ISS submission - comments

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ISS submission - comments

Postby crimefree » Fri, 2006-08-18 13:42

Presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Safety and Security on the Firearms Control Amendment Bill Cape Town, 11 August 2006

Compiled by Guy Lamb, Ben Coetzee and Noel Stott, Arms Management Programme


The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) would like to commend the Minister of Safety and Security and the South African Police Services (SAPS) in their efforts to strengthen firearms control in South Africa by means of the drafting of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill (2006) as introduced in the National Assembly as a Section 75 Bill, and published in Government Gazette No. 28843 of 19 May 2006. In addition, the ISS would like to thank the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Safety and Security for continuing what has become a tradition of public consultation on firearm control issues in postapartheid South Africa.

The Institute of Security Studies most certainly cannot be considered an impartial organisation and is the source of the original draft of the Firearms Control Bill. As such the bias of this organisation and extent to which it will misrepresent facts to support its contentions is very much in question.

The availability and abuse of firearms continues to contribute to the high levels of violent crime in South Africa. We are of the opinion that many of the suggested amendments to the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act No. 60 of 2000) will contribute to the enhancement of firearms control in South Africa and will hopefully, therefore, significantly reduce the high levels of violent crime. At the same time, the ISS is concerned about the possible negative implications and impact of some of the provisions of this Bill.

This is a perfect example of misrepresentation of facts. There is no known causal relationship between firearms and crime. ISS have offered no proof of such a relationship that can withstand peer review or find acceptance with any criminological or unbiased academic organisation.

That the Act will contribute toward the unwarranted control of firearms in law abiding citizens hands is not in doubt. There is absolutely no hope that the Act can reduce the high crime rate since neither ISS or the government can draw upon a single success of gun control legislation reducing crime or the supply of guns to criminals. Both would need a statistical significant number to have any hope at all.

Recently gun violence has received particular public attention given that more than 50 police personnel have killed as a result of firearms this year. This is not a new development. Over the past decade over a thousand police personnel have died or have been injured due to bullets. In fact, in South Africa it is more likely for police personnel to be shot than soldiers from the South African National Defence Force.

Criminals have lost all respect and fear of law and order. The government has mismanaged the criminal justice systems to the point where less than 6% of crime is punished. Is it surprising that criminals see this as an open invitation to commit any crime with impunity.

Nevertheless, despite this high level of gun violence, South Africa’s National Injury Mortality Surveillance System, which is administered by the University of South Africa has recently reported that deaths as a result of firearms have nearly halved in three of South Africa’s major cities (Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg) since 2001, while non-firearm fatalities have remained relatively constant. This reduction in gun deaths can be largely attributed to the implementation of the Firearm Control Act, which came into effect five years ago, and police operations aimed at confiscating illegal firearms.

Murder has been decreasing from 1994 so it is very difficult to see how an Act not even thought of could have reduced anything prior to its implementation which was mid 2004. To attribute the Firearms Control Act with such a success is blatantly false and misrepresents the facts.

Between 1994 and 2000 the murder rate decreased by 21% while at the same time licensed firearms increased by 64%. It takes no effort to see that this fact contradicts the ISS false conclusion and deliberate misrepresentation. The only success of the Firearms Control Act has been the demise of 500..600 dealers putting thousands out of work and the legalised theft by the state of firearms from law abiding citizens.

The ISS has limited its comments on the Bill to those sections that relate to: the renewal of competency certificates; brokering services; linkages between firearms legislation and the National Conventional Arms Control Act (2002); the use of a licensed firearm by a non-license holder (Section 22); inquiry procedures; and search and seizure.

Renewal of Competency Certificates

It is the view of the ISS that the provision for the renewal of competency certificates on a five year basis represents a strengthening of firearms control in South Africa. However, for the sake of enhancing firearms control and competency, it would be preferable if firearms license holders are required to undergo mandatory re-training in terms of firearms-handing (including eye-sight testing) and knowledge of the firearms legislation as part of the renewal of a competency certificate process. Regular mandatory re-training will promote more effective competency of firearm licence holders as it will educate them in amendments to relevant legislation, ensure that they are still fit to carry and use a firearm, as well as make them aware of changes in firearms safety technology.

It may well be the view of an organisation totally opposed to firearm ownership but in reality there is no evidence to suggest that any mandatory training is required. Firearm owners are not incompetent and other laws adequately cover any abuse. There is no benefit to society and mandatory training simply builds a bureaucratic nightmare the government has yet to come to terms with.

It will also ensure that that those firearms license holders that are no longer competent to use a firearm legally have their licenses revoked.

In truth this is just another excuse to deprive the uneducated of firearm ownership.

The rest of the submission is not commented on as other legislation if indeed needed should be drawn up.

"Two memorials remain today at Thermoplylae. Upon the modern one is engraved his response to Xerxes' demand that the Spartans lay down their arms. Leonidas' reply was two words, Molon Labe. 'Come and get them'."
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