Firearms Control Amendment Bill [B12-2006] hearings

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16 August 2006
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report



16 August 2006

Chairperson: Ms S Sotyu (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Impact of Guns of Families (Child Accident Prevention Foundation of South Africa)
National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa
South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers’ submission
South African Gunowners’ Association submission presentation
South African Gunowners’ Association Discussion Document
Gun Free South Africa submission (PowerPoint presentation)
Gun Free South Africa (Oral submission)
Gun Control Alliance submission

The Committee received more than 150 written submissions relating to the Firearms Control Amendment Bill. Six organizations presented submissions at this meeting. The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of South Africa, Gun Free South Africa and the Gun Control Alliance broadly supported the Bill.

The Child Accident Prevention Foundation recommended that the age limit for possessing a gun be raised to 25 years, that people subject to protection orders have their gun licenses suspended immediately; and that gun dealers should be subject to the same processes as liquor outlets. It suggested that the inclusion of Section 1(e) which defined a “fit and proper’ person would interfere with the police’s discretionary powers. It recommended that competency certificates should be issued per gun and not only per owner. Questions were asked for clarity on the statistics presented.

The National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa largely supported the Bill but was worried that the revised definition of ‘collectability’ in Section 17(1)(a) excluded large portions of legitimate current and future collections. It recommended a review of the cost of licensing to make collecting more affordable, that public collectors be defined separately from museums but still able to make the collections viewable to the public. It recommended licensing the person, not the firearm. Members asked questions on restricted firearms, occasional collectors and collection of prohibited weapons, and sought clarity on some aspects of the presentation.

The South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers supported the Bill but raised concerns around the SAPS’s incapacity to effectively implement the provisions of the Act. Inordinate delays arose in receiving SETA certificates, competency certificates and licenses. There was a concern that a refusal to reissue a licence could be unconstitutional. The organisation further recommended that cap and ball revolvers be re-included as muzzleloaders and that an audit of license holders, and not re-licensing, be undertaken. An audit would require production of the firearm and correction of the central database. Members posed questions on the capacity of SAPS, testing ranges, the allegations of unconstitutionality, licensing of the cap and ball revolver, and certificates.

South African Gun Association felt that although it supported the Act and the Bill, the reality was that the current implementation of the Act had been a failure due to crisis in the Central Firearms Registry. SAGA therefore urged the committee to review the entire Act. SAGA was particularly concerned about the intention to require re-licensing of firearms and felt that an audit would be the better option and would achieve better results. Existing resources must be used to try to generate goodwill between licenced firearms owners and SAPS. Recommendations were made on the definition of ammunition, the licensing of silencers and the issuing of competency certificates. It was further recommended that a consultative forum be set up to improve efficiency.

Members raised questions on use of silencers. They commented that a consultative forum might be seen as implying lack of confidence

Gun Free South Africa supported the proposed amendments on muzzleloaders, competency certificates and prohibited firearms as strengthening gun control and enhancing administration, particularly in relation to validity periods and the NCACC. Recommendations were made regarding declarations of unfitness, and licensing of security companies. Gun Free South Africa also supported raising the age at which a licence could be obtained, to 25. It supported the renewal of licenses rather than audits, balancing practicality against need, and considered that a renewal process would enable the updating of documents, would curtail the number of firearms in circulation and would promote responsible ownership. Questions were raised on the 25-year age limit, the fact that many illegal firearms were originally legal, regulation of silencers, and the alleged instability in the security industry.

Gun Control Alliance supported the Bill but raised major concerns on proposed limitations on the discretionary powers of the police and the possibility of issuing competency certificates without proper background checks. Its recommendations included that gun dealers be subjected to similar requirements as liquor outlets and that safe gun free spaces be created in accordance with the Firearms Free Zones provision in the Act. Members’ questions related to the Alliance’s representation in rural areas, and certain clarity.

Clarity was given by the Department on the definitions of “fit and proper”

Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa: Submission
Prof Sebastian van As, a member of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa (CAPFSA) and a surgeon at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trauma Unit, gave a submission detailing the effects of guns on societies, specifically on women and children. Much violence against women was perpetrated by men who legally possessed firearms while half of the children shot were shot in and around their homes. Most children were shot when caught in crossfire. This was a startling measure of the prevalence of shooting was in communities. In addition to physical injuries and death, many societies were severely traumatised by the threat firearms posed. CAPFSA strongly opposed the commonly-held belief that owning a firearm increased one’s safety and called for the minimum age for the licensing to be raised to 25; that people subject to protection orders have their gun licenses suspended immediately; and that gun dealer should be subject to the same processes as liquor outlets.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) wondered what percentage of the child victims were shot deliberately or by adults. He also wondered what the Red Cross’ Anti Gun Campaign, that had so drastically reduced the number of gun related deaths between 2001 and 2006, had involved.

Prof van As replied that 64% were shot because they were caught in crossfire. while 8% were shot deliberately by adults. It was clear that most injuries resulted from being caught in crossfire. This also illustrated how many bullets were going through the society.

Mr Pheko (PAC) noted that the presentation disputed the commonly held belief that guns were needed for self-defense. He asked whether CAPFSA believed that no citizen should own a firearm for the purposes of self-defense.

Prof van As said personally he was opposed to people owning firearms. Given the situation in South Africa however he would not deny the right to obtain a firearm legally to a person who felt strongly that a gun was needed for his or her self-defense. He was in favour of very strict control to ensure that firearms were used safely and properly so that no innocent people were injured.

Mr R King (DA), referring to CAPFSA’s recommendation that the minimum age to obtain a firearm license be lifted to 25 years, asked whether the under 25s using guns in violent crimes used their own or stolen weapons.

Prof van As was not aware of any studies that had been done around this. He thought that these crimes were probably committed with illegal weapons.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) sought clarity on whether the statistics used in the presentation were representative of South or southern Africa. Prof van As confirmed that the statistics were based on research done in South Africa.

Ms Kohler-Barnard was aware that the surveys used were obviously very out of date because the latest figures would only become available in September. She wondered what percentage of deaths was caused by the use of legal firearms. She disagreed with the statement that the guns were the biggest health problem in South Africa. 10 000 deaths resulted from road accidents.

Prof Van As realised that there were other risks but explained that guns were the biggest cause of violent, unnatural death.

Mr Richard Matzopolous, (Director: The National Injury Mortality Surveillance Systems (NIMMS)) explained that that the statistics were taken from a sample of about 35 mortuaries across South Africa and did not represent the total caseload. The same data had been used to estimate the level of disease; the profile in this study had been compared to other studies in rural areas. The profile largely determined the distribution of injury and violent death in the country. The extrapolation was based on NIMMS for motor vehicle deaths, which suggested that there were about 16 000 motor vehicle deaths per annum. Until 2004 firearms resulted in more deaths than all vehicle categories combined. In 2004 motor vehicle deaths for the first time exceeded firearm related deaths.

Mr M Booi (ANC) noted that the presentation made mention of security officers contributing to firearm related injuries and deaths. He asked whether the researchers had taken taxi drivers into account.

Prof van As replied that security officers did not need their firearms when they were at home. He felt that security and police officers should be required to leave their firearms at work when they went off duty.

Ms Naaema Abrahams (Medical Research Council (MRC)) explained that one of the questions asked in a study around violence against women centred on what kind of work the perpetrator did. 10% of all the perpetrators identified were security workers (SAPS, Defense or private security companies). She said that while there were a few taxi drivers among the perpetrators, the number was not high enough for them to be identified as a group that posed a higher risk of killing their partners.

Mr Booi requested Prof Van As to clarify why CAPFSA wanted gun dealers to be treated the same way as liquor dealers. Mr P Groenewald (FFP) also felt that this was not a good comparison.

Prof van As pointed out that a person wanting to open a liquor store needed permission from the neighbourhood. He felt that the same should apply to gun dealerships.

Ms A Van Wyk’s (ANC) asked why CAPFSA was opposed to the inclusion of Section 1(e) dealing with “a fit and proper person. She did not understand this definition as taking away the police’s discretion as far as determining whether a person was competent to own a firearm.

Ms Margy Keegan (Gun Free Alliance) explained that it was feared that the criteria set out in the rest of that subsection would remove some of the police’s discretionary powers. From discussions held in 2000 she remembered that the subsection was added to allow the police to have some kind of discretion outside of the legislative criteria. The legislation could not cover all criteria that might be involved in the 2,5 million cases and removing the subsection would allow the police extra discretion in extraordinary cases.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) sought clarity on the statement that 80% of double murders could have been prevented.

Ms Naaema Abrahams (Expert on intimate femicide: MRC) responded that MRC, in looking at how legal guns contributed to murder, used an epidemiological method similar to that used to understand how smoking contributed to heart disease. The method was very technical and used very scientific statistical methods. Using the population attributable risk, it was calculated that 80% of double murders could have been prevented had legal guns not been present in a family.

Mr Groenewald commented that statistics were very interesting yet could be misleading. 98% of people died in bed – could one conclude that a bed was a very dangerous object? He commented on a radio talk show that morning, when a representative of a children’s organisation claimed that the main cause of death in children was road accidents, followed by poison. CAPFSA, however, claimed that the main cause of child death was firearms. He asked whether the research that found that 84% of violent crimes involved firearms was done throughout the whole country or just in Alexandra. He also wondered where the statistics emanated that said that only 8% of licensed gun owners had their weapons on them at the time of their attack.

Prof van As replied that he was not making the presentation as a statistician. He was a lecturer at a university and a surgeon who worked with children. 1 475 children were murdered with firearms in 2000. Their deaths affected the lives of their families and communities. The statistics presented represented real children and real facts. He pointed out that most hospital admissions in South Africa were trauma related; many of these cases were gunshot related. He added that he worked in rural South Africa for many years. Gunshot related injuries were a big problem. He said that the study mentioned in the presentation was done in Gauteng and urged the member to read it in detail.

Ms J Sosibo (ANC) wondered whether the presenter was suggesting that competency certificates were being renewed without proper background checks of the applicant.

Prof van As explained that if a competency certificate was only issued to the owner he or she could change their guns at any time. The competency certificate should be issued per gun and not only per owner.

Ms Keegan added that a competency certificate was valid for a particular period for particular types of guns. Section10 (5) said that renewal could happen only on the basis of reapplication. This matter would be touched upon when the GFSA made its presentation later that day.

Mr Ndlovu wondered why all persons who were subject to protection orders should have their gun licenses suspended.

Prof van As explained that in a domestic disagreement the levels of violence could escalate dramatically. A firearm should not be allowed in such a situation. He had seen many cases where husbands killed their wives with guns that had not been seized after a protection order was put into place.

Mr Maserumule commented that the presentation had referred mostly to violent incidents in townships and informal settlements. He wondered if there were statistics on white communities.

Prof van As admitted that he was not sure of the statistics as related to white communities. The Red Cross treated almost all children who were shot in the area. White children were also brought in but they were in a minority. The majority of children were coloured and black. He added white children were also at risk because accidents did happen.

Mr Moatshe said that the presentation spoke of the effect guns had on women and children. He wondered why one seldom heard of women who murdered men and their own children with firearms. Prof van As responded that in many violent incidents, particularly sexual violence, 99% of perpetrators were male. The statistics for gun related incidents would probably be the same.

National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa’ Submission
Mr Carvel Webb (Chairperson: The National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa’s (NAACCSA)) gave the Committee a brief introduction to NAACCSA’s activities. He then detailed some of the organisation’s concerns around the Bill. NAACCSA was worried that the revised definition of ‘collectability’ in Section 17(1)(a) excluded large portions of legitimate current and future collections. NAACCSA’s recommendations included a review of the cost of licensing so that it would be more affordable to collectors who often have very large collections, and that public collectors be defined separate from museums but still able to make the collections viewable to the public.

Mr Booi said that the Committee was very clear that licensing was not merely for administrative purposes. He asked what NAACCSA fees were.

Mr Webb responded that in terms of relicensing NAACCSA recommended that the person, rather than the firearm, be licensed. Responsible institutions needed to propose ways of speeding up and making easier the implementation of the Firearms Control Act. The focus of NAACCSA’s presentation was to point out which aspects of the Bill were hindering its practical application.

Mr Webb explained that NAACCSA was a recognised body under Section 5(1)(c) of the Act, which provided for a national body to oversee the interests of the various organisations. It functioned as a single point of contact between collectors and the Government. NAACCSA was created at the personal request, recommendation and encouragement of Director Bothma and collectors had unanimously agreed that such a body was necessary. There were four basic sets of guidelines (“golden standards”) that collectors’ associations must adhere to. These regulated how they worked, how they took on new members and what may be collected. Collectors’ associations had to be members of NAACCSA in order to be accredited by SAPS. NAACCSA charged an annual administrative charge of R10 per individual.

Mr Webb added that since 1994 the controls around the collection of firearms had been very strict. This strictness had been carried over into the Firearms Control Act. Until 1994 a person had to be a member of a SAPS approved association. If he or she left the association it did not result in the automatic rescinding of his or her collector’s certificate. That was a shortcoming that was identified and which SAPS had agreed would be changed. This was the only major difference that was made between 1994 and 2000.

Mr Meshoe sought clarity on the statement that if restricted firearms were used in illegal activities, they might not necessarily belong to collectors. Mr Webb explained that a certain number of restricted firearms were licensed to private individuals. Only 15% of these licensed firearms belonged to collectors.

Ms Van Wyk was concerned about the call to include “occasional collectors”. She could understand how a person could be an occasional hunter or sharp shooter but failed to understand what “occasional collector” meant. It was her opinion that the call to include occasional hunters was a creative way of bringing back the inheritance provision whereby one owned a weapon if one inherited it.

Mr Webb said that this presented a chicken and egg situation: it was very difficult to become a collector without a collection of firearms. He said that there had to be some channel to make it possible for a novice collector to get started. NAACCSA had been wrestling with how to make it easier for novice collectors to join the association.

Ms Van Wyk commented that collectors claimed that the weapons they collected were worth a great deal, yet they were not willing to pay the licensing fees associated with the weapons. She requested the Department to clarify the administrative responsibility associated with licensing.

Mr Webb said that his presentation highlighted the fact that the value of a firearm in a collection could range from R1000 to R1 million, with the average value at around R5000. Pensioners or senior citizens who had been collecting for many decades owned some of the larger collections. He emphasised that these collectors were not rich and could not afford to pay R15 000 to R20 000 in license fees. As a matter of practicality, and from a policy point of view, if the charge for the service must be proportional to the cost of the service, one could ask why money should be made out of the firearms licensing process.

Ms van Wyk said that she failed to comprehend the comparison between the collection of paintings and the collection of firearms.

Mr Webb noted her comment and explained that without the appropriate license a collector’s item, whether it be a firearm or a motor vehicle, was a lethal weapon. He urged Members to think of collectors’ firearms as “objects of engineering art”. He added that NAACCSA acknowledged all the problems South Africa experienced with firearms and emphasised that collectors collected firearms because they were scarce and valuable. Not all collectors used these items.

Ms Van Wyk said that the SADC protocol as far as prohibited weapons (specifically R4s, R5s AK47s and automatic weapons) was quite clear. These weapons would be removed from the ownership of private individuals. She wondered why collectors should be allowed to keep these weapons.

Mr Webb responded that collectors were extremely responsible gun owners and that to NAACSSA’s knowledge offenses committed by collectors with collectable firearms were miniscule or non-existent. No private collection in South Africa contained R4s or R5s. These weapons were only sold to governments. There were a few AK47s in private collections and they were strictly controlled. The station commander had to be aware of every AK47 that was privately owned. The AK47 was nothing more than a plain simple lightweight bolt action rifle. NAACCSA did not feel that all the AK47s should be destroyed because they were of historic value and only a handful was in private collections.

Mr Booi asked whether there were any female collectors within NAACCSA. Mr Webb responded that the prize-winning display at last year’s arms collector’s fair was done by a woman. There were also women members who were experts on firearms, and other weapons such as Zulu spears.

South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers Association Submission
Mr Andrew Souter, (Chairperson: South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers (SAADA)) raised his organisation’s concerns around the SAPS’s incapacity to effectively implement the provisions of the Act. He commented on the time it took to receive a Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA) certificate, a competency certificate and a license. He considered that some parts of the Bill could be seen as unconstitutional. SAADA’s recommendations included that cap and ball revolvers be re-included as muzzleloaders and that an audit of license holders (rather than re-licensing) be undertaken in order to update the Central Firearms Registry’s database.

Mr Booi said that he understood that capacity was a problem for SAPS. He believed however that they were learning how to cope with the situation. He said that the debate around firearms related not only to collection but also to the effect firearms had on society. The removal of renewal licenses would not curb the harm inflicted by firearms.

Mr Souter said that everyone had to play their part in the learning curve involved in the implementation of the new legislation. He pointed out that this learning curve had so far been at the expense of the livelihood of about 500 dealers. All citizens were entitled to just and efficient administration and the firearms sector was not delivering this at the moment.

Mr Groenewald noted that testing could only be done at accredited ranges. He wondered how testing had been done before and asked whether more ranges were necessary or whether testing should be done differently.

Mr Souter explained that there were normal ranges, and ranges that were accredited by SETA and SAPS. Firearm training and testing could only be done on accredited ranges. Private ranges could be used for recreational or sporting activities. He added that there was a marked shortage of accredited ranges in South Africa (particularly in the rural areas).

Ms van Wyk commented that the Committee had on a number of occasions heard that the Act was unconstitutional. It was passed in 2000, was enacted in 2004 and the Committee had not yet heard of any constitutional challenges. According to the State Law Advisors the Bill was constitutional. She made clear that the Committee or Parliament did not see the Constitutional Court as a threat. Parliament supported use of this Court to enhance democracy and in order to challenge government on legislation that had been passed.

She said that part of the reason why legislation makes provision for re-licensing rather than an audit was because the register preceding the Act was not complete. An audit could thus not be done. She wondered how SAADA would address this issue. Another reason for re-licensing was related to the fact that people lost their firearms either through theft or negligence. These guns might fall into the wrong hands. Relicensing would also make it possible for officials to determine whether the licensee was still in possession of the firearm, as many owners did not report a loss or theft because this would have an impact on their competency to own a firearm.

Mr Souter disagreed and said that an audit would address the member’s concerns. People would be required to produce their firearms at police stations. The process would involve the correction of data on the central database. It would involve the acknowledgement of an existing license instead of the reissuing of a new one. He said that legal opinion suggested that refusing to reissue a license would constitute an alienation of property rights and would be unconstitutional.

Ms Van Wyk asked whether there was any truth in the statement that the cap and ball revolver that SAADA wanted to have included in the muzzle loader scheme did not take 20 minutes to load like a true muzzle loader would. She wondered whether the speaker was aware that even toy and hobby shops sold cap and ball revolvers due to the loophole that existed in the legislation. This weapon had also been used in taxi violence. She wondered how it could be justified as a muzzleloader; and how the Committee could justify not licensing a weapon that was being used in crimes. She agreed that interim measures needed to be put in place and did not think that the situation could be ignored.

Mr Souter responded that the average loading time for a cap and ball revolver was between 10 and 20 minutes. It took longer to load because there were six chambers to load instead of just one. He invited the member to go with him to a shooting range so that she could witness it herself. He was not aware of anyone outside of the trade selling cap and ball revolvers. The importers, through the dealers associations, adopted a voluntary policy of wholesaling only through registered firearms dealers. He admitted that there might have been private sales somewhere along the line. He had never seen one in the free market.

Adv Jacobs said that the Firearms Act did not include antique firearms manufactured before 1900 or replicas. A muzzleloader was loaded from the muzzle while a cap and ball revolver was not. Thousands of cap and ball revolvers had been imported and sold without licenses. He reminded the Committee that he had once showed them an advertisement of a gift shop that sold these firearms. He also informed the Committee of an advertisement in the Magnum magazine, which stated that one did not need a license for black powder revolvers. This was not the case as black powder revolvers were not excluded from the Act. He said that the argument that the cap and ball revolver was an antique was incorrect.

Mr Moatshe sought clarity on why the organisation saw SASSETA’s approach as discriminatory. He was not clear who was being discriminated against.

Mr Souter explained that SASSETA’s approach was viewed as discriminatory against gun owners. None of the other SETAs apart from SASSETA insisted on issuing a certificate.

Adv Jacobs commented that the Act would only be aligned with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) in terms of Section 4(3) of the NCACC Act (which said that the NCACC may determine which exports had to be submitted to the that Committee). The interpretation that the alignment of the two pieces of the legislation would require all exports to be submitted to the NCACC was incorrect. He added that many of the issues that had so far been addressed were not in the draft Bill but were contained in the regulations.

South African Gun Association Submission
Mr Gavin Hood (Legal Advisor to the South African Gun Association (SAGA)) pointed out that SAGA, which represented a cross section of the firearm fraternity, felt that the current implementation of the Act had resulted in an administrative crisis in the CFR and that the Act was a dismal failure. SAGA urged the committee to review the entire Act. SAGA was particularly concerned about the intention to require re-licensing of firearms and felt that an audit would be the better option. They made specific recommendations in relation to amongst others, the definition of ammunition, the licensing of silencers and the issuing of competency certificates. Mr Hood emphasized that there were many parts of the Act that SAGA supported but that his presentation highlighted its main concerns.

Mr Booi wondered why SAGA felt that the sections dealing with retrospectivity should be scrapped. This might be an indication that the Act should be scrapped. He reiterated the effects that firearms had on society. He urged the public to submit workable recommendations.

Mr Hood said that SAGA was not opposed to the legislation but wanted it to work. SAGA made the suggestion in order to attain some level of service delivery and successful implementation. He raised, for discussion purposes, the fact that the law did not appear to be retrospective. If one stopped re-licensing and simply had an audit and recognised existing licenses one problem would disappear. He was not suggesting that the process of updating information should not be done, but said that there was more than one way of achieving the same result. SAPS’s existing resources should be used to satisfy firearms owners and generate goodwill between the two entities. At the moment there was none. He felt that in order to achieve compliance people must be satisfied that there was efficiency in the process. He reiterated that SAGA was not criticising the law but that it had administrative concerns.

Mr Ndlovu wondered whether SAGA recommended that silencers not be licensed due to SAPS’s inefficiency at handling the administration involved in this exercise. He said that SAPS might become efficient in the near future and asked whether the legislation should then be changed.

Mr Hood said that that he did not discuss the legitimate use of silencers, but that it was included in the presentation. If SAPS did decide to regulate silencers (which he thought they should not) they were taking upon themselves certain administrative tasks that they would not be able to cope with.

Mr Booi felt that the suggestion of a consultative forum implied that people did not have confidence in the system.

Mr Hood reiterated that the purpose of SAGA’s suggestions was to improve the Act. Mr Booi himself had conceded that there were administrative concerns, SAGA was merely emphasising them. If the Act were properly implemented, the registrar would have the power to specify a training curriculum and to accept documentation submitted to him or her as proof of training. There would be no need to involve SASSETA. He stressed that it was necessary to get the Act up and running, but for the Act to achieve its purpose it needed to work more efficiently. SAGA was merely suggesting ways to make it work better.

He added that SAGA would welcome the opportunity to meet with other civil society organisations that wanted a gun free society to discuss issues of common concern. He said that a forum would facilitate groups to work with the SAPS.

Gun Free South Africa Submission
Ms Margy Keegan (Gun Free South Africa (GFSA)) briefed the Committee on the cost of firearms to the society as far as safety and security, stability and health were concerned. GFSA felt that amendments such as those affecting muzzleloaders, competency certificates and prohibited firearms strengthened gun control and enhanced administration (particularly in relation to validity periods and the NCACC). She made a number of recommendations that would impact on declarations of unfitness, licensing of security companies as well as the age at which one may apply for a license. The GFSA too was in favour of the renewal of licenses rather than audits since a renewal process would enable the updating of documents, would curtail the number of firearms in circulation and would promote responsible ownership.

Ms Kohler-Barnard said that it would be interesting to see what research the MRC had to support their recommendation to raise the age for the competency certificate to 25 years of age.

Ms Keegan replied that the MRC and other studies indicated that the major victims and perpetrators of gun violence were young men. The only study on the age of perpetration was done by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), which also indicated that youth played a major role in perpetrating crimes. Cultural issues also played a role. Communities who experience violence from young perpetrators lived in great fear. She called attention to the community activists who were present, who were at the rock face of creating peace, and who would love to see the age limit raised. She believed that the higher the age limit, the greater the chance that the gun owner would be more responsible.

Ms Kohler-Barnard was curious as to why GFSA supported renewals versus audits. Many of the other submissions contradicted their statement that renewals were efficient and effective.

Ms Keegan explained that re-licensing was a major problem and there should be a balance between practicality and need. GFSA was merely voicing its concerns knowing that the Committee would deal with them extensively and responsibly.

Mr Groenewald wondered how many of the 104 000 people that were killed between 1994 and 2003 were killed with illegal firearms and how many were killed with legal ones.

Ms van Wyk commented that irrespective of whether one was for or against firearms the questions around murders committed with legal or illegal firearms always came up. It was essential to note that once a legal gun was stolen or lost that firearm became illegal. This necessitated the licensing of both the firearms and the owners. She said that if one believed that all legal gun owners in South Africa were responsible, they should be forced by law to take responsibility when their weapons were stolen and used in criminal activities.

Ms Keegan said that who committed the murders presented a very interesting concept. Over half of the murders were interpersonal. A gangster or a stranger was not always the perpetrator. GFSA did not have the statistics at hand. She agreed that many of the murders were committed by a gun that was originally legal.

Mr Groenewald asked why the GFSA (and others) argued for the regulation of silencers. Ms Keegan said that she could not understand why anyone would want to have a silencer, as they were used in assassinations. She felt that there was room in the current provisions to allow the regulations to set up exceptional cases.

Mr Ndlovu wondered what GFSA meant when they said that the security industry was “unstable”.

Ms Keegan responded that that there was instability in terms of the numbers. It appeared that a number of security companies were established with the potential of acquiring firearms. Some of them went out of business very quickly, which indicated instability in a growing sector.

Gun Control Alliance Submission
Adele Kirsten presented the Gun Control Alliance’s (GCA) submission, which detailed the Alliance’s support of the Firearms Act Amendment Bill as well as its concerns and recommendations. GCA’s major concerns related to the proposed limitations on the discretionary powers of the police and the possibility to issue competency certificates without proper background checks. Its recommendations included that gun dealers be subjected to similar requirements as liquor outlets and that safe gun free spaces be created in accordance with the Firearms Free Zones provision in the Act.

Mr L Diale (ANC) wondered whether the Gun Control Alliance was represented in the rural areas.

Ms Kirsten replied that GCA worked in the rural areas but were constrained by issues around access and resources. They were fairly active in the Limpopo province. She added that activists would have to meet the challenge and leave the comfort of their cities to also work in the rural areas.

Ms van Wyk asked the Department to comment on what had been said during the hearings with regard to the inclusion of Section 1(e) as well as issues related to renewals and competency.

Mr van Vuuren (Director Legal Services: SAPS Crime Intelligence) said that the Registrar had asked that the concept of fit and proper be defined. People needed to know by what standards they would be assessed during a competency hearing. This necessitated the clear definition of “fit and proper”, which related to the competency testing requirements of Section 9 (2). A person complying with these requirements should be considered fit and proper. The regulations also referred to whether a person had gone through a divorce, job loss, etc in the preceding five years.

Section 10 (5) read that no application for the renewal of the competency certificate could be granted unless the applicant satisfied the Registrar that he or she still complied with the requirements. This responsibility was placed on the applicant. Section 10(6) provided that the Registrar might grant or refuse the renewal of a competency certificate on the strength of the information and declaration provided by the applicant. Of the 19 aspects that needed to be dealt with in terms of Section 9(2) to determine a person’s competency only three (whether the applicant was considered fit and competent, whether he or she used drugs, and information regarding his or her mental capacity) were not available on official records. If a person lied, he or she could be charged in terms of the Act and could also be declared unfit to possess a firearm. He felt that the competency component of the Act had been strengthened. In any instance where it was deemed necessary the Registrar could institute an investigation.

The Chairperson said that the committee would still deliberate on the issues raised during the hearings.

The meeting was adjourned.


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