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Six month amnesty for gun hand-ins unlikely to reduce criminal possession

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With the recent announcement by Police Minister Bheki Cele that South Africans have a six-month amnesty period to turn their unwanted or unauthorised firearms in being a hopeful attempt at reducing gun possession in the country, Gun Free SA has acknowledged that although they welcome the amnesty it is unlikely to reduce the current possession of guns by criminals.

South Africans with unwanted, unlicensed and illegal firearms – or those whose licences have expired – have a six month opportunity stretching from December 1 2019 to the end of May 2020 to hand those weapons in without fear of facing prosecution.

Gun Free SA has welcomed the amnesty period and says that it will be an effective way to recover unwanted guns in society which may pose a potential risk to other South Africans.

We welcome this amnesty as an opportunity to recover at least some of the unwanted, unauthorised and illegally held guns in communities across the country,” said a researcher at Gun Free SA, Claire Taylor.

Taylor says that while Gun Free SA and many others are worried about the potential leakage of guns handed in from police stores, their engagements with the South African Police Service have been “very encouraging”.

She added that security concerns relating to any possible “leakage” have been at the top of the minds of officials and that various security measures to safeguard the stockpiles of weapons are put in place.

“SAPS has a really detailed process map in which they’ve identified numerous steps in the procedure from point of hand-in, identifying key people at each police station and identifying paperwork which needs to be completed when someone wants to hand in a gun,” said Taylor.

Anyone handing in a firearm at a police station during this amnesty period will receive a receipt which must be kept for future reference.

Meanwhile, the Gun Owners Association of South Africa said it has an interdict in place stopping SAPS from taking away firearms of which the licence has expired. It said these firearms do not fall into the category of an ‘illegal firearm’ and there is a currently a legal process in place to deal with these firearms.

“We, however, have to stress and point out that operation Firearm Amnesty 2019/2020 is not a means to renew one’s expired white licence. There is no provision in the national directive for people with expired licences to do so. You may apply for an entirely new licence but that is a different proposition entirely,” said GOSA chairperson Paul Oxley.


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