300,000 South African Gun Owners are Suddenly Criminals
Russ Chastain 08.29.18
In a recent article titled, “South Africa Calls for 300,000 Gun Owners to Turn Over Their Weapons,” José Niño reports that gun owners who obeyed one court ruling have been doomed by a more recent one — and that as a recult, more than 300,000 registered and licensed gun owners are now criminals who must hand over their firearms to be destroyed.
Niño apparently drew on this article, which provides a more thorough view of events.
The judgment brought an end to uncertainty regarding sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act.
Section 24 of the Act requires that any person who seeks to renew a licence must do so 90 days before its expiry date. Section 28 stipulates that if a firearm licence has been cancelled‚ the firearm must be disposed of or forfeited to the state. A 60-day timeframe was placed on its disposal, which was to be done through a dealer.
In 2017, North Gauteng High Court judge Ronel Tolmay ruled that these two sections were unconstitutional. She stated that firearms due for renewal in terms of section 24 of the act ‘will be deemed to be valid, until the Constitutional Court has made its determination on the Constitutionality of the aforesaid sections.’
The problem here is that a June 7, 2018 ruling by South Africa’s Constitutional Court upheld all sections of the Firearms Control Act, which automatically makes criminals of hundreds of thousands of gun owners, who believed in the earlier ruling and didn’t renew their licenses.
It is estimated that there are at least 300 000 firearm owners who – either negligently or intently – failed to renew their firearm licences. These people will have to hand their firearms in at their nearest police stations, from where it will be destroyed.
In his judgement, Froneman stated that the prosecution of those who failed to renew licences timeously was unlikely. It is, however, not excluded from the realm of possibility.
The law allows for the possibility of compensation to be made for these firearms, which doesn’t mean it will actually be paid — and at any rate, the small amounts offered fall far below the values of the guns themselves.
According to the association, section 137 of the Act makes provision for compensation to be paid to those who are compelled to hand in their firearms. The registrar has the authority to decide whether this will be done, so compensation is therefore not a given. Legislation provides for maximum compensation of R500 for a handgun and R1000 for a rifle. According to the association’s CEO Fred Camphor, these amounts are far below the value of firearms.
The good news here seems to be that the doom and gloom predictions may not come true.
Although the letter of the law, as entrenched by the Constitutional Court, is very clear, Camphor pointed out that it remains to be seen whether the South African Police Service will succeed in administering it.
If nothing else, this situation clearly illustrates the danger of central registration of weapons of any kind, ever.