ConCourt to deliver final say on whether sections of Firearms Control Act unconstitutional
The Constitutional Court will on Thursday make a definitive ruling on whether or not two sections of the Firearms Control Act are unconstitutional.
The sections under consideration regulate the renewal of a firearm licence and set out four different situations in which a licence will terminate. The sections‚ if declared unconstitutional‚ will disrupt the police’s goal of regulating firearm ownership by requiring that each firearm owner has a licence that expires after a certain period.
Before the Firearms Control Act of 2000‚ a licence to possess a firearm lasted for life.
The 2000 legislation changed all that. It required that each person wishing to own a firearm must be licensed to do so - and that each firearm must be licensed.
The constitutional challenge in the High Court in Pretoria was brought by the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association.
It followed an instruction in February 2016 by the then acting national police commissioner‚ Khomotso Phahlane‚ that police stations should not accept any late renewal applications for firearm licences.
Section 24 of the Act states that a person who wants to renew their firearm licence must do so “at least” 90 days before the licence expires.
Section 28 provides that a licence terminates at the expiry of the relevant period in the Act.
Before the directive‚ applicants for renewals could bring the applications even less than 90 days before the renewal and their licences would be renewed.
The association said there were about 300‚000 unlicensed firearm owners‚ most of whom simply forgot to renew the licences on time. They found themselves at risk of being deemed to be in unlawful possession of firearms‚ a crime which attracts a 15-year sentence.
The association’s case was that the uncertainty and lack of proper procedure pertaining to the surrender of a firearm‚ together with the fact that if surrendered‚ there does not seem to be provision to surrender it for value‚ created a possible violation of property rights.
In July last year‚ the high court declared both the sections unconstitutional and gave Parliament 18 months to ensure that these sections complied with the Constitution.
In February‚ the Minister of Police appealed against the high court judgment while the association asked the court to confirm the high court order.