2009-07-15: Group sticks to its guns on Act

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2009-07-15: Group sticks to its guns on Act

Postby GOSA » Thu, 2009-11-19 15:27

http://www.news24.com/Content/Africa/Ne ... uns_on_Act

Group sticks to its guns on Act
2009-07-15 18:04

Pretoria - The SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA) remains adamant that sections of the new Firearms Control Act are unconstitutional because they criminalise innocent gun owners.

Addressing a National Press Club briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday, SAHGCA chief executive Jan van Niekerk said the association supported the Act, but for a few "small niggly items".

"We believe the unconstitutionality of this situation is dispossession of legally owned property," he said.

At the end of June, the North Gauteng High Court granted an interim interdict in favour of SAHGCA and against the police minister.

SAPS 'could not cope'

The court found that gun owners who had not renewed their licences by June 30 would not - pending final adjudication on the constitutionality of the transitional provisions in the Act, expected early next year - be criminalised.

"It is our belief that the SA Police Service (SAPS) could not cope with the masses [of applications]. Police did not have the capacity to look after them [the guns] as well as we could ourselves," Van Niekerk said.

Police had also failed to adequately communicate renewal processes.

"Confusion reigned in the market. We believe that SAPS slipped up a bit there," he said.

SAPS Director Phuti Setati, who also addressed the briefing, said there had been wide communication through the media as well as regular briefings with stakeholders, such as SAHGCA.

However, he admitted that this needed to be stepped up.

"Definitely we are going to intensify this."

Responding to the suggestion that police did not have the capacity in terms of manpower, he said this would also be addressed.

1 000 firearms' officers nationwide

Senior Superintendent Alan Govender from the Central Firearms Registry said there were about 1 000 designated firearms' officers nationwide and more would be appointed.

Setati also said the applications that had been received would be processed by Wednesday [July 15].

In court, SAHGCA contended that Schedule 1 of the Act, which deals with transitional arrangements, was unreasonable, infringed on the rights of firearm owners, and unconstitutional.

It also maintained that SAPS was unable to cope with the flood of license applications and firearms being handed in for destruction.

The new Act came into operation in 2004, but in terms of Schedule 1, was phased in over a five-year period, ending on June 30.

The Act forces licensed gun owners to re-apply for their licenses, including applying for competency certificates, failing which they must dispose of their firearms, or have it forfeited to the state.

The Act also criminalises gun owners who have not applied for the renewal of their licenses.

They face criminal prosecution and can be sentenced to a year imprisonment for not applying and a further maximum of 15 years for the unlawful possession of a firearm.

- SAPA
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