2009-06-24: 'Dangerous' to upset gun laws: state

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2009-06-24: 'Dangerous' to upset gun laws: state

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2009-06-24 14:41

http://www.citizen.co.za/index/article. ... 98777,1,22

'Dangerous’ to upset gun laws: state

PRETORIA - It would be an “exceptionally dangerous thing” to upset new firearms legislation at this late stage, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.

Counsel for the minister of police, Pat Ellis SC, argued that the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association was in effect asking the court to amend an Act of Parliament, pending the finalisation of their application to have certain sections of the Firearms Control Act declared unconstitutional.

The Association applied for an urgent interim interdict, declaring that all licences of firearms obtained under 1969 firearms legislation remain valid until the outcome of their constitutional application.

Senior Counsel for the Association, Bertus Bergenthuin, on Tuesday argued that Schedule 1 of the new act was unreasonable, unjustifiably curtailed the rights of firearm owners and was unconstitutional.

The new act came into effect in July 2004, with the five-year transitional period expiring next week, on July 1.

Thereafter over a million firearm owners who had not applied for licences under the new act, must hand in or dispose of their firearms, failing which they can face a maximum of 15 years' imprisonment.

Bergenthuin said the Association merely sought to preserve the status quo until their constitutional application could be heard.

Their main application provided for a reasonable transitional scheme to be devised by the minister.

Bergenthuin submitted it was clear that the SA Police Service did not have the administrative ability to deal with licence applications within a reasonable period.

Only 50 percent of the 700,000 firearm licence applications had so far been dealt with, while the 50 percent already issued would also now have to be reviewed.

“We say the transitional arrangement cannot be implemented. We say the enactment of the new act opened the gate for unreasonable and unlawful administrative action.

“... The respondent’s negative and adverse attitude towards firearm owners is difficult to explain... There is no indication that lawful firearm licence holders contribute to an increase in violent crime,” he added.

He said the Association had been in constant negotiation with officials regarding the implementation of the act, but many aspects of concern still needed to be addressed.

Ellis pointed out that firearm owners who had applied in time were not affected by next week’s deadline, whether their licences had been granted or not, as their previous licences would remain valid until a renewal was granted.

New licence applications did not give applicants the same rights and they would have to apply for a permit, allowing them to have a firearm in their possession, pending the outcome of their applications.

He said it was because the existing firearm register was so notoriously inaccurate, that the new act was put into place.

The act, he added, was not forced on the public in one foul swoop, but was phased in over five years. It would be exceptionally dangerous to upset that system at this late stage, he said.

He argued that an interim order, indefinitely extending the five-year period, would have disastrous consequences because the thousands of firearm owners who did not re-apply for licences would be lulled into a false sense of security and would be criminalised because they would be under the impression that they need not apply nor dispose of 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 wrong message to the public,” he added.

The application continues.

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