Umm Muhammed Umar
Lobby groups have welcomed the postponement of the firearms control amendment. They assert that the removal of the self-defence clause as the reason to apply for a gun license was absurd. The recent decision by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police, to postpone the bill was based on the need for inclusivity to achieve consensus, and the requirement that the bill should reflect the views of South Africans, as envisaged in the constitution. Radio Islam spoke to Gun Free South Africa’s Adele Kirsten.
Gun Free South Africa’s analysis of the bill is that it’s aimed at reducing the availability of guns. Kirsten said, “we just have too many guns circulating in our country, [and] too many gun deaths.” She added that it was also about, “tightening up who can own guns………but also reducing the amount of ammunition you can have, the kinds of guns you can have.” Kirsten said that repealing Section 13, which allows people to apply for a gun for self-defence, would have a major impact on gun availability in South Africa.
Gun Free South Africa has not been dismayed at the decision to postpone the bill, and has in fact supported it, for two reasons. Kirsten said that the first was that it was clear that much broader consultation was needed. She said that people most affected by gun violence, in particular, young people should be included in the consultations, as should the research community. She said that the research community was, “sitting with a lot of data that shows the kind of negative impact of the availability of guns on our society.” What is extremely important is that, in the policymaking process, when the bill comes to Parliament, it should have been thought through very clearly, and have been able to withstand constitutional muster. Kirsten said, “Parliament does not want to have to send the bill back to the executive.” Sending it back indicates that further consultation is needed, which GFSA would purportedly welcome as an opportunity to strengthen the bill. The organisation, therefore, according to Kirsten, saw the delay as a positive development.
Some interesting factors which need to considered in attempting to strengthen the Bill are that if there’s an interim protection order against a gun owner, or someone who’s about to apply for a gun, according to the law that process must be halted immediately. Further, the registrar MAY have the gun removed, which Kirsten says gives the registrar too much discretion. Further, the age at which owning a gun is legal, might be raised from 21 to 25.She said that it MUST be removed. Kirsten said, “Those are small details, but they’re absolutely critical to the extent to which a law really has some teeth.”
In South Africa, many gun owners believe that they need a gun for protection in light of the very high crime rate. Kirsten argued that all the data available, both in South Africa and globally, shows that guns are not effective for self-defence, and that, instead, they bring a risk into the household. Criminals also gain access to guns through loss and theft.
Government has been given six months, from January to end June 2022, to affect changes to the amendment.