Firearms Control Bill: hearings

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Police

21 June 2000
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

SAFETY & SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 June 2000
FIREARMS CONTROL BILL: HEARINGS

Relevant Submissions:
Western Province Small Bore Association
Child Health Policy Institute
South African Game Ranchers Organisation
Transvaal Agricultural Union
Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women

SUMMARY
Three of the five presentations were against the proposed legislation, with the Western Province Small Bore Association, having problems only with Section 94 of the Bill. The Child Health Policy Institute, supporting the Bill, gave detailed proposals on how to improve the legislation.

MINUTES
Western Province Small Bore Association
Mr J le Roux, chairperson of the Association, stated that the organisation supported any method of crime control. His organisation supported the Bill, although it proposed certain minor alternations to make it acceptable to hunters and sports shooters alike.

He submitted that the main alteration to the Bill was the need to address the inadequate levels of ammunition allowed for sports shooters. He stated that the proposal to achieve this was for the concessions granted, under Section 94 (3), be extended to sports shooters as well.

A further proposal was that there be a transitional period for people finding themselves with too much ammunition to be able to use this without replenishing it until their holdings fall within the acceptable limits.

The Chairperson thanked Mr le Roux for his submission, noting that these requests were the same as those of the South African National Rifle Association (SANRA), and asked whether the Western Province Small Bore Association were aligned with SANRA.

Mr le Roux stated that his organisation only had an issue with section 94, as their type of ammunition is only used in .22 calibre shooting. When a type of ammunition (standard velocity) is found to be particularly suitable for a rifle, this is bought in large quantities to ensure availability. This leads to a conflict with the limits as set out in section 94.

Child Health Policy Unit (UCT)
The organisation was represented by Dr Maylene Shun King and Paula Proudlock. Click
here for the submission.

Discussion:
1. Adv Swart (DP) asked the following questions:
Regarding the stance of "once incompetent, always incompetent", should this continue to be upheld? He gave an example o someone who had been in a fight at 18 years old, and who at 40, may make application for a firearm license and may be refused on this basis in spite of being a responsible citizen since.
2. Where would firearms be stored in 'gun free zones' as people travelling with their firearms would have to leave them somewhere when entering such a zone?
3. Where the court is obliged to adjudge an applicant as unfit, does the organisation therefore hold the view that the discretion of the courts should be further limited?

Ms Proudlock replied as follows:
1. Regarding the 'once incompetent, always incompetent' rule, we are facing a life and death situation, and that it was increasing daily. Owning a gun should be a privilege and not a right.
2. Schools would be an example of a gun free zone, and there should not be safes to store guns in such zones as they would become targets for thieves.
3. Regarding the limiting of court discretion - this is already in practise as effected by legislation such as the mandatory minimum sentences.

Mr Zondo (ANC) asked whether the organisation has any suggestions relating to the timeframes for implementation required by such legislation.

Ms Proudlock replied that these timeframes should be set by the department and report backs should be held to ensure that these are adhered to.

Mr Booi (ANC) asked the following questions:
1. The administration of legislation such as this one has been heavily criticised, but the suggestions as made by this organisation only add to the burden. Does the organisation have any suggestions for alternative resources - perhaps community involvement and administrative assistance?
2. The suggestions for regulation through a database also have implications in this area. Does the organisation have any expectations relating to timeframes for implementation?

Ms Proudlock replied as follows:
1. The process will be streamlined through the proposed changes and suggested community actions as outlined in the discussion document.
2. Community involvement is envisaged in the appointment of the Designated Firearms Officer, as well as a process of community monitoring of this position.

General Viljoen (FF) stated that the statistics as cited by the organisation are not exceptional, but have a highly emotive quality as they involve children. He remarked that road deaths killed many children as well, and that if someone wants to kill someone, not having a firearm would not stop them. How can the fact that this relates to so few cases justify the infringement of the rights of so many people?

Ms Proudlock replied that the figures cited were gathered in only ten of the country's 244 mortuaries. As far as the road deaths were concerned, the organisation was lobbying government in this regard, but did not feel it relevant to these proceedings. Guns kill and harm faster than any other kind of violence, and cannot be stopped as easily. The high cost of medical care for children hurt in these kinds of violent acts is extreme, and so justify the infringement.

Ms Sotyu (ANC) asked whether the organisation meant for taxis to be declared gun free zones with respect to passengers or drivers, as certain passengers need their firearm as protection for their journey.

Ms Proudlock replied that they intended for neither passengers nor drivers to be allowed to have guns. Statistics have shown that very few people have their guns with them when they are attacked, and that in only 2% of cases were guns able to be used successfully to defend themselves.

Mr Booi (ANC) asked whether it could be justified to legislate further against the police, who are asked to endanger their lives daily, as it is suggested by the organisation that SAPS members would have to undergo a further test for competency.

Ms Proudlock replied that this would be a small inconvenience designed to effect the good of the whole society. Higher standards are required to protect the public.

South African Game Ranchers Organisation
Mr H le Roux (member of the Executive Committee) and Professor P du Plessis (chairperson) stated that their organisation did not support the Bill as it felt that game ranchers use their firearms as tools of their trade, are not irresponsible with their weapons, and should not be regulated.

Discussion
Mr Booi (ANC) stated that the organisation saw itself as in a unique situation, but that all South Africans are in the same boat. It is necessary to regulate game ranchers' firearms as it is necessary to do an 'audit' of the current situation with regards firearms in the country as we are currently not sure that the only firearms being used by game ranchers are rifles.

Mr le Roux replied that there is a difference between game rangers and game ranchers. Game ranchers are responsible farm owners who would not carry weapons over borders and other such practises.

Mr Vadi (ANC) asked, relating to the objection raised against section 23, which provision in particular was not applicable to the game ranchers, as they should surely be covered under "business concerns".

Mr le Roux replied that game ranchers can not be compared to private security companies as in remote areas game ranchers use their firearms on a daily basis to earn their living.

Ms van Wyk (UDM) stated that it is a known fact that the extent and nature of firearms currently in South Africa is unknown. How do the presenters propose to audit this situation if all owners are not subjected to a re-licensing process?

Mr le Roux replied that once a person has been declared a fit owner, they should have to take their firearms to the police station to be verified as present and accounted for. A form should then be sent from the local office to the central register.

Mr Mangena (AZAPO) asked what was meant by private sector conservation.

Mr le Roux replied that the area has more game currently than historically as a result of private initiatives to increase populations.

Transvaal Agricultural Union
Mr Jack Loggerenberg and Mr Wilhelm Broché stated that although their union supports legislation that aims to curb firearms and violent crime, they remain unconvinced that this legislation will have any impact on the illegal weapons that are used in the commission of crimes. They believe that this legislation will unfairly impinge on the rights of legal gun owners.

The union expressed the view that guns are essential tools for farmers and are not only used for self defence, but as a method of protecting crops from scavengers. They raised a concern that once the new bill has become law, the market will become flooded with guns that people have been forced to sell, causing them to lose value and resulting in low re-sale prices. They were concerned that existing licences (which are reapplied for after the Bill has been implemented) will not be renewed by future governments, as it is impossible to predict what stance future governments will have on this issue. The union supports the National Firearms Forum comments on the new Bill.

Discussion
Mr Zondo (ANC) asked the union to elaborate as to their constituency as their name no longer indicates which area they serve.

The union stated that they are disaffiliated from the Agricultural Union and they serve about 5000 farmers in the four Northern Areas. They acknowledged that their name did not refer to a specific geographical area any longer, but stated that this had been the name of the union for the past 102 years, and that it would eventually be addressed.

Mr Vadi (ANC) asked the union to elaborate on their statement that the Bill would lead to an increase in illegal firearms.

The union replied that stricter control over the law-abiding citizens and a reduction in the number of firearms that they may own will lead to an increase in crime. This will force the farmers and their employees (and citizens in general) to resort to procuring firearms through illegal means.

Ms Sosibo (ANC) stated that although it seems that the Bill is penalising farmers, the situation of illegal firearms is serious, and it is true that farms are attacked and guns are stolen. The Bill should be seen as a method of the government helping to protect the farmers and not as a penalty.

The union replied that firearms are seldom stolen when farms are attacked, and that if firearms are present, then at least the farmer has a means of protection.

General Viljoen (FF) asked the union to elaborate on the farmers' need for firearms as a tool, pointing to the section in the Bill that would make this impossible.

The union replied that the situation on farms makes it impossible for farmers to lock away their firearms every time they put them down. In particular, the restrictions on ammunition would make the situation unworkable for the farmers. An example of a sunflower farmer was given, who in the course of a day uses many, many rounds of ammunition to keep birds from his crops.

Adv Swart (DP) stated that all parties were extremely concerned regarding the attacks on farms, but asked that the farmers recognise that an emphasis must be placed on rounding up illegal guns. 73% of firearms stolen from legal owners are taken outside of safes. The firearms register is out of date and needs to be updated. What suggestions does the union have for the committee?

The union replied that they do not have a legal background and can only report to the committee the feeling among its members that the Bill will only succeed in limiting the ability of people to protect themselves.

The meeting was adjourned.


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