Public comment is now open on the Draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill. Among its aims is the removal of self-defence as a reason for applying for a firearm. This has caused an outcry from interest groups. They say, should this go through, it would remove the right of a citizen to protect themselves.
The draft was made public last week and comments can be made until the end of July.
The bill aims to provisionally suspend the processing of an application for a competency certificate where the applicant has been issued with an interim protection order in terms of the Domestic Violence Act. It also aims to provide for conditions under which a firearm licence for occasional hunting or sports-shooting may be issued.
But it is the provision that no firearm licences may be issued for self-defence purposes that is causing a stir.
‘Biggest contributor to murder’
Police Minister Bheki Cele says firearms remain the biggest contributor to murder in South Africa.
One mechanism the SAPS uses to clamp down on guns circulating in society is the firearms amnesty.
Over the past two years, the amnesty period saw nearly 150 000 firearms surrendered. But SAPS says more needs to be done.
Therefore, one of the clauses in the amendment bill, reads, “to provide that no firearm licences be issues for self-defence purposes.
Opposition to the bill
Some opposition parties have already started canvassing against the Firearms Control Amendment Bill, saying it takes away the rights of citizens to keep themselves safe. They are among those unhappy with this provision.
The DA is fundamentally opposed to the recent proposals to curtail firearm ownership for self-defence. “We believe that every single South African should have the right to choose how they want to defend themselves within the law,” defends DA MP, Andrew Whitfield.
Freedom Front Plus leader, Pieter Groenewald says, “Everyone has a common law right to protect him or herself even via the means of using a firearm. the FF+ will do its utmost best in everything, to ensure that this amendment does not get accepted and that we all have the right to protect ourselves, even with firearms.”
Their sentiment is shared by ACDP Chief Whip, Steve Swart, who says, “(We are) deeply concerned of the proposal to remove self-defence as a reason to own a firearm. We have high levels of crime. Law-abiding citizens have the right to protect families. Authorities should rather be concentrating on those criminals that are terrorising communities. The ACDP will definitely oppose this in parliament.”
For the SA Gun Association, this is worrying draft legislation. Spokesperson, John Welsch, says defending oneself is a fundamental right.
“The armed citizen in our view is the first line of defence in responding to crime because police can’t do that. So, they must be armed. We can assume police and president and ministers’ bodyguards won’t be disarmed. The private citizen is in this regard his own bodyguard. So, (they) should have the right, the means and ability to defend him or herself sufficiently.”
Gun Free South Africa says while they would support less firearms in circulation, they will respond to the bill in detail in a few days.
Attempts to get reaction from the police were unsuccessful.
Dr Guy Lamb is a Criminologist and expert in crime and violence: