13 October 2006
A six-month illegal firearms amnesty resulted in the recovery of nearly 34 000 illegal firearms and just under 609 000 illegal rounds of ammunition between 1 January and 30 June 2006.
In addition, 42 095 legal firearms were voluntarily handed over to the police during the year to end March 2006.
The amnesty allowed South Africans who possessed firearms or ammunition illegally to surrender these to the South African Police Service (SAPS) without fear of prosecution – provided they had not used them to commit any crimes.
Firearms handed over to the police were tested ballistically to ensure that they had not been used in criminal activities before being destroyed.
Altogether, the SAPS destroyed 107 468 firearms in 2005/06.
The SAPS annual report for 2005/06 records a noticeable decrease in the number of firearms reported lost or stolen compared to the previous year, a decrease attributed to stricter enforcement of South Africa’s new Firearms Control Act.
This law stipulates the conditions under which firearms may be licensed, prescribes training requirements for gun owners, determines the quantity of ammunition that owners may possess, and sets out the circumstances under which firearms may be used or stored.
The law is being phased in between now and 2009, with gun owners required to renew their licences according to a staggered timetable – or dispose of their firearms in a prescribed manner.
South Africa’s penalties for illegal possession of firearms are very steep, including sentences that can extend to 25 years in jail.