2006-07-11 : Lobby makes stand for gun ownership

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2006-07-11 : Lobby makes stand for gun ownership

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2006-07-11 10:39

Lobby makes stand for gun ownership as bill reaches deadline
July 11, 2006

By Thokozani Mtshali - Political Bureau

A GROUP of gun owners have protested outside parliament about the Firearms Control Amendment Bill, which they say will deprive civilians of the right to protect themselves from criminals.

Although parliament is in recess, the picket was timed to coincide with the cut-off date for objections to the bill, said Charl van Wyk, a spokesman for one of the groups represented in the protest.

The bill has had stiff opposition from some quarters and approval from others, among them advocates of a gun-free society.

The main objection has been from Gun Owners of South Africa, which believes it is the right of all people in the country to own and carry arms.

Among the protesters were members of the Black Gun Owners Association of South Africa, the South African Firearm Forum, gun collectors, and a number of people who did not own guns.

Van Wyk said one of the gun lobby's main problems was that it appeared submissions made in May had been largely ignored.

It also objected to proposed changes to the law, such as that owners of certain firearms must possess a competency certificate, and a ban on silencers.

"We have explained to parliament that silencers serve an important purpose... in that they offer additional hearing protection," said Van Wyk.

Protesters who did not own guns said they believed the bill would make it difficult for many people to own guns.

"If it is passed, it will mean the government has effectively disarmed ordinary people, making them easy targets for criminals," said Ntando Cele, a biological sciences student from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Although the bill requires that all "prohibited" and "restricted" firearms in the possession of registered collectors, such as the AK-47, should be made inoperable, some people believe it is lenient as it no longer limits dealers' stock.

The Assistant Commissioner of the SA Police Service's legal division, Philip Jacobs, told parliament the bill proposed extending business licences for game ranching and hunting from five to 10 years and those of dealers, manufacturers and gunsmiths from one to five years.

A criticism by lobbyists opposed to the possession of guns is that the bill does not automatically bar people convicted of misusing guns from owning a firearm.

But Jacobs said the firearms registrar would decide on a person's fitness to own a firearm.

Opposition parties have slammed aspects of the bill and expressed concern about the government's silence on compensation for those required to surrender guns.
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