Firearms amnesty figures in April saw their largest fall since the start of the pardon period in December last year, due to the national lockdown.
Statistics show that, during April, only 385 firearms were handed over to police, while in March, 5,154 were surrendered.
Police Minister Bheki Cele addressed a virtual meeting of parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police on Wednesday, seeking its support for another amnesty period between 1 August and January 2021.
“In April, there was little movement (of people), and this included those who would have surrendered their firearms as part of the amnesty period. Almost half of March and April was dead because everyone was on level 5 lockdown. We thought it would be profound (sic) to request another period of amnesty,” Cele said.
“We believe the previous amnesty period was completely eaten away by the Covid-19 lockdown. One gun removed from a community, especially an illegal firearm leads to lives being saved. We urge that this period is granted to us. Communities have also raised the issue of being stuck in lockdown.”
Cele said that, between June and July, there would be no amnesty.
Since the start of the first amnesty period, 23,647 firearms were surrendered as part of the amnesty granted, while 2,894 were voluntarily handed to police. At the end of the first amnesty period on 31 May, more than 11,000 firearms were surrendered.
Gauteng recorded the highest number of firearms surrendered, at 8,974. In the Western Cape, 6,140 firearms were surrendered and 2,364 in KwaZulu-Nata. The Western Cape recorded the highest number of people voluntarily handing over of firearms, at 961. Gauteng had 524 and Mpumalanga 281.
“I want to make this point; nobody is going to force you… you can keep your legal firearm. The owners must take extra care. We have had situations in Gauteng where a young boy comes to school with the gun of his father. That is a dangerous situation,” Cele said.
Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald accused Cele of disarming law-abiding gun owners, while the country was overrun by illegal guns and ammunition.
“You are focusing on the legal firearm owners, while the illegal guns are the problem,” he said.
Cele said police were conducting operations targeted at illegal firearms.
There were 10,704 licence applications for surrendered firearms. In Gauteng, 2,781 applications were made, and 2,398 in the Western Cape. Of these applications, 56.65% were at national and 43.35% at provincial level.
Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said the committee could not adopt the report yet, as Speaker Thandi Modise had to first refer the request to the committee for consideration.