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ConCourt ruling favour of gun owners who failed to renew licences before expiration hailed

Fidelity challenged the policy in the Gauteng High Court and after an initial dismissal of its case, succeeded in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

Fidelity challenged the policy in the Gauteng High Court and after an initial dismissal of its case, succeeded in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 30, 2022

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Cape Town - The Constitutional Court’s ruling that firearm owners whose licences have expired may reapply without waiting for another amnesty period has been hailed as a “watershed judgment in favour of all firearm owners in South Africa.”

The primary issue for determination by the Constitutional Court was whether a gun owner who allowed their licence to lapse could then make a new application for possession of the firearm, or whether they had lost the right to ever regain lawful possession of the firearm.

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The gun owner in the case was Fidelity, which in 2016 originally brought the case to the high court against the Minister of Police, the Justice and Constitutional Development Minister and the SAPS acting national commissioner after the police blocked people whose licences had expired from renewing or applying for a new firearm licence.

Fidelity challenged the policy in the Gauteng High Court and after an initial dismissal of its case, succeeded in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

In court, Fidelity said it was one of the largest security service providers in South Africa and that being in possession of firearms was an indispensable aspect of its business. It owns more than 8 500 firearms, utilised by its security officers to execute their tasks.

Appearing in the case as an amicus curiae or friend of the court, the business and professional lobby group Sakeliga argued that it was inequitable for firearm owners whose licences had expired to be barred from making new applications, while this was not the case for people who had been declared unfit to own a firearm.

Applauding the judgment, Fidelity Security Group chief executive Wahl Bartmann said in a statement: “This court judgment does not only apply to Fidelity, but to all persons who have expired firearm licences.”

Bartmann said the court had clarified the position of all firearm owners who possess a firearm with an expired licence. He said the Constitutional Court had now confirmed that Fidelity was correct in its legal challenge.

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Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald said that the judgment had validated his 2017 Private Member’s Bill on the matter.

“The FF Plus encourages all firearm owners to immediately apply for a new licence if their old licence has expired. In terms of the Constitutional Court's judgment, the police will have no other choice but to process the application.”

Meanwhile, NGO Gun Free SA (GFSA) is looking to Parliament and proposed amendments to the current act to strengthen the country’s gun laws. GFSA director Adèle Kirsten said it had come at an opportune time as it highlights weaknesses and ambiguities in the current act.

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She said the judgment gave the country an opportunity to bring about clarity on the sanctions faced by those gun owners who fail to renew their licences on time.

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Cape Argus

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