Activists and ant-guns activists speak about the Firearms Amendment Bill. file image
Activists and ant-guns activists speak about the Firearms Amendment Bill. file image

Crime fighters say they will be disarmed if bill is passed

By Genevieve Serra Time of article published May 29, 2021

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Cape Town - Crime fighters and gun club members say the government will be disarming them and leaving criminals armed if the proposed Firearm Control Amendment Bill goes ahead, stopping citizens from owning guns for self-defence.

While anti-firearms organisations, such as Gun Free SA said a total of 62% of countries across the world did not have the policy of firearm licensing for self-defence while South Africa did.

If passed, the new bill would mean that individuals who wished to own and possess a firearm privately would now have to have a valid reason and that there were no gun licences for self-defence.

Gun Free SA said out of 8 680 firearms reported stolen or lost between 2019 and 2020, which is on average 24 a day, 8007, or 22 a day were owned by civilians and 673 were the police.

Crime activist Redaa Ameerodien of Schaapkraal in Philippi, who also assisted communities such as Westridge, Mitchells Plain, often works with police to help apprehend suspects said he had been one of thousands who had intended on submitting an application to own a licensed firearm for self-defence purposes.

Now Ameerodien fears that the power will be given to criminals once they are left disarmed.

“When our team patrols, some of them own licensed firearms but this can change where we won’t be armed in a dangerous situation,” he said.

“What must we do, go back to primitive times and use daggers and spears.

“They will be disarming us and not disarming the gangsters. I was just about to apply for a gun licence.”

While gun club owners who fear being named said they were protesting against the bill and did not want to comment further stating they were guarded while applications and decisions were being made.

While the illegal gun trade numbers grew daily.

The Police Ministry’s Lirandzu Themba said Police Minister Bheki Cele did not want to disarm citizens with the amendment and that arming them would not solve the crime situation.

“There is no right to bear arms in our Constitution and the Firearm Control Act in its current form grants no such right to citizens either, owning a gun in this country remains a privilege made possible through the Firearms Controls Act,” said Cele.

“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,” Cele concluded.

The Ministry added the process was still part of public commentary until July 4.

“The Police Ministry is convinced both the Firearms Control Amendment Bill, 2021, and the POCDATARA Amendment Bill, 2021, are key to a safer South Africa and the world,” said Themba.

“Both bills can be accessed on the Civilian Secretariat for the police’s website www.policesecretariat.gov.za and are open for public comment until the 4th of July 2021.

“The Police Ministry wishes to remind South Africans of the rationale behind the proposed changes.

“The Firearms Control Amendment Bill, 2021, seeks to amend and strengthen the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act No. 60 of 2000).

“The proposed amendments respond to the overarching policy principles of non-proliferation of firearms in South Africa and the strengthening of the processes relating to the applications for firearm and ammunition licenses and the management of firearms and ammunition.

“South Africans should take comfort in the fact that the proposed amendments were not taken lightly, extensive research, consultations with various stakeholders preceded the proposed amendments.

“The Police Ministry is encouraged by the thousands of submissions already made by members of the public to the Firearms Control Amendment Bill, 2021.

“Since the Bill was published in the Gazette for comments on Friday 21 May 2021, over 17 thousand written submissions have been received and this number is growing by the day.”

Claire Taylor of Gun Free SA said while they recognised that people wanted firearms to protect themselves and their families, reducing the access to guns would make South Africa a safer place.

They attributed their findings to countries abroad that did not have the same bill, allowing firearms for self-defence.

“Gun Free South Africa recognises that all of us living in SA are grappling with ways to protect ourselves, our family, friends, colleagues and wider community from violent crime,” said Taylor.

“The best way to do this is to use available evidence to make the most informed decision.

“The available evidence shows that reducing access to firearms helps make our homes, communities and country safer.

“Someone with a gun is 4 to 5 times more likely to be shot at, and thus shot, if they have a gun in their possession when attacked by armed criminals.”

“A review of 42 jurisdictions (28 countries, including South Africa, and 14 sub-national entities) around the world shows that the majority (62%) do not recognise self-defence as a reason for gun ownership.”

Weekend Argus

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