CONTENTIOUS: Right to self-defence
Durban - Gun Owners South Africa (Gosa) and Durban community police forums have raised concern about a leaked draft amendment bill to the Firearms Control Act which allegedly removes the right to own a firearm for self-defence.

Diane Kohler Barnard, a member of the parliamentary police portfolio committee, said yesterday that she had been alerted to the contents of the document, which repealed sections 13 and 14 of the legislation, covering the licensing of private firearms and competency tests, but the proposal had not come before the committee for discussion.

Kohler Barnard said the proposal had been made by the civilian secretariat for the police service department, which acts as a technical adviser to Police Minister Bheki Cele.

“Obviously, it has not gone through the public participation process, it has not gone through cabinet and it has certainly not gone through the police portfolio committee. We have written our final report of the five-year term and there is no more legislation that is going to go through the police portfolio committee,” she said.

Kohler Barnard said she would fight the proposal if she returned to Parliament after the national elections next year.

Committee chairman Francois Beukman said on Wednesday that the committee had received letters from concerned stakeholders about a “dated internal departmental draft document proposing certain amendments to the current firearm legislation”. However, he said the committee had not received any formal referral from the executive regarding amendments to private firearm ownership.

“The only draft legislation that is before the committee is a Private Members Bill from Pieter Groenewald that proposes certain technical amendments to the Firearms Amendment Bill,” Beukman said.

He said it was “premature and not correct to overreact” to an internal document and once the bill had been tabled all relevant parties would be given the opportunity to provide input.

However, Gosa chairperson Paul Oxley said the organisation, which represents 48000 firearm owners, had perused the document and was “absolutely outraged”.

He said repealing sections 13 and 14 meant that self-defence would no longer be a valid reason for owning a firearm, infringing on citizens’ right to life.

Oxley said the legislation would allow individuals to own a maximum of two handguns for dedicated sports shooting and a maximum of eight in total for hunting and sports shooting.

“You will need a medical certificate for applications, which means a breach of the constitutional rights of citizens to privacy, opening them up to discrimination.

“All green licences, which have been found by the courts to be valid for life, will have to move over to the white licensing system with the additional restrictions,” he said.

“Crime is escalating at an alarming rate and the criminals perpetrating these crimes are becoming increasingly violent. Taking away a means to effectively defend oneself will see an increase in violent crimes committed against all South Africans. This cannot be allowed to happen,” Oxley said.

Kloof Community Police Forum (CPF) chairperson Nikki Mohlmann said the move would take away citizens’ rights to defend themselves against violent criminals.

“Each of us is entitled to protect our lives and taking that away from us will not decrease gun crimes. Criminals will target security companies to steal guns. If the government is going to take something away, what is the state going to do to protect us?

“We have major problems with resources at the SAPS and all police stations are under- resourced in terms of vehicles,” Mohlmann said.

eThekwini Outer North Cluster - including Durban North, uMhlanga, Verulam and Phoenix - CPF chairperson Umesh Singh said crime had escalated over the past 20 years and taking away citizens’ right to own a firearm would leave people defenceless against criminals.

He said law-abiding citizens who legally owned firearms should be allowed to protect their families from dangerous intruders in their homes.

SAPS spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo declined to comment, saying there was a pending court matter between Gosa and the police.

Gosa secured an order in the North Gauteng High Court on July 27 interdicting the police from arresting or prosecuting firearm owners whose licences had expired and from confiscating or demanding the surrender of their firearms.

This order brought relief to more than 400000 citizens.

Gosa deputy chairperson Gideon Joubert said the organisation had received a notification on July 30 from the SAPS of the service’s intention to appeal against the matter but no further legal action had been taken.

The Mercury