Good news for those with expired firearm licences
Pretoria - Firearm owners whose licences have expired may reapply without waiting for another amnesty period, the Supreme Court of Appeal has said.
The SAPS initially refused to consider new applications for firearm owners who for some reason did not renew their licences in time.
The SAPS’s refusal to accept these applications was based on a letter from Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole issued in February 2016.
The letter stated that these applications should not be accepted by the SAPS and that people should be informed to hand in their firearms at their nearest police station so that they could be destroyed.
This left one of the biggest security companies in the country – Fidelity Security Services – in a predicament at the time as it had about 600 firearm licences that had lapsed. The security company was not aware of this, as the person who handled the renewals had left the company. Fidelity only later realised that the licences had expired and tried to submit renewal applications to the SAPS. The police, however, refused to renew the licences.
Fidelity later turned to the courts in a bid to be allowed to renew the licences.
Fidelity turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, for permission to renew these licences, but their application was turned down by Judge Natvarlal Ranchod at the time.
He found that the law was the law and a firearm licence had to be renewed before it lapsed.
In terms of the law, a firearm owner must apply for the renewal of a firearm licence at least 90 days before it expires.
Judge Ranchod referred to a Constitutional Court case involving the late renewal of firearms, where the SA Hunter’s Association’s application was turned down.
In that case, Justice Johan Froneman said: “It’s an offence to possess a firearm without a licence. Once it is obtained, one needs to renew it at least 90 days before the date of expiry.”
But on appeal, five justices now said the high court got it wrong.
The court said there was nothing in the Firearms Control Act, nor in the regulations, to suggest that someone whose licence had terminated by the operation of law was, as a result, forever precluded from applying for a new licence.
The court said that in terms of the law, first-time applicants and repeat applicants alike were eligible to apply for a firearm licence.
Should a person who already owned a firearm not be allowed to apply for a new licence when the licence had expired, that firearm would have to be destroyed.
The court said an interpretation of the act in terms of which firearm owners whose licences had expired were prevented from applying for a new licence and were required to buy new firearms, only for the same application to be considered, was simply not sensible.