In a previous article, we reported on the judgment of the Constitutional Court, dated June 7, 2018, relating to expired firearm licences.
After considering the constitutionality of certain sections of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 (“the Act”) that deals with the renewal of firearm licences after the expiry of certain time periods, the court confirmed the police’s interpretation of the Act, being that a firearm licence could not be renewed after it had already reached its expiry date, and that the owner thereof was thus in unlawful possession of the firearm.
This judgment did not deal with licences issued in terms of the previous Arms & Ammunition Act 75 of 1969, which licences exist in the form of green plastic cards or stickers pasted into old identity document books.
These licences do not have an expiry date, remain valid and are not relevant to this discussion.
The police then issued directives to its members, directing them to advise firearm owners with expired licences to hand in such firearms, and for such firearms to be destroyed.
This caused great panic, as many firearm owners with expired licences now faced losing their property and the possibility of criminal prosecution.
• Court order of July 27, 2018
A lifeline has now been extended to firearm owners with expired licences, because of an interim court order in the Pretoria High Court.
The organisation Gun Owners South Africa (GOSA) approached the court with an application, which deals with various aspects relating to expired licences and the renewal process as a whole.
Content of the interim order
A short summary of Judge Prinsloo’s order is as follows:
• The SAPS may not implement any plans to collect or destroy firearms of which the licences have expired and may not demand such firearms from the owners thereof.
• A declaratory order was made that the Act does indeed allow for the renewal of licences which have expired if the applicant can show good cause for such late renewal.
• The SAPS were ordered to restore their computer system to such a position that it can capture applications for the renewal of firearm licences that have expired.
The police’s response
The police have, on July 30, 2018, issued a directive to its members instructing them not to take any steps to collect or destroy firearms of which the licences have expired and to return firearms already seized, should the owner demand it.
The rest of the order, dealing with the processing of applications for renewal of expired licences, has not been implemented by the police. The application by GOSA and the interim order is being contested.
• The way forward
It is not yet clear when the application by GOSA will be finalised, exactly what steps the police will take in the interim, and what the eventual result for firearm owners with expired licences will be.
The planned amnesty in respect of firearms, which will also deal with renewal of expired licences, has yet to be implemented.
There is thus still a lot of uncertainty, but the interim order does at this stage provide protection to owners of firearms with expired licences. If you possess a firearm of which the licence has expired, do not hand it over to the police, and contact your attorney for further advice and assistance.
Francois de Kock and Juan Kotze and Juan Kotze Attorneys may be contacted on 011 892 1019,
Writen by Riaan Engelbrecht - Published on Boksburg Advertiser