2007-11-18 : Gun relicensing process jammed by red tape

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2007-11-18 : Gun relicensing process jammed by red tape

Postby GOSA » Fri, 2007-11-23 07:06


Gun relicensing process jammed by red tape
'Authorities unable to cope with backlog'

November 18, 2007 Edition 1

Agiza Hlongwane

Only one tenth of legal gun owners have applied to have their firearm
licences renewed since the implementation of the controversial Firearms
Control Act in 2005.

This is due, says the SA Gun Owners' Association (Sagoa), to the cumbersome
red tape involved.

Some applicants have waited more than two years for their forms to be
processed by the Firearms Control Registry. In some cases, they had not
even heard from Designated Firearms Officers.

Consequently, some had been left with no option but to turn to the illegal
firearms market to protect themselves from criminals, say leading Sagoa

The authorities say the low number of applications may be because some
owners have died, emigrated, or handed in their firearms. But pro-gun lobby
groups are unconvinced, and have blamed the situation on people's
frustrations at the "cumbersome" new act.

They say there is a massive backlog because the police lack the capacity to
meet the administrative challenges.

About 2.5 million people own an estimated four million guns. But, according
to police figures this week, only 242 000 had applied for the renewal of
their licences between January 2005 and March this year.

Of these, only about 180 000 had been issued licences, and about 900
applicants had been turned down, said police spokesman Phuti Setati. The
rest were still being processed.

Last week the SAPS appealed to people born between July 1 and September 30
to apply for renewal of licences before the end of March next year.

Applications are subject to a thorough background check, which involves
establishing whether an applicant has a criminal record, a visit to the
premises by the DFO, the inspection of a safe, interviews with the
applicant's spouse, neighbours, and a motivation letter from an employer.

The licence renewal process got under way in 2005 and saw the division of
the total number of licensees into four groups, determined by date of birth.

At present, the third quarter of the renewal applications is being dealt
with. The Safety and Security Ministry has admitted that the Central
Firearms Registry does not know how many firearms are in circulation.

According to Thomas Eastes, of Gun Owners' SA (Western Cape), South Africa
had an average of 2.5 million licensed firearm owners who owned 3.9 million

He said he was sceptical of the police figures. "The SAPS are just not
coping with the administrative workload. The act itself is designed to
infuriate and create apprehension. This whole thing is just not flying."

He said instead of disarming criminals, the act was addressing the wrong
sector, punishing law-abiding citizens who sought to protect themselves and
their families.

Sagoa spokesman Martin Hood said there was a great deal of frustration
among legal owners because "the SAPS can't do their job".

Hood, an attorney specialising in gun law, said he had obtained 30 court
orders against the minister of safety and security, the national police
commissioner and the Central Firearms Registry, either compelling them to
grant licences or overturning their decisions in court.

"We feel mistreated because we do our best in trying to comply, but are let
down by the SAPS, who can take up to three years to conform. These
difficulties have had the effect of stimulating the demand for unlicensed

Sagoa has now called for the suspension of the current relicensing process.

Safety and Security Ministry spokesman Trevor Bloem said, "Nobody really
knows how many guns there are out there. There was duplication in the old
system and you would find that a person was registered as having one
firearm, when they had more."

He said difficulties in tracing people required for the background checks
meant some applicants had had to wait "longer than we would have liked". He
said these people were in the minority.

He referred other queries to the SAPS's Setati, who said, "We have enough
designated officers to enforce the act."

About the lengthy delays experienced by old and new applicants, Setati said
a thorough assessment of applicants was vital to prevent unfit people from
carrying guns.

He said people who had inquiries about their applications could call the
SAPS 24-hour call centre on 012 353 6111.

Setati encouraged people to apply for renewals on time, to avoid delays and
possible prosecution. Those who fail to apply by June 30 2009, face
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