What does the new draft bill on firearm ownership mean for gun owners?

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The Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSP) called for public comment on a draft of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill. In a summary the draft shows that the Act intends to seek an update to the law that would mean “no firearm licenses may be issued for self-defence purposes”. The repeal of the clauses permitting firearm licences to be issued for reasons of self-defence is the headline news which has all South Africans worried. The amendment explicitly seeks to establish that ‘firearm possession and use is not a right, but a privilege’.

While the original Act states that a firearm licence may not be issued to people who had previous convictions for any of a range of crimes, the Amendment Bill proposes to disqualify even those who have not been convicted, but have merely been charged with crimes that involve an element of violence. This includes having been served with an interim protection order under the Domestic Violence Act or the Protection from Harassment Act. One has little sympathy for such people, however we are a country in which the law considers one innocent until proven guilty.

The proposed amendments seek to ensure alignment of South African legislation with international requirements, in order to effectively combat terrorist and related activities, including international terrorism. The Bill further regulates the issuing of licences for hunters, with applicants having to prove that they are engaged in the hobby. A new restriction on the number of firearms a hunter or sports shooter is permitted to own, as well as the amount of ammunition they are allowed to possess. It will also outlaw refilling spent cartridges.

The changes are aimed at assisting in reducing the number of firearms in private hands and consequently reducing incidents of violent crimes. The Bill also aims to improve the processing, control of firearms and the application system. The Firearms Amendment Bill of 2021 proposes tighter controls and management of firearms and the establishment of the National Firearms Register.

Both the Firearms Control Amendment Bill, 2021 and the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Amendment (POCDATARA) Amendment Bill, 2021 are key to a safer South Africa and the world.

Both bills can be accessed on the Civilian Secretariat for the Police’s website www.policesecretariat.gov.za and are open for public comment until the 4th of July 2021.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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