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SA Hunters comments on SAPS plans to implement firearms amnesty

Firearms amnesty period will fail to curb criminal activities

The amnesty period of 1 April to 30 September declared by SAPS for handing in illegal firearms without fear of prosecution, will have no impact whatsoever on firearm related criminal activities, said SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters).

During a briefing on Wednesday, 15 March at the Portfolio Committee of Police in Parliament, the Minister of Police described the intended objectives of the six-month amnesty period from1 April 2017 to 30 September 2017. SAPS also revealed its detailed implementation plan that, as explicitly stated, was to remove illegal firearms from society.

However, an unpleasant surprise was sprung on the Minister when the Chairman of the Portfolio Committee reminded the minister that any amnesty can only be valid if approved by Parliament in terms of the Firearms Control Act (No 60 of 2000 as amended). Section 139 of the Act enables the Minister to declare an amnesty but sub-section 139 (2)(a) explicitly states that such an amnesty announced by the Minister “will only be valid if it is approved by Parliament”, and in this instance a parliament that will only be in session again in May 2017.  Parliament will go in recess this week.

“How does it happen that the SAPS management advises the Minister, who in turn presents the case to the Cabinet that approves the amnesty from 1 April to 30 September 2017, does not even take cognisance of the legal requirement that such an amnesty is only valid if approved by Parliament? This is nothing more than another illustration of the complete incompetence found throughout the police services, but specifically in the Central Firearms Registry, said Fred Camphor, CEO of SA Hunters.

The proposed amnesty provides for the non-prosecution of persons who hand in firearms because of illegal possession thereof. These firearms will undergo ballistic tests to check if they could be connected to any criminal acts. If any links were found, investigations and prosecutions would follow, the Minister said.

Camphor said it is highly unlikely that a criminal in possession of an illegal firearm would even consider handing in such a firearm. “In the first instance, such an individual would not want to dispose of the firearm as he/she uses to commit crimes. Secondly, he/she would expose him/herself to possible prosecution for these criminal activities. Very few, if any, firearms held illegally by criminals, and used in illegal or criminal activity will be handed in during the envisaged amnesty. Surely, this is a simple conclusion to arrive at,” he said.

Camphor said it was abundantly clear that any conditional amnesty, such as this one, would probably result in many previously licensed firearms being handed in by individuals that no longer wished to own a firearm or who do not wish to comply with cumbersome firearm relicensing requirements.

This is just a repeat of two previous amnesties in 2005 and 2010. In 2005, 33 823 firearms were handed in under the amnesty, while 46 631 firearms were voluntarily surrendered to the Police. In 2010, only 11 887 firearms were handed in under the amnesty while 30 442 firearms were voluntarily surrendered to the police. At the meeting on Wednesday, the Deputy Commissioner of Police confirmed that during both amnesties, not a single one of the 122 783 firearms handed in during two amnesty periods could be linked to any criminal activity, and no one was prosecuted for any criminal act resulting from firearms handed in under these amnesty periods.

“It is clear that the police will try to access” low hanging fruit” and focus attention on firearms that are easy to get hold of. In this instance the focus will most likely be on those firearms of which the licences have lapsed and were not renewed in time. The only result of this amnesty period is that the Police will catch the lizard (remove firearms of which the licences lapsed), but ignore the crocodile in their midst (illegal firearms used by criminals).”

SA Hunters said it doubts whether the intended amnesty complies with the prescriptions of Section 139(1) of Act 60 of 2000 as amended. The Association will monitor the situation very closely.

The End

Issued by the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters)
Editorial queries: Fred Camphor on fredc@sahunt.co.za
General enquiries: Magda Naudé on magda.naude@gmail.com

  • Last modified on Thursday, 16 March 2017 09:52
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