Gun owners await outcome of Firearms Bill as public participation ends
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Cape Town - Gun owners are eagerly waiting on the outcomes of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill (FCAB), after public participation ended on Monday.
The amendments will among other things remove self-defence as a valid reason to own a firearm. It was published in May by the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSP) and immediately sparked an outcry with pro-gun ownership groups saying it would place women at greater risk of gender-based violence, because they would be legally unable to protect themselves.
Police Minister Bheki Cele's spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, said Monday marked the last day in which South Africans could have their say through the legislative process of amending the FCAB 2021.
Themba said now the process to scrutinise the more than 120 000 comments received gets under way, including comments that could assist in strengthening the bill.
She said as the process unfolds, it would see the bill being reviewed taking into consideration the useful comments that would mould the FCA, before being approved by the Ministry of Police.
Damian Enslin, chairperson of the SA Gunowners' Association, said they had written to the president and police minister Bheki Cele last month, requesting that the bill be withdrawn, and his office responded yesterday and advised that the bill would be processed accordingly.
Gun Free SA (GFSA) director Adèle Kirsten said the bill was still at the executive level, not at the parliamentary process level yet.
Kirsten said GFSA submitted 60 pages, and hoped that the CSP would read it carefully and engage with what they said, whether from increasing the age to 25, or looking at some of the ballistics.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said the DA-led government in the Western Cape has discussed the matter and taken the decision to reject the bill.
"We have done so on behalf of thousands of citizens who we believe have a right to self-defence and a right to legally own firearms," said Fritz.
He said he was hoping citizens had used the opportunity of the extension of the deadline to voice their objection to the bill.
"I hope that our citizens did more than just complain about it to their friends, because that is ultimately the way in which a democracy works, through active citizenship," he said.
Gun Owners of South Africa member Alan Marthezé said the bill needed to be scrapped in its entirety now that “those underhanded tactics, driven by personal prejudice have been publicly exposed”.
Institute for Race Relations (IRR) head of campaigns, Gabriel Crouse, said more than 21 000 South Africans have rejected the government’s proposed ban on owning guns for self-defence through the campaign mounted by the IRR against the draft FCAB.
Crouse said a further more than 200 000 people have registered their opposition through other civil rights organisations and political parties.
“The current draft amendment must be scrapped, evidence must be gathered, and the secretariat needs to get real about its own failures. Stakeholders must be consulted, a clear and up-to-date impact assessment must be conducted, and the right to life must be respected. This is not a nice-to-have, it is a must-have, according to our Constitution,” Crouse said.