Saai welcomes the amnesty for firearm owners, especially those whose renewal applications were delayed or lost in the often-chaotic state of SAPS stations.
The Central Firearms Registry (CFR) cannot currently control the normal flow of renewal applications, and Bheki Cele, Minister of Police, recently acknowledged it. The enormous backlogs can be partially attributed to this. There is great concern over the SAPS’s capacity to sensibly manage the amnesty period over the next six months. It is estimated that the renewal applications of about one million legal firearms are delayed, and Saai is concerned about the current ownership status of these firearms on the CFR.
The SAPS is intensely aware that legal firearms are not the problem in South Africa, yet it has been dragging its feet for years to find a solution to the firearm licence renewal backlog. In the 2005 as well as the 2010 amnesty periods, very few illegal firearms were handed over.
Also, in the current amnesty period, it is mainly firearm owners whose renewal application are delayed who will benefit the most. Family farmers are worried, however, that late submissions may be used against them in the firearm fitness test, and Saai wants to obtain an undertaking from the Minister on this.
Two aspects of Cele’s announcement in the Government Gazette cause concern for Saai. The SAPS has a very poor track record regarding firearm control and have lost thousands of their own firearms over the past few years. Cele announced in August 2019 that more than 500 firearms had already been lost by police officers. The requirement that firearms for which renewal applications are submitted must be handed in at police stations leaves family farmers worried that, based simply on statistics, police stations are the most unsafe place for this purpose.
Moreover, there is no indication as to how long the firearm will not be in the owner’s care, and given the tragic figures of farm attacks and murders and the role that prepared firearm use plays in self-defence on farms, family farmers are very sceptical about handing over their firearms for an indefinite period. From experience in especially rural areas, farmers have good reason to ask whether the SAPS has the capacity or management ability to successfully execute an amnesty period such as the recently announced one. There simply isn’t enough space to safely store all the firearms, and damaged firearms will inevitably give rise to comprehensive civil claims.
A crucial court case on firearm licences that Gun Owners South Africa (Gosa) has brought against the Minister will only be heard in July after the end of the amnesty period, which throws suspicion on the timing of the amnesty.
Saai hopes to urgently enter into talks with Cele in cooperation with other network partners on these and other issues. Saai has already developed a databank to which firearm owners who have applied for amnesty can send their details to be followed up later. Send your name per WhatsApp to Saai at 066 071 6094 to be added to the databank.