Unlike many parts of the world, crime in South Africa is a standard in every person’s reality. It has become so intertwined in our days that people have even become hardened over time, not being shocked or surprised to read about heinous acts. From the streets to schoolyards, crime is not only a pest or a plague in our country; it is a formality, a way of life we all live around. And now, if Government has anything to say about it, you will no longer be allowed to own a gun for self-defence in this crime-riddled South Africa.
When looking at the facts, not only did the number of reported murders increase but so did attempted murders. From Jan 2021 to March 2021, South Africans endured 4 976 murders, being 387 more than the previous year over the same period. And 4 582 attempted murder cases were reported being 366 more than last year over the same period. Let us not forget the fact; according to a report on TBS News, South Africa is the rape capital of the world. Despite this, the Government is pushing for stricter gun control, including removing self-defence as a valid reason to own a firearm.
This follows the Government inviting the public to comment on the Draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill.
The Bill seeks to amend the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act No 60 of 2000), focussing on several gun control aspects. Namely, no firearm be issued for self-defence purposes and providing the deletion of provisions permitting a private collector to collect and possess firearms and ammunition in a private collection.
Hunters will also face a series of stricter rules being implemented. In addition, several measures will also be put in place for obtaining a gun licence. Police Minister Bheki Cele is encouraging citizens to make use of the legislative process, seeking to mould the Firearms Control Bill. Inviting the public to comment and share their views, the Police Minister stresses, “All comments will be scrutinised and those considered useful will be incorporated to strengthen the provisions of the Bill.”
In a statement, the police ministry explained, “The proposed amendments respond to the overarching policy principles of non-proliferation of firearms in South Africa and the strengthening of the processes relating to the applications for a firearm, and ammunition licences and the management of firearms and ammunition.”
Furthermore, the statement enthused that South Africans should take comfort in the fact that the proposed amendments were not taken lightly. “Extensive research, consultations with various stakeholders preceded the proposed amendments,” it said.
Moreover, Cele said the amendments should not be interpreted as though Government is looking into disarming citizens.
“There is no right to bear arms in our Constitution and the Firearm Control Act in its current form grants no such right to citizens either. Owning a gun in this country remains a privilege made possible through the Firearms Controls Act,” he said, adding that arming citizens would not solve the country’s high crime rate.
“The mere possession of a firearm can lead to increased rates of victimisation – both for the gun owner and those living in the household. Simply put, this proposed change in law also has the potential to mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of women, who are in the clutches of their abusers, inside their own homes,” said Cele.
Cabinet also approved the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Amendment (POCDATARA) Bill, 2021.
The proposed amendments seek to ensure the alignment of South African legislation with international requirements to combat terrorist and related activities, including international terrorism, effectively.
The Police Ministry said it was convinced that both the Firearms Control Amendment Bill, 2021 and the POCDATARA Amendment Bill, 2021, are key to a safer South Africa and world.
Both Bills can be accessed on the Civilian Secretariat for the Police’s website www.policesecretariat.gov.za and are open for public comment until the 4th of July 2021.
DA Shadow Minister of Police Andrew Whitfield issued a statement asking why are valuable resources being used to go after lawful gun owners while crime syndicates run amok with illegal guns? “How must vulnerable South Africans, especially isolated farming communities, protect themselves?”
Additionally, Whitfield emphasises that the DA wants to know the rationale behind this current piece of legislation and what empirical evidence was used to support it. Particularly the clause around the removal of “self-defence” as a reason to possess a firearm.
He stresses, “SAPS has failed to deliver on its crime-fighting mandate and removing law-abiding citizens’ right to own a gun is equal to removing their last line of defence, we cannot allow this to happen.”
Whitfield goes on to say, “The DA has today (25 May 2021) launched a petition against the Firearms Control Amendment Bill which proposes a ban on firearm ownership for self-defence by civilians. We must protect gun ownership for self-defence as it is the last line of defence for millions of South Africans.” Further highlighting, “South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Just by walking in the streets, South Africans are exposed to dangers similar to those faced by people in some war-torn countries. Disarming law-abiding citizens in the current crime-ridden environment is reckless, ill-advised and places many innocent civilians at the mercy of criminals.”
The DA now urges the public to visit https://petitions.da.org.za/p/stopgunbill and sign the petition to keep “self-defence” as a reason to possess a firearm. This will go a long way towards putting a stop to this ridiculous and irrational piece of legislation.
“We also urge the public to oppose this draconian Bill and to submit their objections to email@example.com and to the DA at firstname.lastname@example.org. SAPS is in a state of disarray, its dismal failure can be felt by South Africans from all walks of life, especially those in rural and gang-infected communities where police stations are understaffed and under-resourced. SAPS should be making it easier for South Africans to feel safe, not more difficult,” concludes Whitfield.
In a statement, South African Gunowners’ Association (SAGA) chairperson Damian Enslin said, “It is clear from the Preamble that the Bill is, and will be, very draconian, with the most pressing issue the fact that the right to choose to own a firearm for self-defence licenced in terms of Section 13 has been removed.” Enslin further stated, “How government could ever think about removing the right to choose to own a firearm for self-defence, when we are experiencing a severe crime rate and where even the police have previously admitted that they don’t have sufficient capacity to protect all citizens, is completely inconceivable.”
In SAGA’s view, Enslin states that Government seems to be entirely out of touch with reality and that Cabinet, Ministers and many government officials in high positions, who are protected daily by security teams and SAPS, paid for by taxpayers, now wish to leave ordinary South Africans citizens unarmed and at the mercy of criminals.
Enslin explains that SAGA will not take this lying down. “SAGA’s legal team will be preparing submissions in response to the Draft Bill and, if necessary, SAGA is prepared to take this matter to Court to protect its members and ordinary South African’s right to choose a firearm for self-defence.”
What are your thoughts on the Bill? Will you be objecting and take a stance against the amendments, or do you support it?
Share your views in the comment section below.