Gun Policy Briefs

Tuesday, 06 November 2018 10:40

Briefing 6 of 2018: Licence renewals - A cornerstone of gun control

The sixth Briefing of 2018 coincides with a debate on proposed amendments to the law governing the renewal of firearm licences in Parliament on 6 November.

It locates firearm licence renewals within a global context in recognition that regular gun licence renewals are integral to public safety: Renewals ensure that licensed gun owners remain “fit and proper” for this responsibility and that registered guns have not been lost or stolen but are still in the possession of the licensed owner. They also help the state keep accurate records of who owns what gun for which purpose.

As such regular renewals are not just a ‘tick box’ technical procedure, instead they are a key principle of effective gun control. Consequently, any amendments to laws regulating firearm licence renewals must be carefully scrutinised to ensure that the overall objective of regular gun licence renewal – namely public safety – will be met.

Monday, 22 October 2018 10:44

Briefing 5 of 2018: Are guns effective for self-defence? Examining the evidence

This fifth Briefing of 2018 coincides with Disarmament Week, which is marked globally from 24 to 30 October. This year, the United Nations is highlighting the link between arms races, disarmament and the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030.

It shows that in the context of rising crime and mistrust in the police, some South Africans are choosing to buy guns for self-defence. However, the evidence (internationally and in South Africa – summarised in the Briefing) overwhelmingly shows that guns are ineffective for this purpose and that South Africa’s domestic arms race and associated violent crime is being fuelled by guns, particularly handguns, bought for self-defence.

It concludes by unpacking the implications of this evidence, calling for careful interrogation of those sections of the Firearms Control Act dealing with who can own what weapons for which purpose to restrict the type, calibre and number of firearms that an individual may own to address SA’s domestic arms race and associated violence.

Tuesday, 09 October 2018 10:44

Briefing 4 of 2018: QUICK FACTS - Guns and violence in South Africa

Brief 4 summarises the latest statistics and data on guns and violence in South Africa, including on gun-related death, disability and the impact of the Firearms Control Act.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 10:45

Briefing 3 of 2018: Constitutional Court unanimously rules regular gun licence renewal is constitutional - What next?

On 7 June 2018 the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act (2000), under which gun owners must renew their firearm licences on a regular basis or forfeit guns for which licences have expired to the state, are constitutional.

In making its judgement, the ConCourt ruled that gun ownership is not a fundamental right under the Bill of Rights, rather it is a privilege regulated by the Firearms Control Act (FCA). Under the Act:

  • No person may possess a gun without a valid licence;
  • A firearm licence is valid for a limited period of time; and
  • Unless a gun owner has renewed his gun licence before expiry, he has committed a criminal offence and is subject to penalties.

After tracing the history of firearm licence renewals in South Africa to identify loopholes in enforcement and compliance, this third Briefing of 2018 answers the question, what next? It identifies five actions that need to be undertaken following the ConCourt’s ruling:

  1. The SAPS needs to urgently finalise and publicly communicate a strategy to deal with gun owners who are in illegal gun possession for failing to renew their licences.
  2. The Minister of Police must immediately challenge the 2009 North Gauteng High Court ruling which exempts gun owners with “green licences” issued under the Arms and Ammunition Act (1969) from having to comply with the stricter provisions of the FCA, including regular licence renewal.
  3. The SAPS must immediately put in place measures to stop guns leaking from SAPS stores and other secure facilities in which forfeited, surrendered and recovered weapons are stored; this entails safeguarding stores and ensuring that guns destined for destruction are destroyed.
  4. A forensic audit of all licences, permits and authorisations issued following the 2010 turn-around strategy of the Central Firearms Registry must be undertaken to ensure that due process was followed as it’s likely that the “remarkable increase” in the processing of applications noted by SAPS resulted from fast-tracking licence applications.
  5. Require that all firearm licences, irrespective of the category, be renewed every three years, in line with global norms. This will also standardise the renewals period and avoid any potential confusion for gun owners.

The ConCourt ruling has the potential to kickstart the implementation of the FCA. It gives a clear directive to SAPS to properly enforce the law and to gun owners to comply with the law. As soon as one of these parties act, the other will be forced to respond, helping close the implementation ‘vacuum’ feeding gun violence in South Africa.

Wednesday, 09 May 2018 10:46

Briefing 2 of 2018: Cape Town proves strong gun laws save lives, lax enforcement kills, illegally supplied guns more dangerous in short term

Over the years Gun Free SA has raised concern that poor enforcement of the Firearms Control Act (2000) has led to thousands of people being shot and killed. Published research from South Africa now proves this link, showing that strong gun laws save lives, lax enforcement kills, and that illegally channelled guns kill more people in the short term.

In sum, the researchers show that two known breakdowns in the enforcement of the Firearms Control Act by the police whereby guns leaked onto the Cape Flats has resulted in Cape Flats communities being shot and killed at a much higher rate than other Cape Town communities.

The two breakdowns are:

  • Firearms meant to be destroyed by police were sold to gangsters in the Western Cape: An ex-police officer, Christiaan Prinsloo, has been sentenced to 18 years for his role in the ‘guns to gangs’ saga; his alleged accomplices have yet to stand trial.
  • Fraud, corruption and lax processing by police in issuing gun licences: Firearm applications were fast-tracked by the police to deal with backlogs in 2010 while incidents of fraud in the issuing of gun licences (e.g. three police officials have just been suspended after issuing licences to a known 28s’ gang leader and his family) mean people who are not “fit and proper” have been granted gun licences.

As the world marks this year's Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence, we call on our government to take immediate action to stop the crisis of gun violence sweeping across our country, especially the Cape Flats, including by:

  1. Ensuring that all investigations into organised crime activities involving the deliberate leakage of legal firearms into the illegal market are urgently undertaken and are given the necessary resources.
  2. Holding a national no-questions asked firearms amnesty and public gun destruction, to ensure that firearms are taken off our streets.
  3. Enforcing the Firearms Control Act, including:
    • Immediate implementation of measures to stop guns leaking from SAPS stores and other secure facilities in which recovered weapons are stored.
    • Undertaking a forensic audit of all licences, permits and authorisations issued as a result of the 2010 turn-around strategy of the Central Firearms Registry, to ensure that due process was followed.
  4. Bringing the Firearms Control Amendment Bill to Parliament in 2018.

South Africa has a world class gun law, which, as this Briefing shows, has saved thousands of lives; if it’s properly enforced it has the potential to save thousands more.

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