Firearms Control Amendment Bill: voting

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19 September 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


19 September 2003

Mr M E George (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Firearms Control Amendment Bill [B28-2003]
Amendments Proposed
Comments by Mr P.J. Smith re Amendment Bill

The Committee deliberated on the Firearms Control Amendment Bill focusing on the definition of airgun and firearm. After clarifying the concerns raised during the meeting, the Committee members voted on the Bill. The Bill was adopted unanimously with all of the proposed amendments.

Adv P Swart (DA) asked that the Committee first consider line 3 in the Preamble of the Bill that dealt with the exclusion of prescribed forms, because it was consequential for the amendment of Clause 1(f) that was to be omitted.

The Chairperson consulted with the Committee members and it was agreed that "…to exclude forms prescribed under the said Act from forming part of the regulations;" be omitted from the Preamble of the Bill.

Adv Swart asked for clarity on a specific submission that was made to the Committee by Mr P Smith. He was not certain what Mr Smith's complaint related to re Clause 1 (b). Mr Smith seemed to have indicated that if it was an "or" then it meant that an airgun with a calibre of .22 would have a muzzle velocity of less than 8 joules. Adv Swart was not in fovour of excluding .22 airguns with a lower muzzle velocity.

Mr M Booi (ANC) asked to avoid a serious debate on the matter since, in his opinion, a response from Adv P Jacobs (Law Advisor) should help clarify the misunderstanding for Adv Swart.

Adv Jacobs explained that Mr Smith looked at the definitions of an airgun [Clause 1(a)] and firearm [Clause 1(b), subsection (d)] as it stood in the Act. He noticed that there was no reference to the force of the projectile in the definition of an airgun. However, in the definition of a firearm, the muzzle energy of more than eight joules was mentioned. The effect of this was that an airgun with a calibre of .22 or higher, but less than eight joules, was neither an airgun nor a firearm. A .22 calibre air gun of less than eight joules was not considered a firearm. It meant that it did not need to be registered. On the other hand, it was not specifically described as an airgun. For Mr Smith this caused some confusion. He expressed sympathy for the proposal, because it was just a matter of terminology. He prepared a document to that effect.

Mr Swart asked if this was leading to the conclusion that an air gun with a muzzle velocity of less than eight joules but a calibre of .22 or higher, would be an airgun, meaning that it needed no licence. For argument sake, he asked if an airgun with a calibre of .23 (there is no such calibre) with a muzzle velocity of less than eight joules was a weapon that needed to be licenced or if it was a deregulated airgun.

Adv Jacobs said it would not fall within the definition of a firearm. In effect it was an airgun and did not require licencing. That specific airgun did not comply with the definition of an airgun.

Although Mr Booi thought that the discussion was not relevant, the Chairperson disagreed. He wanted confirmation that the new terminology that was being considered would not alter the Act.

Adv Jacobs said that the proposal would assist with the interpretation. It would not affect the regulation. He suggested that the proposal be entertained for the reasons given. His opinion as a legal advisor was that the Committee has nothing to loose by entertaining the proposal because it does not change the meaning and purpose of the Act

Adv Swart remained concerned about the fact that the Committee might be saddled with a weapon that was not clarified in terms of the law. He suggested that the Committee asked if they wanted an airgun with a muzzle velocity of less than eight joules with a calibre of .22 or higher to be classified as an airgun or a firearm. If classified as an airgun, then the definition of an airgun would have to be changed to include the velocity. If it was classified as a firearm, then that decision had to be accepted.

Adv Jacobs said that the intention of the Act was quite clear. Where the calibre is .22 or higher and the muzzle energy is more than eight joules, it must be a firearm but when it is less than eight joules, it can only be an airgun as it is currently stated in the Act. The Act is clear about the category in which it should fall. It is just not mentioned under the definition of airgun.

The Chairperson decided to settle for the clarification offered by Adv Jacobs.

Voting on Bill
The Committee voted on the Bill case-by-case and unanimously accepted all of the clauses and the Amendment Bill as a whole as well as these amendmets:

Amendments Agreed to the Firearms Control Amendment Bill

Clause 1

1…"airgun" means any device manufactured to discharge a bullet or any other projectile-
(a) of a [caliber] calibre of less than 5,6mm .22 [caliber] calibre; or
(b) at a muzzle energy of less than eight joules (6 ft-lbs),

by means of compressed gas and not by means of burning propellant;

Clause 1
On page 3, from line 1, to omit paragraph (f)

Clause 14
(b) "… in section [(1)] 1 if…"

Clause 24
1. Insert the line number
2. On page 6, in line 47, omit ["and commencement"].
3. On page 6, in line 49, omit ["… by the President by proclamation in the Gazette"].

Omit paragraph [2 (2.1)]


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