Sections of Firearms Act unconstitutional, court rules
Pretoria - The Gauteng North High Court in Pretoria has declared two sections of the Firearms Control Act unconstitutional.
The sections deal with procedures that should be in place when surrendering a firearm of which the licence had already lapsed.
In her groundbreaking judgment, Judge Ronel Tolmay ordered that all firearms issued in terms of the Act, which are or were due to be renewed, shall be deemed to be valid, until the Constitutional Court had spoken the last word on the subject.
The judge also gave Parliament 18 months within which to amend the Act in order to make it compliant with the Constitution.
The judge said as things stand now, there is confusion among gun owners as to the proper procedure of how to go about in renewing firearm licences which had already lapsed.
The judge said there was a clear need to streamline the process, as it is confusing.
The order delivered on Tuesday followed an application by the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association.
It expressed its concern at the present “chaotic and dysfunctional” system of licensing and administration of firearms.
It said there was a lack of clarity on how to go about to renew firearm licences after it had lapsed.
The Act currently prescribes that the holder of a licence who wanted to renew it after it had lapsed, had to do so three months before the licence expired.
Where a person wanted to renew a gun licence after it had lapsed, that person is deemed to be in illegal possession of the firearm.
It had to be handed into the nearest police station. The owner will not be prosecuted if it is a voluntary surrender.
But the problem arose that if the gun owner for some reason delayed in renewing the firearm, there was no proper procedure in place to bring him or her back under the scheme of legality.
Judge Tolmay said there were clearly many shortcomings in the Act, which had to be addressed to streamline the process.
“It is clear that there exists no proper procedure to effect surrender of a firearm, where a licence comes to an end by the effluxion of time,” the judge said. She said the two sections of the act should be amended so that it may meet constitutional muster.
Tolmay made it clear that these issues only pertain to gun owners who have obtained legitimate licences.