The NHSA Stance on the Current Amnesty and Related Firearm Matters
Date: Vol 15-31
VOL. 15 (31) - 09-12-2019
NHSA PRESS RELEASE ON URGENT COURT APPLICATION TO HAVE CURRENT FIREARMS AMNESTY DECLARED INVALID
Below follows the Press Release NHSA issued on the above-mentioned topic, for publication in the press on 10-12-2019;
Embargo: 10 December 2019
NHSA to bring urgent court application to set aside firearms amnesty
Pretoria – The National Hunting and Shooting Association (NHSA) yesterday submitted an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court to set aside the firearm amnesty that came into effect on 1 December 2019.
NHSA wants to affect a situation which will force SAPS to consult with firearm stakeholders towards implementing a sensible amnesty that considers the needs of law-abiding firearms owners. Over the past 28 months, SAPS refused to enter into sensible negotiations with firearms stakeholders, which shows that they are not planning to treat firearm owners reasonable.
NHSA is convinced that the current amnesty holds nothing good for law-abiding firearms owners. Dr Herman Els, executive chair of NHSA, says it is clear that the amnesty will be used as a vehicle to put unreasonable pressure on firearm owners to surrender firearms with lapsed licences at police stations. Irrespective of the fact that such persons may apply for a “new licence” under the amnesty within 14 days after handing in the firearm, that firearm will remain with SAPS until the application has been finalised. Finalisation can take months, and nobody knows how SAPS will evaluate such an application, as they want to reduce the number of what they call, “unwanted” and “redundant” firearms.
Els points to the fact that many firearm owners could not apply for renewal of licences in time due to circumstances beyond their control. These people want to own their firearms legally, but because the licences have lapsed for whatever reason, they are now being forced to hand in the firearm under the hidden SAPS agenda. It is general knowledge that SAPS want to bring amendments to the FCA next year which will deny people the right to apply for a firearm licence for purposes of self-defence;
“NHSA believes there are ample provision under the Firearms Control Act (FCA) for the National Commissioner to extend the period under which people can submit late applications for renewal of licences, on good cause shown, instead of using a hidden agenda to force people to hand in such firearms under the amnesty and be treated like criminals,” says Els.
NHSA have a number of concerns with the current amnesty and the manner in which it was implemented, inter alia;
- NHSA believes people have the right to use their firearms to defend themselves against violent criminals because the police cannot be everywhere;
- NHSA interprets the amnesty as well as the proposed amendments to the FCA as serious SAPS efforts to take away firearms from vulnerable law-abiding citizens;
- It is unacceptable that firearms with lapsed licences have to be handed in with SAPS under the amnesty if the owners are allowed to apply for “new licences”. SAPS cannot look after their own firearms and ammunition and therefore it is quite likely that firearms handed in with the public could easily get “lost” while in SAPS possession;
- It is known that SAPS presented a number of half-truths to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police when motivating to implement the amnesty. The committee and Parliament were informed that the amnesty would take illegal firearms off the streets and subsequently decrease violent crimes. The truth is, however, that in two previous amnesties not one of the 122 783 firearms handed in, could be linked with any crime after ballistic testing;
- The terms of the amnesty are also written in such a manner that it is highly unlikely that any criminal will hand in any illegal firearm because they can be traced after surrendering a firearm with which a crime might have been committed;
- SAPS also informed the Parliamentary Committee on Police that the amnesty was not focussed on taking in the approximately 450 000 firearms of which licences have expired, although it is clear they are specifically targeting this group of firearms to be handed in under the amnesty;
- SAPS misled Parliament about the correct procedures for announcing the amnesty and did not adhere to the legal prescripts.
NHSA’s reputation of rather speaking to SAPS and building and maintaining good relationships regarding firearm matters, is well-known among firearm stakeholders and interested SAPS officials. A practice the Association has been sustaining ever since it became involved in the implementation of the FCA 15 years ago.
NHSA has sent an urgent letter to the Minister of Police and the National Commissioner, and another to the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Police in the middle of November this year, requesting urgent audiences regarding the amnesty and other relevant firearm related matters. Not even receipt of the letters were acknowledged.
In light of the public threats by the Minister to arrest and prosecute firearms owners whose licences had lapsed and who had not handed in such firearms during the amnesty, read with SAPS’ unwillingness to talk to firearms stakeholders during the past 28 months, NHSA sees no other alternative than to bring this urgent court application to stop the amnesty and to force SAPS into meaningful negotiations with firearms stakeholders regarding firearm related matters.
“In its application NHSA asks the court to order that SAPS may not request another firearms amnesty until they have held meaningful consultations with firearms stakeholders on the implementation of an amnesty. It is perturbing that SAPS, however, continuously liaise with civil groups such as Gun Free South Africa, who are on record that they strive for a total ban on privately-owned firearms”, Els said.
NHSA will also ask the court to prohibit SAPS from arresting and prosecuting anyone with a lapsed firearm licence until they have declared another amnesty following proper consultations with firearms stakeholders.
“The Minister knows that his officers cannot be everywhere to protect the public against violent criminals. Therefore, NHSA requests the Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele, just to do his job and not deliver defenceless law-abiding citizens into the evil hands of violent criminals because he has taken away their firearms”, says Els.
Els advises people who plan to apply for new licences under the amnesty, not to hand in firearms under the amnesty until the outcome of the court case is known. “It, however, remains people’s own decision to already now hand in firearms with SAPS under the amnesty,” says Els. The court’s judgment is expected soon.
“Persons who want to surrender firearms for destruction can hand in firearms with their closest police station against written proof that the firearm has been handed in so that it can be taken of their names. Remember to also surrender the ammunition you have for the firearm otherwise you could be illegally in possession thereof if you do not have another firearm in that calibre. However, it might even be better to gift that ammunition to a friend who holds a valid licence for a firearm in the same calibre”, says Els.
"We emphasize that firearms are also being used legitimately in hunting and sports shooting. There is absolutely no reason to confiscate self-defence-, hunting- or sport shooting firearms only to satisfy the half-truths and “spin” of Gun Free South Africa. These firearms are not the illegal firearms criminals use to take the valuable lives of our loved ones".
“NHSA cannot allow its members and other law-abiding firearms owners to be treated in this manner or to be disarmed. All firearm owners are not criminals”, said Els.
Issued by the National Hunting and Shooting Association (NHSA)