Firearms owners and dealers are now eagerly awaiting a ruling by Judge Ronel Tolmay on various issues relating to South Africa’s controversial Firearms Control Act, especially regarding the renewal of licenses. Last week, on Tuesday and Wednesday 25 and 26 April, the South African Hunters Association (SA Hunters), South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers Association and Fidelity Security Services asked the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for a range of orders regarding the Act.
SA Hunters asked that the arbitrary handling of late applications for the renewal of firearm licenses be rectified by amendment of two sections of the Firearms Control Act – and that the Minister of Police should adopt a practical action plan.
They argued that after the first licenses granted under the new Act expired in 2011, SAPS accepted and processed thousands of license renewal applications – even when they were made late. But on 2 February 2016 the new acting Commissioner of Police, Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, instructed designated firearm officers that all license holders who applied late for the renewal of a license had to surrender their firearms because they would be in possession of an illegal firearm.
SA Hunters argue that this raises the question why a late application was acceptable prior to February 2016, but not afterwards, and why a firearm must be surrendered to be destroyed. It is also unfair because this does not apply to people who never applied for a license under the new Act.
“There are approximately 123 000 people that might be criminalised because they did not timely apply for the renewal of their firearm licences,” SA Hunters state on their website.
The South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers’ Association requested the court that firearm dealers should be allowed to receive firearms from members whose licences had lapsed (also see here). They argued that dealers should be able to book their firearms into their stocks and to hold on to them until the gun owners had managed to renew their licences. The association also asked the court to rule that the police may not simply destroy surrendered firearms.
“This would provide a mechanism in a sensible and reasonable and lawful way to allow gun owners with lawful but lapsed licences to legitimately reapply for a licence,” the dealers association argued. “There are conflicting and inconsistent directives issued by the SAPS regarding the renewal of firearm licences and people who innocently did not renew them should be heard before their firearms are simply destroyed.”
Fidelity Security asked the court to order the police to accept applications for the late renewal of firearm licences in cases where this was justified.
All three applicants asked the court that practical solutions be put in place to manage the firearm legislation.