New deadlines for gun owners

23 October 2006

South Africa’s new Firearms Control Act 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.

The government has set new extended deadlines for the renewal of gun licences, permits or authorisations issued under the repealed Arms and Ammunition Act of 1969.

Renewals timetable
These have been staggered according to the birth dates of licence holders and spread out over a number of years in order to avoid backlogs and last-minute rushes:

  • Those whose birthdays fall between 1 April and 31 June must renew their licences, permits or authorisations between now and the cut-off date of 31 March 2007.
  • Those born between 1 July and 30 September must renew their licences between 1 January 2007 and 31 March 2008.
  • Those born between 1 October and 31 December must renew their licences between 1 January 2008 and 31 March 2009.
  • All businesses that use firearms – such as security companies, training providers, game ranchers, hunting businesses, and theatrical, film and television companies – must renew their firearm licenses by 31 December 2006.

All firearm licences issued under the old law will cease to be valid on 30 June 2009.

Those who make late applications for renewal will face prosecution and, if convicted in court, sentences of up to one year’s imprisonment or a fine or both. They will also face possible disqualification from possessing a firearm in future.

If a renewal application is refused, an appeal against the refusal may be directed to:

Chairperson of the Appeals Board

Private Bag X811

    Pretoria 0001

Gun disposal options
According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), firearm owners who choose not to renew their licences must dispose of their firearms before 1 July 2009 in one of the following ways:

  • having the firearm deactivated by a licensed gunsmith after approval from the Registrar;
  • selling the firearm to a licensed dealer;
  • selling or donating the firearm to another person who has legally obtained a firearm licence;
  • permanently exporting the firearm; or
  • handing the firearm over to the police to be destroyed or sold to an accredited legal entity.

Competency tests
The Firearms Control Act, which came into effect on 1 July 2004, requires people who apply for firearm licences to undergo a competency test – involving a basic training course at an accredited training institution and a background assessment by the SAPS.

The SAPS will issue competency certificates to successful applicants, who will then be entitled to own firearms.

While the renewal process might seem tedious, “it is an extremely important process which enables the authorities to address firearm control in South Africa,” the SAPS said in a statement.

Speaking after the new law came into effect, Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said the country was “sick and tired of … serious violent crimes committed with firearms, and the government, through this legislation, has adopted a constructive approach to address this problem”.

SouthAfrica.info reporter and BuaNews

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