Gun Free South Africa is pleased with the ruling by the High Court of South Africa, instructing the Minister of Police and the National Police Commissioner to establish and implement an electronic database for firearms. The decision could not come at a better time, as violent crime continues to fester throughout the country. The database would make it easier to trace weapons, enabling the distinguishing between negligence from theft and exposing corruption and fraud.
“This is good news because accurate record keeping is at the centre of good gun control,” said Director of Gun Free SA, Adèle Kirsten.
“What’s specific about this order, is asking for an integrated electronic database. This then keeps a record of what weapons are held, for what purpose and with which people. The database includes civilians, private security, official institutions and organisations or agencies.”
“Once a weapon leaves the legal market and enters the illegal market, when that weapon is recovered the database will make it easier to trace the weapon and discover if it was negligent loss, theft, corruption or fraud.”
Kirsten said that hundreds of firearm owners are non-compliant with current regulations around gun control and still operate according to their understanding of previous Apartheid era legislation.
“There are several hundred firearm owners who are not compliant with the Firearms Control Act – they’re still under the old Apartheid era Arms and Ammunition Act.”
“It’s a pity that the court had to rule on this because it is in fact contained in the Firearms Control Act.”
When asked about the registration requirements gun owners will now have to follow to be in compliance with the court ruling, Kirsten indicated that gun owners will have to await further instruction from the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The ruling is ordered to be implemented within the next four months.
Meanwhile, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz called on Minister Cele and Commissioner Sithole to provide the MECs of Community Safety of each province access to this electronic database so to improve their ability to fulfil their constitutional mandate of oversight over SAPS.
Minster Fritz said, “As I previously noted, Section 125(2)(c) of the Firearms Control Act states that the Central Firearm Register must keep a record of all licensed dealers, manufacturers, gunsmiths, importers and exporters, transporters for reward, accredited institutions, organisations and all firearms and ammunition in their possession. Firearm dealers must further keep a register of buyers of firearms and ammunition.”
“However, the above records are not well kept. Where they are, they are often filed manually and are outdated. Because the Central Firearm Register has not been digitised; tracking the smuggling, loss, theft or mismanagement of firearms becomes a burdensome, if not impossible, task”, said Minister Fritz.