Firearms Control Bill: discussion

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06 September 2000
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

6 September 2000

Chairperson: Mr M George

Relevant documents:
Firearms Control Bill
Department Draft of Alternative Provisions for Firearms Control Bill
Document containing legal and technical issues raised during public debates

The Department continued to brief the committee on their proposed amendments (Clauses 34 to 97) which appeared to accommodate certain pro-gun lobbyist views submitted during the public hearings. Prior to the committee commencing with deliberations, the committee addressed a public complaint that the Department was biased in the performance of their drafting duties, relating to the Firearms Control Bill.

A suggestion was raised by the Freedom Front that a person be licenced rather than each firearm being licenced. A lengthy discussion ensued. Similarly they proposed being able to sell a firearm not only through a dealer but alternatively privately with the assistance of the Designated Firearms Officer in that area. The Chair asked the Department to draft a provision in this regard.

The Chair did not approve of the fact that the Department had included provisions in the amendments relating to the SANDF without their having made a formal submission to the committee. He stated that the committee would not consider the SANDF provisions until they had made such submission.

Some concerns were raised regarding the restrictions on ammunition that had been imposed by the Bill as well as the power given to the Minister to declare some firearms as prohibited firearms.

The meeting commenced with Mr Booi (ANC) stating that certain members of the anti-firearms contingent felt that the Department was making changes to the Bill that were leaning more towards the pro-firearm interests. The Chair asked Adv Kok (Department) to react to these allegations. Adv Kok stated that in no way had the Department been biased in the performance of their duties. He added that he was neither pro nor anti-gun. Mr Ndlovu (IFP) stated that the ANC must not take heed of such allegations, as it will only stifle the process that they are currently engaged in. Gen Viljoen (FF) emphasised the need for persons that have made submissions, to realise that the committee and the Department is addressing their needs. Mr Booi reacted by saying that he only felt it his duty to inform the committee of such criticisms and stated that this is in no way the views of the ANC, as they are totally objective.

Gen Viljoen asked the Department to come up with a method of licencing a person instead of a firearm. He did however add that the firearm would still need to be registered. Mr Geldenhuys (NNP) felt that this was a good suggestion. The Chair asked Adv Kok if there were any technical difficulties in licencing the person instead of the firearm.

Adv Kok said that the Department's stance is on stronger gun control. This is exactly the reason why citizens are limited in the number of firearms they may own. If you licence the person not the firearm, a person could then be able to have an excess of firearms in his possession and this would counter the efforts of stricter gun control. The Chair interrupted Adv Kok stating that he had still not addressed the issue of technical difficulties. Adv Kok reacted that licencing a person would definitely have administrative benefits, as less money, time and effort will be spent on processing applications.

Mr Swart suggested licencing the person not the firearm but still limiting the number of weapons as is provided for in the Bill. He asked how this would affect law enforcement, would it be better or worse.

Brigadier Bothma (SAPS) answered that currently they are licencing both the person and the firearm so as to cross reference the licence with the persons' identity document. He added that putting more than one firearm on a licence would greatly alleviate the burden on the SAPS. However he suggested that a feasibility study needs to be done to get the exact figures. Mr Swart asked the brigadier to do a feasibility study as this technical information is critical when debating the issue.

Mr Booi objected to Mr Swart's request as the instruction to the Department should come from the committee, not from Mr Swart unilaterally. The Chair agreed with Mr Booi and stated that the committee first needs to debate the issue before a feasibility study can be done.

Chapter 7- Licences issued to particular categories of persons- Dealers, Manufacturers and Gunsmiths
Part 1- Dealers
Clause 34- Prohibition of unlicenced trading in firearms and ammunition
Gen Viljoen felt that this provision infringes on a person's right to sell his own firearm. Why should one go through a dealer? He suggested two systems to choose from. Firstly one could sell your firearm through a dealer or alternatively you could decide to sell your firearm privately with the assistance of the Designated Firearms Officer (DFO) for your area.

Mr Booi said that the clause should remain as is as there is better accountability through a dealer who is linked up with the Registrar.

Adv Kok reacted that the second option could be viable if the DFO is linked up with the Registrar. He did have a problem as to who will hold on to the firearm pending the outcome of the sale. He suggested that the owner would have to hold on to the firearm.

Mr Swart stated that this second option would be accommodating dealers, as they themselves have stated that they do not wish to be burdened with the task of acting as middlemen. Gen Viljoen stated that the process for a private sale through a DFO could possibly be set out in the Regulations.

The Chair consequently instructed the Department to include a provision in the clause allowing for a private sale through a DFO. The committee agreed to this.

Clause 43 Establishment of centralised dealers database
The committee had the same concerns with the phrase, "as soon as practicable" as in Clause 33 (Central firearms database) and agreed to its proposed omission. The committee asked the Department to include the words, "establish and maintain" in the clause.

Clause 44 Suspension of dealers licence
The Department proposed the inclusion of a provision that allows for a dealer's suspension to be confirmed by a court. The committee agreed.

Clause 45 Termination of dealers licence
The Department proposed extending the period of notice from 14 days to 30 days given to the dealer to make submissions why his licence should not be terminated. The committee agreed.

Part 2- Manufacturers
Clause 48 Prohibition of unlicenced manufacture of firearms and ammunition
This states that a licenced manufacturer may only sell firearms and ammunition to a dealer. Mr Swart was concerned about the use of the word "dealer" in the clause. Do government departments, the SANDF and the SAPS fall under the definition of "dealers"? If not, must they make their purchases from "dealers "?

Adv Kok stated that provision would be made for government agencies, the only reason why it is as present is to prevent manufacturers from selling to the public. Gen Viljoen asked if 48(1) also refers to reloading. Adv Kok answered that it did not.

The Chair observed that it was only the Democratic Alliance that had problems with Clause 48. He stated that the Democratic Alliance is welcome to come up with suggestions regarding it.

Clause 49 Requirements for a manufacturers licence
Adv Kok emphasised that any manufacturer in an industry has to abide by the restrictions and regulation of that specific industry.

The Democratic Alliance was concerned about the 'one man' concern working out of his garage, as these provisions would put him out of business.

Mr Booi and Mr Ndlovu reiterated what Adv Kok had previously said about laws applying to industries. The Chair noted the Democratic Alliance's concerns and told them to come up with proposals.

Clause 50 Conditions imposed on licenced manufacturer
The Department had omitted certain words in the tabled Bill. The committee had no objection to the proposed additions as reflected in the proposed amendments.

Clause 51 and 52 Manufacturers licence and Renewal of manufacturers licence
A printing error has been rectified: Clause 51 should remain as it is in the Bill, however the second clause 51 in the Bill should become clause 52.

Clause 53 Temporary authorisation to display firearms and ammunition on premises other than those specified in the manufacturer's licence
The Department proposed including a provision exempting a manufacturer who has an agreement with the SANDF from having to apply for these temporary authorisations.

The Chair found this unacceptable. Adv Kok stated that they had only included the exemption based on a written submission that they had received from the SANDF. The Chair categorically stated that they would not take any amendments relating to the SANDF into consideration until the SANDF has made a formal submission to the committee.

Clause 57 Establishment of centralised manufacturers database
The same omissions and additions that were made to Clauses 33 and 43 apply.

Clause 58 Suspension of manufacturer's licence
The same changes that were made to Clause 44 will apply here: extending the period of notice from 14 days to 30 days.

Clause 60 Application of other laws
The Department has omitted certain provisions of this clause that deals with how other laws apply to this Bill.

Part 3- Gunsmiths
Clause 62 Prohibition of certain work
The Department has removed a clause that had previously prevented persons from making minor adjustments to their firearms. This deletion caused concern amongst some of the committee members and the Chair agreed that they would address this matter at a later stage.

Clause 67 Temporary authorisation to conduct business as gunsmith on premises other than those specified in gunsmith's licence
The Department proposed including a provision that exempts them from having to obtain these authorisations if the work is being done for the SANDF. The Chair reiterated what he had previously said about any provisions relating to the SANDF.

Clause 71- Establishment of centralised gunsmith's database
The same changes were made to this clause as with Clauses 33, 43 and 57.

Chapter 8- Import , export and carriage in transit of firearms and ammunition
Clause 76 Prohibition of import, export or carriage in transit of firearms and ammunition without permit
The committee agreed to deal with this clause at a later stage.

Clause 80 Permit constitutes licence to possess firearm or ammunition
The Department proposed inserting the phrase "by a natural person" to limit the provision to this category of juristic person. The committee agreed.

Clause 82 Establishment of central importers and exporters database
The same changes were made to this clause as with Clauses 33, 43, 57 and 71-.

Chapter 9- Storage, transport and carrying of firearms and ammunition
Clause 86 Storage and transport of firearms and ammunition
The committee agreed that the provisions of this clause would for now remain as it is in the tabled Bill. This was because the Department's proposed amendment had included provisions that related to the SANDF (which the committee would not consider without input from the SANDF to the committee).

Clause 88 Conditions imposed on transporter of firearm
This clause provides for conditions that may be prescribed by the Minister and imposed by the Registrar on a transporter of firearms. The clause also provides for the conditions imposed on the transporter by the Registrar to be specified in the transporter's permit. Adv Kok argued that the Bill ought to make it practical for the conditions to be imposed.

Clause 89 Firearm transporter's permit
Adv Kok indicated that special emphasis has been indicated by the phrase "transport for reward". Hence the section is only circumscribed to persons who transport firearms for reward, not who transport same for other purposes.

Clause 93 Prohibition of possession of ammunition
Adv Kok made a note regarding s93 (d) which provides that a person may not possess a firearm unless he or she is otherwise authorised to do so, saying that it was more of policy issue.

Clause 94 Restrictions on possession of ammunition
This clause sets out restrictions on possession of ammunition. Subclause (2) provides that the holder of a licence to possess a firearm may not, during the period of 12 months, purchase more than 2400 cartridges per firearm. Adv Kok proposed that subclause (2) be deleted in its entirety.

Mr Booi (ANC) noted that he finds the recommendation of the Department particularly helpful but he was concerned how the Bill caters for an individual who purchases ammunition in bulk.

Adv Kok replied that s94 (3) resolves the issue of persons who purchase in bulk, i.e. a dedicated hunter or sportsperson or any other holder of a licence authorised by the Registrar on good cause shown.

Gen Viljoen (FF) said that the Bill should not impose too much control on possession of ammunition as such would be in the interest of controlling crime levels in South Africa.

Mr Ndlovu (IFP) retorted that the restriction on the number of cartridges was fair in the circumstances. He asked why the General desired that the number be increased and wonderede if more was required so that they could teach their children to shoot.

Gen Viljoen (FF) conceded that the limitation that had been imposed by s94 of the Bill was reasonable or that the number was ample in the circumstances.

Clause 95 Prohibitions and Restrictions on use of certain ammunition
This clause empowers the Minister, by notice in the Gazette, to prohibit or restrict the use of certain ammunition if it is in the interest of public safety or the maintenance of law and order. Subclause (2) provides that the notice must be tabled before Parliament.
Mr Zondo (ANC) indicated his concern about Subclause (2) and noted that it should be deleted in its entirety.

Mr Ndlovu (IFP) objected and indicated that Parliament would not be entitled to sever that subclause due to the existence of the doctrine of separation of powers. If it were to be severed, the judiciary had the sole function to do so.

Mr Booi (ANC) asked what would be the practical implications if the Minister exercised powers in terms of s95 (1) and declared all firearms illegal?

Adv Kok replied that Clause144 (Emergency provisions) would be relevant in the circumstances raised by Mr Booi wherewith the Minister would be entitled to declare firearms illegal.

Clause 96 Loading or reloading of ammunition.
The Department proposed that the word propellant used in subsection 96 (2)(a) be deleted because propellants are dealt with by the provisions of the Explosives Act. It was also recommended that the whole of subsection (4) be deleted.

Clause 97 Prohibition of possession of firearm parts
The Department proposed that the word magazine be deleted from the definition of "firearm parts" because it does not leave behind any identifiable marks in the investigation of criminal offences as other components of the firearm do.

In conclusion, the Chairperson noted Clauses 98 to 103 would be dealt with next on Tuesday 12 September 2000.


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