141 106 from previous years.

Of the grand total, 149 594 competency applications (security officers) and 103 205 new firearm licences were “finalised”.

The report does not say how many were actually issued.

This all points to a healthy industry.

“There is certainly several hundred million rands of turnover through all the dealerships, but it’s not only the retail side,” said Joubert.

“It’s the first time the industry has started to recover from the massive downturn it suffered when the new act was implemented in 2004. It’s steadily been growing and a lot of it is thanks to the fact that more and more South Africans from previously disadvantaged communities are achieving the financial means to buy firearms.”

Joubert said they are not only buying for self-protection, but also for recreational shooting.

“Especially the sport shooting side of things, it’s not the same animal it was 15 years ago. Thing have changed hugely, and in a very positive way.”

Private Security Regulatory Authority spokesperson Velisile Bukula said yesterday the proposals relating to gun ownership are welcomed.

“We welcome these amendments with open arms because we have a lot of businesses that are no longer active but possess firearms. They either end up leasing the firearms or the firearms are not accounted for,” said Bukula.

“This amendment will ensure that only businesses that are active possess and use firearms, and there will be easy accountability and monitoring of the use of such firearms.”

He warned if there are businesses which require security officers to have their own firearms for work purposes, they are in contravention of current regulations and are guilty of an offense. If convicted, the company owners would be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for up to 24 months.

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