The Firearms Control Bill

10 October 2000

If one looks at the crime figures around the world, one is struck by the fact that there are many countries that have higher incidence of certain crimes than our country. New Zealand has more housebreakings, car thefts, likewise some Scandinavian countries.

What makes crime in this country different, is the violence that accompanies crime in this country.

Gun control is an issue that raises a lot of heat, with powerful lobbies spending a great deal of money, both here and abroad, to oppose legislation aimed at reducing the number of guns in society.

Arguments are advanced by the opponents of this legislation that this law will deny freedom to individuals to protect themselves from criminal activity, that the problem is not legal gun owners but ownership of illegal guns by criminals, and that reducing the number of guns in society will increase criminality.

Some facts about gun ownership

  • Less than two per cent of legal guns are used in self defence
  • Guns were used in 49 percent of all murders in 1998
  • 23 820 firearms were reported stolen from owners in 1998, an average of 65 guns a day.
  • According the Auditor General, almost 1 700 firearms were reported stolen or missing from the SAPS
  • Legal firearms are used in incidents of domestic violence and in domestic shooting accidents
  • In 1998 52 children were treated fir gunshot injuries at Red Cross Hospital alone.

Some misconceptions about the Bill

It is not true that people will not be able to own guns to defend themselves

Private citizens will still be able to own a firearms, subject to a competency test. But this will be limited to one firearm for self defence

It is not true that ownership of firearms for recreational purposes will be prohibited

Again this is not true – people will still be able to own guns for hunting and target shooting.

It is not true that criminality will increase if firearms control is introduced

International experience shows this not to be the case.

Key Provisions of the Bill

Separate licences must be issued for each firearm

Number of guns allowed: Citizens will be allowed to own one handgun and one shotgun, for self-defence, sporting or hunting purposes.

Ownership of restricted firearms, such as semi automatics, will be allowed where a person can sho that regular firearms are insufficient for self defence.

Minimum Age for Gun Ownership: This will be 21 years

Renewal of licences: Under the old act, licences were issued in perpetuity.

This has resulted in the firearms registry being inaccurate and out of date.

Under the new legislation, licences will be issued for a fixed period. In the case of regular hand-guns and shotguns, for purposes of self defence, this will be five years, for sports shooting and hunting, this will be for ten years.

Limitations on the possession of ammunition: Under the new bill, it is proposed that the amount of ammunition that a licensed bun owner has in his or her possession is limited to 200 cartridges for each firearm. In addition, the licence holder may7 not by more than 2400 cartridges for each firearm licensed to him or her.. The Registrar can allow exemptions to this limitation if the licensee shows good cause.

Furthermore this restriction does not apply to ammunition bought and used at a licensed shooting range.

Competency Certificates: No licences can issued unless the applicant is in possession of a competency certificate.

People unfit to possess a firearm: The Bill makes provision for the Registrar t declare a person unfit to possess a firearm in various circumstances, including:

  • if the person has had a protection order assist him or her in terms of the Domestic violence Act
  • if the person has said that he/she intends to kill or injure him/herself or somebody else
  • if the person has failed to keep any firearm safely

If a person has been convicted of offences which involved the unlawful use or handling of a firearm, even if the firearm was used by someone else, a person must be regarded as unfit to possess a firearm. This also applies to anyone who was convicted of an offence involving violence or dishonesty, with a sentence of 12 months or more, without the option of a fine.

Firearm free zones

The Bill proposes that the Minister for Safety and Security be empowered to declare places such as schools, [laces of worship and shebeens as Firearm Free Zones.

Computerised central data bases will be established and will link dealers, manufacturers and gunsmiths on line to the Central Firearms Register, which will assist in the accuracy of information relating to firearms.

Key Political Messages

The ANC is committed to reducing the levels of crime and violence in this country. This Bill is one measure we are putting in place to deal with the scourge of crime and violence

There are too many guns in circulation. Too many licensed guns are stolen and involved in accidents and domestic violence

Only very few licensed guns are used for self defence – tighter control of licensed guns will not impair the right of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves.