Civil rights groups have joined a growing number of voices criticising the proposed amendments to the country’s firearm legislation. File Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Civil rights groups have joined a growing number of voices criticising the proposed amendments to the country’s firearm legislation. File Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

Proposed amendments to gun ownership law draws mixed reactions

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published May 31, 2021

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Cape Town - Civil rights groups have joined a growing number of voices criticising the proposed amendments to the country’s firearm legislation.

Action Society and DearSA encouraged participation in the proposed amendments to the Firearms Control Act (FCA), announced last week, that among others, would prohibit the owning of a firearm for self-defence purposes.

Action Society spokesperson Dr Rineé Pretorius, said to facilitate the much-needed public participation process, the organisations decided to partner up.

Pretorius said it is an important opportunity where individuals could make sure that all citizens have the right to self-protection.

“We therefore want to motivate the public to take part in the simple process," said Pretorius, the public have until July 4, to submit their comments and concerns regarding the proposed changes.

DearSA managing director Rob Hutchinson, urged the public to help shape the draft amendments on the FCA before they would be signed into law.

“How many more women need to die at the hands of their ruthless and violent killers?

“When is enough, enough?

“How can the government justify spending another R26 million on VIP protection while the vulnerable women and children in our communities remain exposed and unprotected?” asked Pretorius.

Gun Free SA director Adele Kirsten welcomed the Draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill, and commended the government for boldly acting to address rising gun violence, which sees 23 people shot and killed every day in the country.

Kirsten said they supported among others, the alignment of the FCA with global norms which did not recognise self-defence as a reason for gun ownership, as well as SA’s legal obligations.

“These include a 2018 ruling by the Constitutional Court that gun ownership is not a right but a privilege governed by law, as well as various protocols, most notably the global Firearms Protocol and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Firearms Protocol,” she said.

Kirsten said the organisation recognised that everyone living in SA was grappling with ways to protect themselves, families, friends, colleagues and the wider community from violent crime.

She said the best way to do that was to use available evidence to make the most informed decision.

The available evidence showed that reducing access to firearms helps make their homes, communities and country safer.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said the amendments should not be interpreted as though the government was looking into disarming citizens.

Cele said there was no right to bear arms in the Constitution and the FCA in its current form granted no such right to citizens either, owning a gun remained a privilege made possible through the FCA.

He said arming citizens won’t solve the country’s high crime rate.

“The mere possession of a firearm can lead to increased rates of victimisation, both for the gun owner and those living in the household.

“Simply put, this proposed change in law also has the potential to mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of women who are in the clutches of their abusers, inside their own homes,” said Cele.

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