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Parliament, Cape Town - The National Assembly approved legislation on Tuesday empowering the police to arrest people who carry dangerous weapons in public.
The Dangerous Weapons Bill received the support of all parties in the House after a brief debate.
The bill was amended after it first came to the police portfolio committee for consideration last month.
Sporting bodies and collectors complained that they would be arrested while travelling to and from events, and could be prosecuted for having paintguns, airguns or antique rifles, guns, and swords in their possession.
As the bill now stands, it will not apply to:
* Possession of dangerous weapons in pursuit of any lawful employment, duty or activity;
* Possession of dangerous weapons during participation in any religious or cultural activities, or lawful sport, recreation, or entertainment; and;
* Legitimate collection, display, or exhibition of weapons.
Police officers will be given the discretion to decide whether there is a reasonable suspicion that a weapon could be used for unlawful purposes.
Police will be able to crack down on protesters brandishing firearms, bricks, glass bottles, spears, or any object which could be used to harm someone or damage property.
Speaking in the committee last month, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the bill would outlaw possession of any weapon, object, or replica in instances where there was an intention to use it for an unlawful purpose.
“The bill seeks to prohibit the carrying of firearms and objects which resemble firearms, dangerous weapons, and objects likely to cause injury or damage to property at a demonstration or gathering,” said Mthethwa.
He would be given the power to regulate what dangerous weapons could be carried in public.
“This is particularly important given the developments in the country, and the apparent brandishing of weapons in public protests and public gatherings, as it were.”
The use of toy guns to commit a crime was also covered under the proposed law.
“The rationale for this is that replica firearms often look exactly like real firearms, and can be used in the commission of a crime,” said Mthethwa.
“The bill also provides for the minister of police to issue notices of exclusion, where the carrying of what may be defined as dangerous weapons in public is excluded from being outlawed under specific circumstances.”
The bill now goes to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. - Sapa