Gun self-defence move triggers debate
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DURBAN - PARLIAMENT’S revival of the Draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill, which seeks to remove self-defence as a valid reason to own a firearm, has been greeted by mixed reaction.
While lobby group Gun Free South Africa (GFSA) welcomed the proposal, describing it as “long-overdue”, the SA Gun-owners Association (Saga) called the move “ill-informed”.
The Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSP) published the draft bill last week, inviting the public to comment on it. It seeks to “provide that no firearm licences may be issued for self-defence purposes”.
“In order to address the reduction of gun deaths and gun violence, firearm licences for self-defence purposes will not be permitted. Other amendments also include the designation of a Designated Firearms Officer at each police station, as far as practicably possible, to improve the control over firearms in possession of the police and other official institutions, and private security service providers,” the bill states.
In 2015, the government published the draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill for public comment, and it reportedly went through consultation, but was suspended.
GFSA spokesperson Adele Kirsten said guns were not effective for self-defence, describing them as a risk to have at home. Kirsten said that, in most cases, homeowners with guns were being targeted by criminals who wanted to steal their firearms.
She added that guns in homes were often used in gender-based violence.
Kirsten said most guns that were used for criminal activities were illegal, however, most of the illegal guns were stolen either from the police or civilians.
“There is a very strong link and interdependence between illegal and legal firearms. Anywhere in the world, most states understand that to control illegal stock and reduce it, you have to control legal stock,” she said.
She described the move by the government as “bold”, and said there was enough evidence to support the new proposed law.
However, Saga’s Damian Enslin slammed the proposal, saying they were prepared to make use of all available avenues to oppose the bill, including going the legal route.
“It is completely inconceivable for the government to think of the move while the country is experiencing a severe crime rate, and where even the police have previously admitted that they don’t have sufficient capacity to protect all citizens,” said Enslin.
He said the association would fight for the right of law-abiding and responsible citizens to choose to own and use firearms for sport, self-defence, recreation, and other legitimate purposes.
Martin Hood, a legal representative for South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers, said: “It’s a common-law right to protect yourself, and that has been a right that we’ve had for many years – the right to self-defence and self-protection. The Constitution, however, gives the right to life, and that is not a right to self-defence,” he said.
He said the right to life could be, most of the time, interpreted to include the right to protect someone that you have a legal duty to protect, either a parent, child, spouse or relatives.
The public has 42 days to comment on the proposed law. The bill can be obtained at https://pmg.org.za/call-forcomment/1062/