Changes to Proposed Firearms Law a Mixed Bag for Gun Owners
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Business Day (Johannesburg)
March 6, 2006
Posted to the web March 6, 2006
AFTER years of controversy, millions of legal gun owners, rendered vulnerable to prosecution by the Firearms Control Act, are welcoming the news that the act's onerous re- licensing provisions could soon be changed due to massive administrative complications.
The full implementation of the act, in July 2004, and the start of the relicensing process at the beginning of last year, resulted in massive backlogs at the Central Firearms Registry.
Last year Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula held consultations with organisations in the gun-owning community and, last week, true to his promise, he published draft amendments to the act intended to simplify the process.
However, some senior police officers, according to sources who decline to be named, are unhappy with the cool response to what they see as significant concessions. The problem is that while the proposed amendments could take away the nightmare of the relicensing process, they introduce further restrictions that are a complete surprise.
Broadly, the amendment bill, which will be published for public comment before the end of the month, substitutes the five-yearly renewal of every gun licence with a five-yearly "proof of competence with a firearm" certificate from a registered training institution. This will be accompanied by an audit of all legal firearms -- a suggestion made frequently by the gun community.
Further, limits to the number of firearms that can be held by an individual will apply only to new applications for firearms, leaving the rights of those who obtained their licences under the old Arms and Ammunition Act intact.
The problems the gun community has relate to the new restrictions on so-called "black-powder" weapons -- replicas of old muzzle-loaders. The new act deregulated these weapons and because the firearms registry was refusing a high proportion of new licence applications, many gun dealers turned to these as a way of maintaining their businesses.
A cursory glance at advertisements in gun magazines show the extent to which this has caught on. Those who bought black-powder guns on the understanding that they were unregulated may now have to license them. Whether this will apply retrospectively to those who have already bought them is unclear.
One of the biggest problems in the new bill relates to collectible firearms. There are many collectors in SA and theirs are probably the most secure weapons in the country -- as they are worth a fortune. The new provisions will insist they are all rendered inoperable. To do this, collectors say, will make them worthless. A collectible firearm with its firing mechanism destroyed or molten lead poured down the barrel, would not fetch a great deal on the international market.
South African Gunowners' Association spokesman Martin Hood, in an initial critique, says the draft bill is a "mixed bag" of good and bad.
"Although it appears that all existing licences will be accepted as valid -- subject to the owner obtaining a competency certificate -- it also appears that the intention is to give the South African Police Service much greater discretion and power to refuse to issue competency certificates, among other things," he says.
"We must stress that although 'old' licences may remain valid if the proposed amendments pass through Parliament unchanged, those licences which are scheduled for renewal by 31 March this year still need to be renewed."
The association notes, however, that the chances of yet another change in the law has already created more confusion and suggests the only fair way of resolving the situation is to extend the period for the first batch of renewals until after the bill has been processed and the law is clear.
This, of course, will not help those who have already surrendered their weapons to avoid prosecution and did so because they could not find their way through the administrative quagmire of the relicensing process.
Nqakula's office warns that until the bill has been processed the law still applies, and those required to relicense have to do so by the specified deadlines. The gun owners' association supports this, warning its members to continue in terms of the existing law.
The lobby group says proposals relating to collectors and rendering collectible firearms inoperable are the harshest in the bill.
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"It is clear the police do not want collectible firearms to be used because they have deleted the provisions confirming that the owner may discharge such firearms where it is safe and lawful to do so. While this, in effect, means that collectible firearms must be deactivated -- they still need to be licensed."
The association is committing itself to discussions to improve the bill. It says the amendment bill is a good start, but more discussions should be held to resolve the existing difficulties.
Like the Aussies,
The South Africans
have fucked themselves.....
We do not want the US going this way.
Their new gun law is a nightmare.
It's what happens when you give control of your 1st world country to communist-led tribesmen who hate you despite all of the propaganda rhetoric of peace and love - you lose your gun and property rights, and then you are ethnicly cleansed. It's happened everywhere else in Africa, and it will happen in SA (barring a miracle).