Ruling urges some 300 000 gun owners to turn in their guns

If you are a gun owner who failed to renew your firearm licence on time, your possession of that weapon is illegal. This is in terms of a unanimous Constitutional Court decision articulated by Justice Johan Froneman yesterday.

The judgement brought an end to uncertainty regarding sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act.

It has been reported that amnesty may be offered to affected gun owners. This has, however, not been confirmed.

Section 24 of the Act requires that any person who seeks to renew a licence must do so 90 days before its expiry date. Section 28 stipulates that if a firearm licence has been cancelled‚ the firearm must be disposed of or forfeited to the state. A 60-day time frame was placed on its disposal, which was to be done through a dealer.

ALSO READ: Get or renew your firearm licence: what you must know

In 2017, North Gauteng High Court judge Ronel Tolmay ruled that these two sections were unconstitutional. She stated that firearms due for renewal in terms of section 24 of the act “will be deemed to be valid, until the Constitutional Court has made its determination on the Constitutionality of the aforesaid sections.”

Both the North Gauteng High Court and the Constitutional Court acknowledged the police’s failure to implement the act and the chaos and maladministration experienced in the police’s firearm offices. However, the court did not offer a remedy to address these issues.

The effects of yesterday’s ruling are far reaching. It is estimated that there are at least 300 000 firearm owners who – either negligently or intently – failed to renew their firearm licences. These people will have to hand their firearms  in at their nearest police stations, from where it will be destroyed.

ALSO READ: How to apply for a firearm licence

In his judgement, Froneman stated that the prosecution of those who failed to renew licences timeously was unlikely. It is, however, not excluded from the realm of possibility.

According to the South African Hunters Association, the existing law makes no provision for the late renewal of firearm licences.

According to the association, section 137 of the Act makes provision for compensation to be paid to those who are compelled to hand in their firearms. The registrar has the authority to decide whether this will be done, so compensation is therefore not a given. Legislation provides for maximum compensation of R500 for a handgun and R1000 for a rifle. According to the association’s CEO Fred Camphor, these amounts are far below the value of firearms.

ALSO READ: Sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Act found “Unconstitutional”

Although the letter of the law, as entrenched by the Constitutional Court, is very clear, Camphor pointed out that it remains to be seen whether the South African Police Service will succeed in administering it.

 

  AUTHOR
Helene Eloff

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