License the person, not the firearm

Roelof Johansson,
Gordon’s Bay

Bheki Cele, our Minister of Police, burdened with the task of combating runaway crime, has stated, probably in exasperation, that if he could have his way, he would not allow the public to own firearms.

Many people who have fallen victim to crime would praise him for this stance. But would it be the solution to combat such rampant gun-related criminality as we daily experience?

I see a comparison here with the Covid-19 situation. The government has declared a national emergency and hitherto-unheard-of measures have been put in place to ward off the dreaded virus.

Level 5 has been the most stringent combination of regulations, guaranteeing a total collapse of the economy if it should be maintained for long.

Conversely, a Level 1 situation would keep the economy on a sound footing, but would disasterously impact on human lives.

Somewhere in the middle lies the golden compromise where a degree of normality in both life and livelyhood can continue for some time while the infection rate is rife.

Note that under Levels 5 and 4 restrictions, there have been communities that have reacted with dismay and even aggression, and have threatened revolt.

These restrictions run contrary to life and living as we know it and is unsustainable.

Now back to the issue of licensed firearms in the hands of the law-abiding public.

Mr Cele’s pipe-dream has in a way already been fulfilled, in that a mechanism has already been put in place. It has a name: the SA Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000.

From its inception, and also in its current bloated amended form, it has failed to even remotely eradicate the virus called gun-related crime.

The Act is immovably at Level 5 (if I may compare) and it is wreaking havoc on the mindset of law-abiding gun owners.

It is causing attitudes to harden in ordinary folk who respect and uphold the law.

The Central Firearms Registry (CFR) has the power, due to the convoluted barrage of regulations contained in the Act, to drop the axe on an application for a license, and if the die falls the wrong way for you, you have very little legal recourse.

Cherished firearms that have been in your legal possession for many years could be sent to the chopping block if some official deems fit to refuse your application or appeal.

Your motivations are not considered, because the CFR seemingly cannot imagine your reasons for wanting to own one or more guns.

The fact that you don’t have a criminal record is irrelevant; it is the gun that kills, and that’s it.

I am a firearms enthusiast, and have been since a kid.

I started to collect militaria in the late 1950s and am still as fired-up (pun intended) today as ever.

I go about my hobby in the same way as a dedicated numismatist or a philatelist. Over the years I have come to know very many enthusiasts like myself.

My collection includes not only militaria like steel helmets and the like, but also fully-functional handguns and rifles, some dating back to the time of the Voortrekkers.

I study the history of wars and weaponry and the biographies of hunters, poachers, sharpshooters, cowboys, crooks and military leaders through the ages, all who have handled guns and have engaged in armed conflict.

As a long-standing club member I have been active in shooting and competing, and have penned and published many gun-related articles over the years.

I had not made this my career; it has been my passion-away-from-work.

Many others who own guns want them for legitimate and ethical hunting, or for use in competition on the target range, or for home or self-protection.

We are fiercely set on maintaining firearm safety.

We are not the type who roam the streets taking pot-shots at streetlights or conducting gang warfare.

Currently licensed owners are compelled to laboriously re-apply for their licenses every five or 10 years, depending.

There are 400 000 firearm owners in South Africa who stand to lose their guns during and after the current amnesty period, merely because they failed to re-apply in time.

These are their possessions, some of high value, some of great sentiment, not stolen, but paid for, or were gifts.

The Act wants to appropriate them without compensation. Fact is, the Act seems heavily regulated with that very purpose in mind.

That’s why we are disgruntled and perturbed.

There’s absolutely no certainty that re-applications will be sympathetically considered.

We stand to become criminals because we don’t want to hand over what belongs to us.

I would implore the licensing authority to scrap the current Act and replace it with one that’s more reasonable, sensible and fair. We need to please move away from Phase 5.

The Act is inherently flawed. It targets licensed guns. Those with stolen guns don’t heed the Act.

License the person not the firearm. Dump the requirement that licenses must be constantly reapplied for.

Target the murderer, not the murder weapon.

Importantly, restore the confidence and respect of lawful gun ownership for our Firearms Act.

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