2009-06-25: 'No need to halt firearms act'


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2009-06-25: 'No need to halt firearms act'

Postby GOSA » Thu, 2009-06-25 13:28


‘No need to halt firearms act’
25 Jun 2009

PRETORIA — Judgment is expected tomorrow in the high court in Pretoria on an urgent application to halt the new Firearms Control Act from fully coming into force next week.

The SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association applied for an interim interdict, declaring that all firearm licences obtained under 1969 firearms legislation remain valid until the outcome of their application to have certain sections of the Firearms Control Act declared unconstitutional.

The association maintains that Schedule One of the new act, which deals with transitional arrangements, is unreasonable, unjustifiably curtails the rights of firearm owners and is unconstitutional.

Schedule One provided for a five-year transitional period, ending on July 1, where existing firearm licences would be renewed. After this those who did not renew their licences would be given a final opportunity to dispose of their firearms, or face criminal charges, carrying a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Only half of the about 700 000 firearm licence applications have been dealt with so far, while more than a million legal firearm owners have not yet applied for the renewal of their licences.

Counsel for the association, Bertus Bergenthuin, said the police have made it quite clear that legal firearm owners who do not re-apply will“suffer” from next Tuesday and will definitely be prosecuted.

“It’s naïve to think that within the next five days about a million firearm owners will either hand in their firearms or apply for temporary authorisation [which has in any event already expired]. That’s why an interim order is needed,” he said.

Counsel for the minister of police, Jan Ellis, SC, said yesterday it was not as if new legislation had been forced onto the public in one fell swoop.

It was gradually phased in over five years and it would be an exceptionally dangerous thing to now upset that system.

He said the court is in effect being asked to amend an act of Parliament, pending the finalisation of the Constitutional application, as the interim order would effectively extend the five-year period laid down by the act.

He argued it would also be disastrous for those who have not applied, as it would lull them into a false sense of security that they need not apply or hand in their firearms.

“We say there’s no need for the urgent application … It’s going to cause more problems in administering the act, because it will send out the message that the public need not dispose of their firearms,” Ellis said.

He said that the police will afford a person whose application had been turned down a further 90 days, after all legal remedies had been exhausted, to dispose of the firearm, but Bergenthuin said there is no such provision in the act.
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