On Tuesday 4 July, the Gauteng High Court declared two sections (Section 24 and Section 28) of the Firearms Control Act (Act 60 of 2000) unconstitutional and ruled that all firearm licences that expired or were due to expire, would be deemed valid until the Constitutional Court has reviewed the constitutionality of Section 24 and 28.
Furthermore, Parliament has been given 18 months to amend the Act to meet the constitutional imperatives. A cost order has also been granted in favour of SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters).
This judgement is a major victory for SA Hunters, which filed an application against the Minister of Police in March 2016, questioning the constitutionality of Section 24 and 28 of the Act as well as the unilateral interpretation and implementation thereof by the Police.
SA Hunters CEO, Fred Camphor, is delighted. “We got exactly what we had asked for. Approximately 200 000 firearm owners or maybe even more can heave a sigh of relief that they are once again in legal possession of their firearms. This is a victory for SA Hunters and for all law-abiding firearm owners in South Africa. This is the reason why firearm owners should become members of SA Hunters.”
The court application followed on the SAPS’ arbitrary handling of late applications for the renewal of firearm licences between 2011 and 2016. It was the second time that SA Hunters succeeded in legal action in the interest of all firearm owners.
In June 2009, the Association filed two applications against SAPS in the North Gauteng High Court to request that some of the interim regulations in Act 60 be declared unconstitutional. The court also ruled in favour of SA Hunters in the urgent application and declared all licences issued in terms of the old Act (also known as the old green licence) to remain valid until the main application had been dealt with. Thousands of firearm owners escaped criminalisation. The main application was never heard due largely to the SAPS not responding to the founding statement at all.
This latest judgement by the North Gauteng High Court offers enormous relief to law-abiding firearm owners that simply forgot to renew their licences and that are looking for a sensible process and a fair system to own a firearm and to renew its licence. This ruling is not the end of the road to a long and frustrating battle, but merely the beginning towards implementing practical legislation that is in the interest of an individual’s rights to own a firearm.
Camphor expressed his sincere gratitude to the members of SA Hunters for their loyalty, financial and moral support. “We also enjoyed the support from many other organisations and members of the public and we are grateful for all the support received during the past 15 months.”